May 19, 2021

TangataWhenua.com

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Defamation threat against TangataWhenua.com

12 min read

Kia ora Whanau

Late last week, we at TangataWhenua.com received a korero from concerned whanau from Mataatua-Tauranga rohe about the latest moves of the National Kohanga Reo Trust. We published that korero here:

This week, hundreds of whanau took to the streets to challenge the processes of the National Kohanga Reo Trust:

Earlier today, TangataWhenua.com were served with legal papers claiming defamation (attached) and ordered to both pull the panui down and not to publish this legal letter. Accordingly, we will not take the korero down at this stage and have decided to publish the legal threat against us.

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KohangaReoProtest

Background: In mid-July 2013 an independent audit was released by Chen Palmer which resulted in the dismissal of former CEO, Titoki Black.

What emerged was that an educational course delivered by Te Kohanga Reo called Takaimatua in June 2012 had not been accredited (and therefore funded) yet was being offered to students. Instead students who thought they were in the course were being signed up under another course called Paerangatiratanga. As a result the Trust received $800k is was not entitled to (and which had been funded via the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) which then had to be paid back.

Whaea Black had been on 3 months paid leave at the time and as a result of the audit was not reinstated. In interviews via Maori Television the Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau took issue with several things, the first being the way in with Whaea Black had been dismissed. They have also called for Kohanga Reo to be brought back to the kohanga reo themselves allowing for greater self-determination.

The fear is that this could impact on those students who took the course (in terms of loan repayments and accreidation). Reports suggest that this has been sorted and students will be able to get their tohu as they expected. It may also negatively impact on the current Treaty of Waitangi claim that is being heard.

The following panui emerged as word began to spread online regarding the above issues and detailed the opinions and perspectives of the Maatatua-Tauranga Moana whanau and explained their position in a Q&A style narrative. This ropu is also calling for the former CEO to be reinstated.

The National Trust Board are free to respond to these points, we hope that they consider doing so, these are not just questions this whanau has but reflect the concerns of many other kohanga reo whanau. If they don’t wish to respond on this forum, then they might consider doing so at the hui in Manukau early next week.

  • PS will keep you updated on any legal proceedings, might have to take around the ol’ collection hat or maybe we’ll get Potaua to begin busking his Papa Gaga routine 😉

Note on this korero:

[colored_box color=”yellow”]TangataWhenua.com has been in touch with the Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau who wanted to make it clear why they have shared their panui and why it was important that other whanau around the motu understood their raru. They were concerned that TangataWhenua.com were being threatened with defamation and presented with a “cease and desist” letter.

There were 3 sections in particular that the Chen Palmer Law Firm (acting on behalf of Te Kohanga Reo National Trust) took issue with. Those sections have been rewritten to make it even clearer then before that these are the opinions of the Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau based on their experience in trying to get answers from the Te Kohanga Reo National Trust. Because of a lack of communication between the groups the Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau are now calling for an independent ‘whanau initiated review” of Te Kohanga Reo National Trust’s own “Trust Deed”.

As a free and independent Maori news portal (founded in 2002) which does not receive government funding, we publish important korero sent to us and because this is a matter of significant public interest it’s critical that readers understand the genesis of this raru from the perspective of Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau.

If they are incorrect in their opinions then the independent ‘whanau initiated review” will show this, surely there can’t be any harm in providing the information the whanau are asking for. TangataWhenua.com hopes that the Trust sees past the tactics used by Chen Palmer and chooses instead to engage in pro-active dialogue with Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau instead of spending time and money taking TangataWhenua.com, a small whanau-run ICT firm to court. Aue!

  • If you’d like to view related videos by Maori Television click here.
  • A series of Facebook page have arisen on both sides with those who are pro-board and those who are pro Maatua-Tauranga Moana whanau.

