Part 1: Introduction

Whānau Ora: The first four years.

In this Part, we discuss:

What Whānau Ora is

Whānau ora is a multifaceted term in wide use that means many different things to many people. At its core is the concept of family well-being.

In 2009, the Government recognised that current approaches to service delivery were not serving Māori families well enough. It set up a taskforce to look at new ways of interacting with Māori providers of community-based services. After considering the taskforce's advice, the Government set up Whānau Ora.

Administratively, Whānau Ora is a set of three different initiatives (the Initiatives). They are largely funded through Vote Māori Affairs, and the government agencies most involved in providing support for those Initiatives are the Ministry of Māori Development (Te Puni Kōkiri), the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Social Development. People of any ethnicity could receive funding through Whānau Ora.

In this report, we set out to clarify for Parliament and the public what Whānau Ora is, where the funding has gone, and what Whānau Ora has achieved after four years. It was not easy. Whānau Ora was not consistently described, which makes it hard for us to describe it and hard for the agencies to link results to objectives. Some results have not been adequately reported on yet. It is too soon to tell what other aspects of Whānau Ora have achieved.

Why we looked at Whānau Ora

We wanted to look at Whānau Ora because:

  • the Initiatives appeared to be a new way of helping people;
  • we have a continuing interest in how agencies work together,2 which is a feature of the Initiatives; and
  • the Initiatives were intended to change service delivery, which matched our strategic focus.

Comments the Auditor-General received on her draft annual plan for 2013/14 supported her intention to look at Whānau Ora.

Government agencies responsible for the Initiatives

Te Puni Kōkiri is the lead agency for the Initiatives. This means that Te Puni Kōkiri has lead responsibility for carrying out the Initiatives, for giving the Government policy advice about the Initiatives, and for assessing and reporting on the Initiatives' effectiveness. Te Puni Kōkiri is responsible for managing Vote Māori Affairs funding for the Initiatives and is accountable to the Minister for Whānau Ora for how the funding is used.

In Whānau Ora's first four years, the Government required Te Puni Kōkiri, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Social Development to work together to set up and support the Initiatives. Together, we call them the joint agencies. District health boards gave regional support to the Initiatives.

Before making decisions, Te Puni Kōkiri considered advice and recommendations from a range of sources, including:

  • the Ministry of Health;
  • the Ministry of Social Development;
  • a national-level Governance Group made up of community representatives and the joint agencies' chief executives; and
  • 10 regional groups made up of community representatives and regional officials, which were established in each of Te Puni Kōkiri's regions.

The focus of our work

We focused our work on how the Initiatives have been carried out. The information in our report has not been brought together before. We identified how the Initiatives were funded, how much funding was available, and how much was spent. We focused mainly on the first phase of the Initiatives between 2010/11 and 2013/14.

We did not look at individual contracts or payments.

How we did our work

To carry out our work, we reviewed documents and talked to people. We reflected on what we read and what people told us, and make some observations in this report.

Some of the information we reviewed and discuss is publicly available. The joint agencies and some of the people we spoke to supplied us with extra documents.

We spoke to a range of people about the Initiatives. In Wellington, we spoke with the first Minister for Whānau Ora, the past chairperson of the taskforce, people who worked with whānau to prepare and carry out whānau plans, providers who were funded to carry out Programmes of Action, and providers who were not. We spoke to employees of Te Puni Kōkiri, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Social Development. We spoke to consultants who were paid by whānau to help them.

We visited two of Te Puni Kōkiri's regions. While there, we spoke with community representatives who are past members of their regional groups and with whānau members who were funded through the Initiatives. We spoke with Te Puni Kōkiri's regional directors and some of their staff. We also spoke with chief executives, senior staff, and trustees of providers, and people who worked directly with whānau.

How our report is structured

In Part 2, we explain the origin of Whānau Ora and the Initiatives.

In Part 3, we give an overview of the Initiatives, which we discuss in more detail in the rest of our report.

In Part 4, we describe the aims of the Initiatives.

In Part 5, we give an overview of spending.

In Part 6, we discuss the whānau integration, innovation, and engagement (WIIE) Initiative, which mostly involved whānau preparing plans to improve their lives.

In Part 7, we discuss the Initiative to improve the capability of service providers.

In Part 8, we discuss integrated contracts and how government agencies supported the Initiatives.

1: In this report, we have not translated into English any Māori words that appear in the Ministry of Culture and Heritage's list of "100 Māori words every New Zealander should know" (see

2: For example, our report, Sustainable development: Implementing the Programme of Action (2007), identified three themes needed to effectively co-ordinate multi-agency work: leadership, co-ordination, and governance; management and planning; and accountability through reporting, monitoring, and evaluation. A more recent report, Reflections from our audits: Our future needs – is the public sector ready? (2014), also discusses these themes. All of the Controller and Auditor-General's published reports, including her annual plans and annual reports, are available at

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