Housing agency under fire for $30k spend on carving

Author
Jason Walls,
Publish Date
Thu, 12 Aug 2021, 7:07AM
Ted Ngataki of Ngati Tamaoho dedicates his carving at Kainga Ora Homes and Commuinities Takanini office in June. (Photo / Supplied)
Ted Ngataki of Ngati Tamaoho dedicates his carving at Kainga Ora Homes and Commuinities Takanini office in June. (Photo / Supplied)

Housing agency under fire for $30k spend on carving

Author
Jason Walls,
Publish Date
Thu, 12 Aug 2021, 7:07AM

The Act Party is taking aim at the Government's main housing agency for spending tens of thousands of dollars on artwork, while many New Zealanders struggle with housing unaffordability.

Newstalk ZB can reveal Kāinga Ora's Takanini branch commissioned a $30,000 carving for its office.

According to written questions from Act, the whakairo (carving) was done by a Ngāti Tamaoho kaumatua – a master carver – during the last financial year.

Act Leader David Seymour was not pleased with the spending.

"While vulnerable New Zealanders are desperate for shelter, the agency tasked with housing them is spending tens of thousands of dollars on artwork."

He says Kāinga Ora's is supposed to house people, not commission expensive carvings.

"We have people living in motels and cars and tenants whose houses aren't up to standard. Instead of them, Kāinga Ora's is providing a home to expensive artwork."

But Kāinga Ora deputy chief executive Caroline Butterworth has defended the commissioning of the artwork.

She said one of the department's main principles is recognising the relationship of Māori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral lands.

"The Takaanini office whakairo (carving) is representative of these principles, and was commissioned to cement the mana of the relationship between the community and our kaimahi (staff).

"This relationship is already strongly grounded in Te Ao Māori, owing to the predominance of Māori in the communities served by the Takaanini office."

She said the cost reflects the process of creating a work of this scale, which was undertaken by a team of carvers from a local workshop, under the guidance of two tohunga whakairo (master carvers).

"The whakairo has been well received by our customers and other members of the local community."

She also pointed out that Kāinga Ora spent roughly $1.8 billion in building, repairing and upgrading homes last year.

"We are mindful that public money should be spent prudently," she said.

"The cost of paying a team of carvers for this whakairo represents an investment, which will endure for many generations, in our stewardship of cultural values and ties to the local community, and has not had a material impact on our ability to deliver homes for New Zealanders."

Seymour, however, was not convinced.

"Labour used to say 'you can't live in a consent,' well, Jacinda, I guess you can't live in a carving either."