Government's handling of Whānau Ora could spark Māori Party resurgence

Newshub understands high-profile figures including former politician John Tamihere are considering running for the Māori Party if the Government doesn't sort out concerns over Whānau Ora.

The issue could spark the beginning of a major resurgence of the Māori Party, and Tamihere - who unsuccessfully ran for Auckland Mayor last year - would be fighting Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare for his Tāmaki Makaurau seat in Parliament. 

Māori leaders, including co-founder and former co-leader of the Māori Party Dame Tariana Turia, have fired a broadside at the Government: taking an urgent claim to the Waitangi Tribunal over its handling of Whānau Ora and declaring no confidence in Henare.

The group - which also includes Dame Naida Glavish - say the Government has mishandled and not done enough for Whānau Ora - the 'to Māori, by Māori, for Māori' health initiative.

Dame Naida taking a broader jab at Labour for not delivering enough for Māori.  

"They've adopted a few Māori names and I can't see any benefits at the flaxroots on the ground as yet," she told Newshub.

The women wrote to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern two-and-a-half months ago with concerns the Government is destroying Whānau Ora and that the Māori funding was being dished out to Government departments instead.

They never heard a peep from the Prime Minister, which Dame Naida described as "disrespectful" - especially as it was penned by Dame Tariana, the architect of Whānau Ora. 

"A letter to the PM should be at least acknowledged if not replied to, acknowledged, and that didn't happen. It's disrespectful, absolutely, no excuse whatsoever." 

Henare told Newshub the women made "quite a large number of claims and we've got to work through that".

He added, "Of course, we've also had Christmas and New Years."

When Ardern first spoke at Waitangi in 2018, she issued an edict: "Hold me to account."

Dame Naida says the letter from Dame Tariana was "part of that expectation to hold the Prime Minister to account".

The group told the Prime Minister they have no confidence in Minister Henare.

"He is allowing the Government agencies to dip into the Whānau Ora pool which shows me very clearly that he is trying to drag Whānau Ora back under Crown control," Dame Tariana said. 

Some Whānau Ora money is being given to Government departments for administration. But Minister Henare argues the Government has doubled the funding it promised.

He suspects the legal action has a political motive.

"Do you think there is a nature of politics involved? Of course, we are in an election year."

The Māori Party failed to win any seats in the 2017 election and left Parliament.