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WINZ approved an extravagant $64,180 budget for a one and a half day hui which achieved nothing and "served only as a time for meeting people and renewing friendships," according to information supplied anonymously by a hui participant to Invercargill MP Mark Peck.

"The hui agenda shows that the hui was dedicated entirely to relationship building.

"Included in the budget was $1600 for two "TVNZ Maori personalities" to act as "motivational speakers." Most of the rest of the proposed expenditure - $54,880 - was for airfares," Mr Peck said.

"A lot of this travel cost could have been avoided if the hui had been held in a more central location, such as Christchurch. Although as an Invercargill MP, I'm pleased it was held in Invercargill as
a taxpayer, I'm not.

"It is also hard to understand why Invercargill was chosen as only 12 WINZ staff in the Gore-Invercargill area identify themselves as of Maori descent.

"As a former union official, I am a strong believer in the need for staff training. And as a Labour MP committed to reducing unemployment, I very much want WINZ to succeed.

"But over-priced conferences and pointless hui can only damage the organisation's credibility in the eyes of the public and in the eyes of its clientele who are among the poorest people in New Zealand.

"As an MP I am in constant contact with WINZ trying to access the meagre assistance available to my constituents. This money would be much better spent on them and on improving the skills of and finding jobs for the unemployed," Mr Peck said.

Supporting documentation available on request.

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