An audit was carried out by ChenPalmer Law firm

BTW: For future reference whanau, if you see something we have posted online, it’s quite easy to simply request clarification a rewrite or to pull the whole thing. We are not at all averse to taking panui down if we have somehow overstepped the bounds (we have done it before and all it took was a simple email or phone call, you don’t actually need to use a law firm to draw up what is no doubt a horrendously expensive ‘cease and desist’ letter to get the same result.)

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Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau seek to clear up accusations of defamation by Kohanga Reo National Trust

The following details the raru that the Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau have with the National Kohanga Reo Trust, it explains the opinions held by the whanau and why they are demanding an independent “whanau initiated review” of the Trust Deed.

Why have Mataatua-Tauranga Moana demanded an independent whanau initiated review of the Te Kohanga Reo Trust Deed?

  • Currently, Mataatua-Tauranga Moana, the Kohanga Reo whanau do not have a voice on the Kohanga reo Trust Board
  • Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau do not receive regular reports or feedback from the Board, and the Board do not have a regularised system or process to engage whanau that informs Board decision-making or direction
  • if the whanau disagree with the Board or their conduct there is nothing we can do about it under the current Trust Deed
  • there is absolutely no way whanau can hold the Board and Trustees to account for non-performance or deviation from kaupapa under the TKR Trust Deed.

Have whanau sought expert advice regarding the concerns of the Kohanga Reo Trust Deed?

Yes. Various legal and governance advisors have reviewed the TKR Trust Deed and have raised the following concerns:

  • The Trust Deed does not say who the Board are responsible or accountable to
  • There is no provision or mechanism that holds the Board accountable to te kaupapa o Te Kohanga Reo and/or whanau
  • The Trust Deed has been structured in a way that gives the Trustees absolute power, and this is a serious concern according to feedback from whanau
  • Whanau, purapura or rohe do not have a say in who is elected or appointed to the Board, only the Board have that power, without reference to whanau
  • The life term for Board membership is another serious concern.

Does this mean whanau, purapura or rohe dont have a say in which or how Trustees are appointed to the board?

  • Correct. The Trust Deed clearly states that only the Board can appoint Trustees to the Board. Its the same for removal of Trustees, only Trustees have that power not whanau. The Trust Deed does not even mention whanau, mokopuna or purapura.
  • Under Section 5.3.3 (d) of the Trust Deed the Board doesnt have to explain or give any reason as to their appointments to the Board.

Is it normal for Trust Deeds to give this sort of power and authority to Trustees and nothing to its beneficiaries?

According to the Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau, not any longer. Initially when the Trust Board was established it wasnt uncommon. However Trusts rules and regulations have changed significantly since then. The level of power the Board has is a huge concern as recent events have demonstrated. This is why we are demanding a whanau led independent review of the Trust Deed so that it reflects the kaupapa of Kohanga Reo, to restore the mana of our kaupapa back to our mokopuna and whanau and to establish accountability mechanisms so that they reflect Te Kaupapa o Te Kohanga Reo, and mokopuna and whanau aspirations. As previously stated, whanau are not able to hold the Board to account.

Several people in the same role: Chair, co-chair and deputy chair

  • This is not regular practice Trust practice. It can also create confusion whereby functions and responsibilities are duplicated. Board roles and functions need to be clear and their purpose clarified and defined. This should also be approved by the whanau.
  • The Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau have a co-chair who has been appointed spokesperson for our kaupapa at times however cannot speak te reo Maori. We believe all Kohanga Reo Board chairs and spokespersons must be able to speak te reo as this is the purpose of our kaupapa ko te reo me ona tikanga.

Why is Mataatua-Tauranga Moana demanding an independent audit of subsidiary Te Pataka Ohanga (TPO)?

This was one of the key areas that ChenPalmer Law Firm took as defamatory, it has been reworded to make it clearer then before that these are opinions held by the whanau regarding their experience working with the Trust and give cause to why the whanau are asking for an whanau-initiated review.

