The decision by Shane Jones to give almost $1 million from the Provincial Growth Fund to an organisation that was recently investigated by the Government is being questioned by ACT Leader David Seymour.
The Whakatohea Maori Trust Board was, until just two months ago, under an investigation ordered by the Government and conducted by Michael Heron QC.
Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta ordered the investigation in June after receiving a number of complaints from beneficiaries of the Trust.
In particular, Ngai Tamahaua, one of six hapu which make up the Whakatohea Maori Trust Board, has complained of election irregularities, mismanagement, and conflicts of interest and pecuniary gain involving aquaculture assets.
"These are serious allegations, especially given that the almost $1 million is to be used by the Trust to develop its mussel farming capabilities.
"Mahuta told the Board in September to implement Heron’s recommendations and report to her by 14 December. Those recommendations haven’t been made public and we don’t know whether they have been put in place.
The hapu has criticised Heron’s report for being superficial due to a short timeframe and limited resources.
"Putting aside the fact that taxpayer money shouldn’t be spent on developing mussel farms, it is completely inappropriate that almost a million dollars has been given to an organisation that still has a number of serious questions hanging over it.
"Nanaia Mahuta needs to come clean on the outcome of Heron’s investigation and Shane Jones should explain what due diligence was done when making his funding decision."