A scathing report by the Auditor-General. Some extracts:
The Tourism Recovery Ministers decided to fund all tourism businesses that scored more than 15 out of 30 points in the assessment process. They also decided to fund all eligible Māori tourism businesses, including those that scored less than 15 out of 30 points in the assessment process.
So if your owners have the right ancestors, you got funding from the Government even if you scored 0/30!
However, all decisions to spend public money come with an obligation to ensure that the decision-making is consistent and transparent. We saw limited evidence explaining the reasons for the decisions. Without those records, those who have made the decisions are not able to adequately explain why funding was provided. In my view, this is not acceptable practice, regardless of the circumstances. To ensure that the public can be confident in the integrity of the decisions made, the reasons for this should be clearly explained and well documented.
In other words we have no idea if Ministers just gave out money to their mates, as there was no documentation of their reasons.
This, combined with the decisions made that diverged from officials’ advice and the limited documentation to explain the divergence, makes it hard to determine whether the funding was applied fairly in accordance with the published criteria and the extent to which it represents value for money.
So Ministers overrode recommendations of neutral officials, without explaining why.
The Tourism Recovery Ministers agreed to fund Whale Watch Kaikōura. We have not seen any evidence to identify what criteria the Tourism Recovery Ministers used when making this decision. We also did not see any advice from Ministry officials. On 10 June 2020, the Minister announced that Whale Watch Kaikōura
had been provided $1.5 million grant funding.
So WWK got $1.5 million of taxpayer money from Ministers on the basis of no criteria and no advice.