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Dr Rongo Wetere Responds To Julie Webb-Pulman

Re: Scoop Article dated 30th December
OPINION: Julie Webb-Pulman – More Hot Suppers before Bedtime


Feedback From Dr Rongo Wetere

I have read the opinion of Julie Webb-Pulman, and wonder how she can arrive at some of her conclusions. Particularly around the fact, that she thinks I am guilty of fraudulent behaviour, and thinks the only reason I am not locked safely away is that the Audit Department did not investigate or even look for fraud in their investigations. In fact the investigators, from the Audit Department were kind enough to tell me when they started their investigations last year that if they found, or perceived the slightest evidence of fraud, the Fraud Squad would be immediately called in, and would have done a thorough Investigation. This did not happen, as there was no fraud! What in fact inspired the Audit inspection was Political attacks by the ACT party trying to use the Wananga for Political gain. Under Parliamentary Privilege they concocted outrageous un-substantiated claims.

(i) That I had private share holdings in the Wananga Procurement Company and siphoned off millions of dollars of Taxpayers money into my possession.

This was a horrendous accusation, as I have no private share holdings in any Company as stated in the Audit Report.

(ii) That I brought the Green Light Programme off my fiancée Marcia Krawll for $7 million.

Totally untrue. How could I possibly do this? The Programme was being developed.

(iii) ACT's Ken Shirley claimed I had made thousands of fraudulent enrolments at the Wananga.

Not one shred of evidence could be found to substantiate this claim. Ken Shirley lost his seat in Parliament and has disappeared from sight.

Meanwhile, unfortunately the Government were facing a General Election and wanted to retain Political Power and it suited them to be part of the great Maori Bashing that Julie should know all about here in New Zealand.

The Education Minister told Parliament funding for the Wananga in 2004 was $239 million. When in fact the true figure was $156 million, $83 million less as confirmed by the OAG Report.

We catered for over 61,000 students in 2005. This works out at $50.00 per week per student per year.

Julie, Te Wananga o Aotearoa is probably the most cost effective Tertiary Institution in New Zealand. We have very credible completion rates and retention rates compared to the TEI Sector, Polytechnics and Universities.

Your comment re: “the Students of Wananga are being short changed” is way off the mark. Over the last 5 years our Institution has saved our students over $½ billion in Student Fees, by the provision of free fee courses. That was also another reason why non-Maori Students exceeded Maori Students in 2003 – 2004. So as far as the Staff are concerned, the current Crown Management of Te Wananga o Aotearoa gave an end of year bonus to Staff totalling $1.3 million, strange isn’t it when they said we faced a huge deficit.

The current Crown Manager Government has inflicted on the Wananga Mr Brian Roche fees, costing $3,600.00 per day!!! The cost of Crown management of the Wananga and hiring of Consultants will be well in excess of $100,000.00 per month 4-5 times more than I was ever paid and others and I built this institution from scratch.

You refer to my past business in Insurance where you say I made a fortune from the misfortunes of others. How else can you describe the Insurance Industry you claim? There is another view that I will share with you. Insurance can provide security and real assistance before retirement! It is designed to work in retirement, and when health fails or life is extinguished.

Te Wananga o Aotearoa is possibly the only Tertiary TEI that has Insurance Cover and Health Insurance for Staff. Our Insurance Company has paid out $750,000.00 to families who have lost a parent or partner employee at Te Wananga o Aotearoa. Even more has been paid out in medical claims by Staff.

You state our poor Wananga Staff getting a nil wage rise, when in fact the Crown - who claimed I was in ineffective Manager - paid out 1.3 million dollars as a Christmas Bonus to Staff just before Christmas. If I was a materialistic capitalist I could have stayed with Insurance. But I chose instead to work in Education, helping people help themselves. I supported the TUIA Union Staff Union, in its formation. They are in negotiations over staff salaries at this time. Had I been motivated by personal gain, I would not have been working at the Wananga for the last 20 years or so. I would not be living in the same house I brought 36 years ago. My partner Marcia and I would probably have been the only Management staff at Te Wananga o Aotearoa who did not drive a Wananga vehicle but chose instead to drive our own pre 1999 vehicles.

In fact, I was impressed to see long serving Cuban Government Ministers driving old Scodas, and being able to relate so well to the needs of their Countrymen. The investment in people by the Government in Cuba is an outstanding achievement given the enormity of the American blockade of Cuba, which has cost their Country almost $100 billion dollars, spread amazingly over the last 45 years.

The shear work ethics and co-operative efforts of our Cuban partners in the Literacy programme has been outstanding and much appreciated by we who have worked directly with them. I believe the English-speaking Western World, has much to learn from Cuba's successes in the field of Education.

Julie you refer to a number of issues in your 7-page effort to Scoop. I am pleased to hear eftpos and visa cards now work well in Cuba, this was certainly not the case when I was in Cuba in 2002 and 2003.

You also refer to the sweetheart deal, that I was supposed to have received 6 months salary. This does not even cover the legal fees I’ve had to find! My legal advisor was confident we would have won in the Employment Court against my Crown Employer. It would have been a hollow victory if meanwhile the Wananga was continuing to self-distruct under State Control.

In reality I had 4 years to run on my Employment Contract and decided to resign to give the Wananga a fresh new start in 2006. This will allow me to go to Cuba to thank Education Minister Luis Gomez for opening WIPCE – the 7th World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education, in Hamilton, New Zealand, and the opportunity to work with his outstanding Cuban Educationalists, on the Literacy Programme that more than 9000 New Zealanders have benefited from. These figures include whanau members who were not enrolled but did the course voluntarily .

Julie, I expect to be in Cuba within the next 10 days. I am keen to sit down and talk over these issues, so that you might have the opportunity to ask the very person you seem keen to criticize from across the waters.

I have to say your article was a real shock to Marcia and myself particularly when we had a good meeting and meal or Hot Supper as you call it, with you when we were last in Cuba. We have had many letters of support in New Zealand and Overseas respectively, and these make us feel our work is not in vain.

Dr Rongo H. Wetere,
ONZM, FNZIM

PS: Your comment about Aotearoa Institute deserves a response. Aotearoa Institute is the parent body that developed Te Wananga o Aotearoa. It has always supported the Wananga as a good parent does. When the Crown took control of Management of Te Wananga o Aotearoa in 2005, it was Aotearoa Institute who set out to challenge Minister Mallard and Crown's downsizing attempts or the Wananga. It was Aotearoa Institute who stood up in Court and paid over $1m in legal fees to protect the Wananga, and achieve confirmation by the Waitangi Tribunal yet again, that the Crown had seriously breached the Treaty and that recompense should follow by the Crown. For Te Wananga o Aotearoa covering the cost of Crown imposition will be a cost on New Zealand Tax Payers, and the costs of Aotearoa Institute’s claims to protect Te Wananga o Aotearoa will also figure in this equation.

Aotearoa Institute is a Charitable Trust. In the last 2 years it has made over $3m in scholarships available to Wananga students and others. It also predates the Wananga by 10 years having been formed in the 1980’s. Aotearoa Institute leases 5 Campuses to Te Wananga o Aotearoa, and provided a $3.5 million credit back to Te Wananga o Aotearoa in 2004 - 2005.

R.H.W.

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