[colored_box color=”green”]It is the opinion held by the Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau that “conflict of interests” emerge when Trustees are also directors on TPO and approve loans on their own behalf. The whanau are of the belief that the interest rates are unreasonably low and create tensions that warrant a full and frank discussion of what is and is not appropriate.

This is a key reason why the Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau demand an independent audit of TPO, its role, staff, functions and purpose. If everything is clean and transparent, then their should be no fear of an independent review. The Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau feel that the Trust Board has corporate interests in TPO leading to potential conflicts of interest in decisions made regarding its operations.

The whanau are arguing that “there is also no information on how loans are applied for and/or approved. If you go to a bank or other finance company they take every precaution to ensure you are able to pay back the money in the agreed time frame. While the whanau has no proof that the these processes are not in place, they haven’t been provided with any information that they are. In addition the Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau are unsure of how this approval process takes place, is there an application form, are there credit checks, are bank statements supplied along with other standard processes for approving loans. The Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau argues that according to their understanding of the Financial Reports, that in 2012 there were roughly “$15,000 in loans approved to Trustees”, with an additional outstanding balance of $157,146 in loans, which begs the question “were the latest loans approved while there were other existing loans which were outstanding?”[/colored_box]

These are simply questions that the whanau would like answered, if there are systems and processes in place, that is fine, just detail to the whanau so they can be certain that due diligence is being upheld and that all such financial dealings are done so transparently.

What else is of concern to Mataatua-Tauranga Moana in relation to TPO?

This was another section that ChenPalmer Law Firm took as defamatory, again it has been reworded to make it clearer then before that these are opinions held by the whanau regarding their experience working with the Trust. These numbers come from the Trust Board’s financial reports which have been viewed by those whanau willing to drive to Poneke to read them (or for those who can pay the printing and courier costs to have them sent). The whanau wanted to make it clear that they did not know the nature of the non-cash items (previously they referred to items such as cars, fuel cards, cell-phones and ipads). Only once the audit that the whanau are calling for is undertaken and completed can they confirm what these non-cash items were.

[colored_box color=”green”]The Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau are concerned with how Trustees and Directors apply for and approve loans for themselves from TPO. Currently there are outstanding loans of approx $157,146. TPO Directors and management are also provided with non-cash compensation to the value of $220,890 for the year 2012, and $215,624 in 2011, for non-cash items. As a result the Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau are asking for an audit of the following:

  • all operational expenditure
  • all Directors and Trustees expenses and personal loans
  • loans and repayments
  • conflict of interests
  • capital purchases, including vehicles, fuel cards, phones, laptops, ipads purchased for Directors, Trustees and TPO staff.[/colored_box]

Why are Mataatua-Tauranga Moana demanding an independent audit into the matter which resulted in the suspension of CEO Titoki Black and Rochelle Broughton?

This is the final section that ChenPalmer took issue with in particular the issue of the Trust not working in the best interests of the kaupapa as “we the whanau and beneficiaries of the Trust believe it to mean”. On further discussion with the Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau, TangataWhenua.com is happy to comply with the request to remove parts of this section.

[colored_box color=”green”]The Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau believe the kaupapa to be “whanau working together to ensure the survival of te reo Maori as a beacon for Maori culture as a whole.” The whanau feel that it has actually been Titoki Black’s reputation that has been tarnished.

The whanau feel that the Boards actions contradict this kaupapa, an example they point to is the decision of the Trust Board to use a forensic audit process over the whanau decision making process an integral process to the inner workings of the kohanga reo kaupapa. As a result the Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau are asking for:

  • A review into all correspondence between TKRNT, NZQA and TEC be undertaken
  • A review into all Board minutes, consultation information, correspondence between the members of the Board be undertaken

The Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau have also been informed from many whanau around the country at Trust Board hui that there has not been enough time to answer questions regarding genuine concerns the whanau have regarding these issues. [/colored_box]

Mataatua-Tauranga Moana have also raised concerns regarding the Boards lawyer Mai Chen. What are those concerns?

