The Kōhanga Reo National Trust


Over the last 20 years, 1 billion taxpayer dollars has been directed towards Kōhanga Reo. 

For seven weeks has investigated allegations of financial mismanagement by some at the very top of the Kōhanga Reo movement.

For seven weeks the Kōhanga Reo National Trust has refused to answer our questions about how it’s managing taxpayer money meant for mokopuna.

Not only did it refuse to answer the questions raised by our investigation, it went to the High Court to try and stop us broadcasting our report.

On Wednesday the Trust backed down, but by taking court action, Trust officials were ordered to make sworn statements about the spending.  Those affidavits raise serious questions about the use of public funds and they’re contained in our report.

Native Affairs pursued this story because the Kōhanga Reo Movement is recognised as one of the single most powerful forces in reviving te reo Māori me ōna tikanga. 

30 years ago, the Kōhanga Reo Movement sowed its first seed at Pukeatua near Wellington.  From there language nests spread reigniting our peoples passion to regenerate our native tongue.

Not only did the language nests provide learning, Kōhanga often double as a place of refuge for our tamariki, a place where they can be fed kept warm and nourished.  

Last month Native Affairs reported how the Trust has $13mil in the bank while Kōhanga Reo around the country struggle to get by.  How the Trust extends personal loans to its staff and directors.

This special report takes us further into the personal expenditure of two people at the top of the Kōhanga Trust and its wholly-owned subsidiary,Te Pātaka Ōhanga.

They are Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi and her daughter in-law, Lynda Tawhiwhirangi.

It details spending never normally seen by anyone outside the Kōhanga elite.  The records cover only a 15-month period – it’s a snapshot of what appears to be a culture of extravagance.

Bravo to Maori TV for fine investigative journalism and not allowing legal threats to stop them.

The well financed trust has a self-perpetuating board, with effective life-time appointments. This has no doubt led to a culture of entitlement and a lack of recognition about the boundaries between trust and personal finances.

The Herald reports some details:

Two leaders of a state-funded organisation whose objective is to help children learn te reo Maori have been accused of using charity credit cards for personal spending, including on a wedding dress and gifts.

Ministers said last night they would meet the over allegations raised in a Native Affairs investigation into the spending by board member Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi and daughter-in-law Lynda Tawhiwhirangi.

The Maori Television show detailed thousands of dollars of spending, including Lynda Tawhiwhirangi’s purchase of a wedding dress for her daughter in 2011, a Trelise Cooper dress in 2012, and withdrawals that included $1000 for a hui that she did not attend.

The women defended their spending in sworn affidavits as either justified purchases or genuine mistakes.

Lynda Tawhiwhirangi, who is the general manager of the trust’s charity-status subsidiary Te Pataka Ohanga (TPO), said the $1000 koha was still in a safe, and she had repaid the money for the dresses later.

An educational trust is not a bank for personal loans.

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