The Minister for Whanau Ora says he has no problem with a group tasked with offering services under the scheme donating money to political parties
The National Urban Māori Authority, which is partly funded with taxpayer dollars, donated $49,000 to the Maori Party ahead of last year's election. The donation wasn't disclosed at the time, and the party is being investigated by police.
"What the National Urban Māori Authority does is entirely up to them," Peeni Henare told Newshub Nation on Saturday.
"What I've made clear in the past through elections is for Māori organisations to pick a side or pick a team, is probably more an ethical challenge. For example, where I come from, if they only put up hoardings of myself, my expectation is that they'd give the other Māori candidates the same chance."
Political commentator Shane te Pou, a former Labour candidate and union official, told The Hui earlier this week it was a "bad look" for the Maori Party, which has a "lot of explaining to do".
"I think it's very important the police investigate. If Whanau Ora money has been used - and I use that word 'if' - I don't think that's a good thing at all. At the end of the day it's taxpayer money."
Henare said Whanau Ora had been "one of the highest-performing portfolios in this Government" to date, and he had no concerns. He said critics of the donations would "have to take that up with the National Urban Māori Authority".
"I've got no say over the National Urban Māori Authority, but am happy to work with them."
In addition to the authority's donation, the Maori Party also failed to disclose donations from former co-leader John Tamihere and company Aotearoa Te Kahu.
"The reality is we have a law that's designed to obfuscate, designed to... hide things," Tau Henare, the Whanau Ora minister's cousin, told The Hui.
"The law needs to be looked at, the law needs to be revamped so everybody is clear about their accountabilities. In terms of the Māori Party, I think it's a bit of a rookie mistake. The president rightly so has copped it on the chin and it's his fault, basically. He's the one that signs it off."
President Che Wilson said he informed the Electoral Commission as soon as he found out about the dodgy bookkeeping.