It is the opinion of the Mataatua-Tauranga Moana that the Board engaged Lawyer Mai Chen to undertake an independent audit into the issue which resulted in the suspension of the CEO and Mrs Broughton. Contrary to statements made by the Board to whanau regarding Mai Chen as independent auditor, she is not, and given her prior relationship could be neither independent nor impartial. She has forged strong relationships with each Board member by working closely with them during the claim also with the CEO Titoki Black and her staff. The Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau accepted her as whanau. It is for these reasons we have sought the following:

  • What is Mai Chens actual role in this issue?
  • What is her relationship to the Board in this issue and outside of it?
  • Was it the lawyers advice to suspend Ms Broughton, as she was heavily pregnant at the time and due to give birth within days of being suspended? This is important as our kaupapa is about mokopuna and this treatment is totally unacceptable.
    • What is the financial cost of this action to the Kohanga Reo movement?
    • We demand a copy of the independent Internal Audit by Mai Chen.

Why are Mataatua-Tauranga Moana demanding the suspension of negotiations with the Crown of Wai 2336?

  • Tukuroirangi Morgan was appointed as a negotiator on behalf of Kohanga Reo. He was not mandated by the whanau to be a part of the claim negotiations. We were neither informed of his appointment, nor would have approved had we been asked.
  • There has been no consultation or engagement with whanau regarding the advancement of our claim.
  • The Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau have no confidence in Tukuroirangi Morgan as a negotiator to represent the best interests of Kohanga Reo in respect of the Wai 2336 claim.

The Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau demand a personal retraction and apology to Tuhoe whanui from Toni Waho?

Tuhoe members of the Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau were outraged by Mr Wahos statements advising Te Wharehuia Milroy and Timoti Karetu that they must abandon their Tuhoetanga in their roles as Trustees and adhere instead to their Kaitiakitanga. This totally contradicts the Kaupapa of Kohanga Reo in that no person should have to relinquish their cultural identity to serve the kaupapa. No one should be advised to abandon their Te Arawatanga, Ngapuhitanga, Poroutanga, Raukawatanga etc. The Mataatua-Tauranga Moana whanau believe iwi and Kohanga Reo kaupapa are one and the same.

What happens when the Board resigns or is removed?

The Mataatua-Tauranga Moana will be suggesting to whanau around the motu that an interim Board be appointed with a defined timeframe. Once the audit and review of the Trust Deed is completed and mandated by whanau, the interim Board will oversee the implementation of the audit and review recommendations. These recommendations will see a Kohanga Reo Trust Board appointed by the whanau, for the whanau (and mokopuna) and accountable to the whanau (and mokopuna).

Will this affect the operations of the Trust and funding to Kohanga Reo Whanau?

No, absolutely not. The aim is to improve all aspects of the kaupapa and also improve accountability and transparency. There will be no impacts to funding of Kohanga Reo whanau.

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11 thoughts on “Defamation threat against TangataWhenua.com

  1. Kia Ora

    I would love to have an open discussion with the anti’s, especially the person who wrote this (or a representative) however the Facebook pages that have been opened (either for or against) you need to be a friend or you can’t post comments and unfortunately some of these pages have also resorted to name calling, swearing and indivually attacking board members. Whatever happened to the art of healthy conversation???

    Sandy

  2. Kia ora tw.com,

    Quite possibly the most comprehensive coverage I have seen regarding this story from all media (including Maori Television and TVNZ Maori news). The facts and issues well explained. Good on you for taking a stand and informing the public on the activities of a publicly-funded institution.

