- Te Pāti Māori president John Tamihere has received nearly $470,000 in loans from two Māori charities he heads.
- After an investigation by Charities Services, one of the charities has agreed Tamihere has to repay the money.
- Tamihere says the investigations are racist, but other charities have been deregistered for doing far less.
Interest free loans
Charities Services -a division of the Department of Internal Affairs- have been investigating Te Pāti Māori president John Tamihere since 2019 regarding transactions linked to charities he heads as CEO.
Te Whānau o Waipareira Trust Group and its associate organisation, the National Urban Māori Authority (NUMA), gave interest free loans totalling $385,307 along with “sponsorship payments” of $82,695, respectively, to Tamihere.
The money was given to Tamihere to assist in his failed 2019 Auckland mayoral bid and Te Pāti Māori’s 2020 general election planning.
Charities Services issued a warning in 2020 to the Waipareira Trust as charities are prohibited from engaging in political activities including donating and endorsing political parties and candidates or allowing them to use charity resources. The Trust claimed the money was a loan rather than a donation.
The Trust received a second warning. However, Charities Services concluded the Trust’s conduct could not be characterised as serious wrongdoing. This was because they determined the Trust made the loan in good faith. The loan was nevertheless still a breach of the Charities Act.
Tamihere refuses to confirm if he has repaid the money.
The investigation into NUMA is still ongoing.
Te Whānau Waipareira Trust Group
Te Whānau Waipareira Trust Group is a west Auckland based social services charity. It receives the majority of its funding from government contracts covering health, social welfare, housing, etc. for predominantly Māori clients in west Auckland.
Te Pāti Māori MP and co-leader Rawiri Waititi is John Tamihere’s son-in-law and the COO of Waipareira Trust is Tamihere’s wife Awerangi Tamihere.
Previous run-in with the Electoral Commission
In 2021, the Electoral Commission referred Te Pāti Māori to Police for failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations within the legislated time frame.
At that time, donations included $158,223.72 from Tamihere, $48,879.85 from NUMA, and $120,000 from the Aotearoa Te Kahu Limited Partnership. However, an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was closed in 2022 without any prosecutions against individuals or organisations involved. Then party president Che Wilson blamed the late disclosure on volunteers working with the party and unfamiliar with electoral finance laws.
Journalist Matt Nippert writes “Tamihere declined to explain the difference between the sum recorded in accounts as being advanced by the charities for his political campaigns ($468,002), and the figure recorded as donations from them and him for the mayoral and general elections ($387,604).”
Uneven application of the law
However, charity law specialist Sue Barker raised concerns Charity Services is applying the law unevenly. Family First lost its charitable status after advocating for traditional marriage and family values. Family First’s political lobbying fell short of endorsing a candidate, but was considered enough for them to lose their charitable status.