Millions given to trust while chair under SFO investigation


 

ACT can reveal that $18 million of taxpayer money has been given to an iwi trust whose chair is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

 

As part of the Waikato and Waipa River Treaty Settlement, the Environment Ministry has paid $18 million to the Te Arawa River Iwi Trust in order to clean up the Waikato River. It is set to receive a further $12 million over the next 12 years.

 

The Trust’s chair, Roger Pikia, has been accused of significant impropriety and is under investigation by the SFO.

 

In 2016, it was revealed $775,000 of the Trust’s money had been invested in Ka Ora Ltd, a company of which Pikia is a director. A company which Ka Ora invested in – New Zealand Premium Whitebait – recently went into receivership due to unpaid debts. 

 

Mr Pikia has been accused of using a Trust credit card at a ‘Ladies and Gentlemen Club’ and for other personal spending while in Tonga. He also sent an $18,000 invoice to the Trust after a trip to Hawaii. In 2013, the High Court found Pikia had taken $438,000 worth of his grandmother’s land without her consent in 1999.

 

“The deeper problem is that there is no oversight or accountability attached to the money the Trust is receiving”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

 

“In response to an Official Information Act request, the Environment Ministry said the Trust is ‘not accountable’ for how the money is used, the Ministry ‘does not have a responsibility’ to evaluate the outcomes of the funding, and is not required to complete due diligence on the recipients of the funding. 

 

“The Ministry says it is aware of the SFO’s investigation into Mr Pikia, but, because it has not been approached about the investigation, it will continue to pay money to the Trust.

 

“It is deeply concerning that millions of taxpayer dollars are being paid to a trust, with no oversight or accountability whatsoever, while its chair is under investigation for fraud. 

 

“ACT is calling on the Auditor-General to investigate so that New Zealand taxpayers can be assured they are not being defrauded”, says Mr Seymour.