    Mauri ora. Noah

  3. We’ve read the ‘independent audit’ report by Mai Chen and it contains many errors and flaws and doesnt really tell us anything. Our issue with Mai Chen producing this report is that she is NOT independent. She has been employed by the Trust over a 2 year period and paid over $2.5 million over that time – so how can you be independent then. Seems like she’s been paid well and wont write anything that conflicts with her pay masters.
    Mai Chen has no grounds for defamation regardng TPO because all of that stuff is public knowledge and has been downloaded from the company website. It clearly states that trustees and TPO staff (there is only one staff member in TPO) owe nearly $160k in personal loans. And on top of their $30k+ board salary they spend over $200k a year in non-cash items (on the company’s return it says for items such as petrol cards, ipads, phone, vehicle etc) So if you’re reading this Mai – tough luck. Your clients are just trying to stop the whanau from knowing they are milking kohanga as their cash cow…. along with YOU!
    Thanks Tangatawhenua.com, we need more transparency!

    1. Kia Ora Whanau, do you really believe that a lawyer of Mai Chen’s mana would put her name & reputation to a report that was not true?? Seriously, you’re nit picking. Why do you not just say what you mean?

  4. tangatawhenua.com you need to do your homework much more carefully before printing allegations against The National Kohanga Reo Trust. I have spoken with a woman yesterday who over a period of 9 years is working at our local Kohanga Reo within an admin role here in Whangarei, she told me that Ngapuhi in general do not support Tauranga Moana in their quest to diminish the Kohanga Reo Movement that was started by Kaumatua, Kuia in the early 1980’s and will not support them because one of their own was fired, while the other person who had a high profile role within National Trust as well resigned from her position, but thats just touching on a wider scope that the National Trust are trying to work on, and with all this raruraru happening it’s doing nothing but open up festering scab..!! i shudder to think what mainstream media will do when they get hold of all this information, where Maoridom is in the spotlight yet again and for all the wrong reasons because some people aren’t getting their way which is creating bad vibes that our tamariki, mokopuna of the future do not need..!! But what the govt “DO” want happening so they can bring in MOE (Ministry of Education) and ERO (Education Review Office) etc to run a M?ori focused kaupapa and turn it in to government run structure ie, “To be run like a pakeha school and under their pakeha rules and contracts”. Me ki..!! koretake..!!

    1. Ae we understand what you are saying Kev but these are important issues that need addressing. It’s important that governance within boards is transparent. It doesn’t have to be a pakeha system of transparency. To be most effective it needs to be authentic, i.e. a system that reflects the tikanga, kawa and culture of its people. We hope that all parties agree to the outcomes that benefit most our kohanga reo tamariki and the whanau that nurture them.

    2. Kia ora Kev, the kohanga reo trust board are running it like a pakeha outfit. Transparency is non-existent, we have been fed false information and ignored by the board. So when you say ‘you shudder to think what mainstream media will do…’ are you saying we should keep this covered up? Is it ok for the board to operate like this? The board spend over half a million dollars a year on themselves and take out personal loans as well. Are you saying we cant ask questions or hold them to account? If that’s the case then you are just as guilty as the board. The other person you refer to who resigned was heavenly pregnant and days away from giving birth when she was suspended and then ground down to the point where she just gave up. When you have mai chen paid to attack and wear you down wouldnt you resign?
      Kev, you need to do YOUR homework.

  5. Good on u. Dont give in to these modern day oppressorz. They are bullies and now the motu can see what mai chen is doing to kohanga.

  6. Is this what sorting differences in Maoridom has come to. Congratulations to those who feel that the pakeha legal system is the forum to deal with this as you have truly gone over and been assimilated into white society. As a Maori, I was taught to awhi visitors and welcome them into my home, marae, and rohe despite their differing views to mine. It is these differences that contain the solution and must be allowed to be aired and discussed in a safe, nurturing environment free from influence from those pursuing their own agendas. Where are our leaders ? Hekia, Pita, Shane, Metiria. Stop behaving like pakeha and allow our tikanga to provide the path to resolution. E tu nga tikanga e nga wa o mua, kia kaha e rau rangatira ma. Kia maia, kia manawanui.

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