John Tamihere defends payments and loans from his charities for his political campaigns

John Tamihere is the chairman of the Maori party and heads Te Whānau Waipareira and the National Urban Māori Authority.

David White / Stuff

John Tamihere is the chairman of the Maori party and heads Te Whānau Waipareira and the National Urban Māori Authority.

The chairman of the Maori Party, John Tamihere, defends the financing of his political campaigns by his charities.

Charities Services chief executive Natasha Weight said she was investigating Te Whānau Waipareira Trust and the National Urban Māori Authority for their funding, endorsements and loans to two of Tamihere’s political campaigns. Tamihere was the chief executive of both charities.

Charities run by Tamihere officially endorsed his political campaigns and provided him with loans for his campaigns with the Māori Party and to be Mayor of Auckland.

The loans, endorsements and “sponsorship payments” came despite Charities Services warning charities not to support particular political parties.

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In total, nearly $500,000 changed hands in interest-free loans or charitable payouts for Tamihere’s political campaigns. When asked on Wednesday whether any of the loans had been repaid, he said it was a “private matter” on which he would not comment.

But Tamihere says he and the charities have done nothing wrong and criticism of their arrangement is “a success for Maori”. [sic]”.

He says his charities have been more transparent than other charities, which implicitly support political parties. And he says that in a free democracy, charities should be able to support political candidates.

“It is a sad day for democracy in Aotearoa when Maori are demonized for being honest in publicly ensuring that every penny spent goes towards advancing Te Pāti Māori,” he said.

The rules for charitable services state that a charity cannot be created to support political parties and candidates.

John Tamihere was the co-leader of the Maori party in the 2020 elections.

Joel Maxwell / Stuff

John Tamihere was the co-leader of the Maori party in the 2020 elections.

Charities can be created to provide specific community services and, in return, receive tax-exempt charitable status. Political campaigning is not a charitable service, but charities may support specific policies or causes if relevant to their charitable service.

Weight said it was clear “that a charity should not support or oppose any political party or candidate”.

She said charities should not allow political candidates to use their resources or “endorse” a candidate.

Tamihere acknowledged that his charities and Charities Services were in “negotiations” over endorsements and funding.

As well as being the president of Te Pāti Māori, Tamihere is the chief executive of the Te Whānau Waipareira charities and the National Urban Māori Authority. In 2019 he ran for mayor of Auckland and the following year represented Te Pāti Māori as co-leader and in the Tāmaki Makaurau Māori electorate.

The two charities, in annual statements submitted to Charity Services, said they “endorse” Tamihere’s “political aspirations” and provide him with funding.

David White / Stuff

Maori party leader John Tamihere muses about leaving the Labor Party and Winston Peters is a handbrake for Maori.

For both campaigns, Te Whānau Waipareira granted him an interest-free loan of $385,307 with an “on-demand” repayment term. In his 2021 statement, he said a refund had not yet been issued.

In annual filings, the charities that Tamihere leads have clearly described the funding and endorsements they have given to his political aspirations.

Te Whānau O Waipareira Trust Group endorsed Tamihere as managing director to pursue “general elections and political aspirations”.

The National Urban Māori Authority – which uses the senior management services of Te Whānau O Waipareira Trust – has also endorsed its chief executive for his political aspirations.

In the year ended June 30, 2021, he paid $11,862 in “sponsorship payments” to enable him to pursue the 2020 general election and Maori party political aspirations.

In the year ended June 30, 2020, he paid her $70,833 to pursue the 2019 Auckland mayoral election.

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