Budget blowout: Extra $50,000 spent on Māori-Crown relations portfolio development

Newshub can reveal the cost of developing the Māori-Crown Relations portfolio blew out by more than $50,000.

Māori-Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis told Newshub he's disappointed.

"Anything over we're disappointed with. We take every step we can to reduce costs, it's unfortunate it was slightly over."

Mr Davis attended 33 'engagement hui' across the country between March and June 2018 at a cost of $282,591 - $51,380 more than originally budgeted.

"It was more than we would've liked. We were always very conscious of the cost of anything we do," said Mr Davis.

The hui were designed to get the views of New Zealanders on how the Māori-Crown relationship should be strengthened. Demand for more meetings meant eight extra hui were added.

Act leader David Seymour says the Government got the process back to front.

"Usually when you set up a Government department you already understand why it's needed. You don't set up a Government department asking everyone why," he said.

"Government can do useful things and it is necessary to consult. But they've got this one ass about front and they don't know what the purpose of the organisation is when they established it. Now they're trying to find out retrospectively."

Official documents obtained by Newshub show the cost covers koha, venues, equipment, catering, travel and accommodation, hui facilitators as well as communications and advertising.

A table breaking down the costs of the hui: meeting facilities hire and catering: $74,300, advertising/publicity: $35,219, printing: $7346, travel and accomodation: $40,010, crown facilitator: $149,542.
Photo credit: Newshub.

The Government is under intense scrutiny for its handling of the Māori-Crown Relations portfolio, and the National Party has accused Mr Davis of not knowing what his job is.

But Mr Davis says he succeeded where National failed.

"If you compare to the costs of the previous Government's Te Ture Whenua hui, they cost substantially more. They came out with nothing at the end," he said.

Despite the blowout, Mr Davis revealed he wouldn't have done anything differently.

"I would've liked to have more hui if anything, but we did the best we can," he said.

"We sometimes had four hui over the weekend, there was a lot of driving, a lot of travelling, but at the end it was really worth it. I believe Māori are really happy with where we landed."

Māori Party President Che Wilson told Newshub the price seems steep, but maintains consultation was needed.

"Before consultation, they were basically cutting tooth decay up, it was necessary," he said.

"The challenge is how much consultation do you do, and I think the consultation was reasonable. But with other things the Government is doing, I think there's too much consultation.

Mr Wilson also thinks the Māori-Crown relationship will continue to have its struggles.

"The biggest challenge isn't the ministerial challenge, it's the amnesia of bureaucracy," he said.

"It continually changes and the bureaucracy fails to deal with that amnesia. The ministers continue to be blamed when actually the system requires change."

Meanwhile National's Māori-Crown Relations spokesperson Chris Finlayson isn't impressed.

"The issue here is how much was achieved from these hui. When I questioned the Minister in Parliament he couldn't answer what was actually achieved."