Abridged from today’ NZ Herald
“Companies owned by the daughter of Te Wananga o Aotearoa head Rongo Wetere earned more than $74.2 million in five years from contracts with the institution.
Susan Cullen has released details of contracts with the wananga exclusively to the Weekend Herald, just days before the release of an Auditor-General’s report into the institution.
The Audit Office confirmed in February that its investigations included claims of conflict of interest relating to Mrs Cullen and the wananga.
She was unapologetic about the level of income generated by the programmes – Mahi Ora, Kiwi Ora and Life Works – which she had developed. Income from the programmes propelled the former consultant “earning around $30,000 a year” to a multi-millionaire within a year.
“God sends waves and you have to learn how to surf them.
“I would do the same again if given the chance.”
Mrs Cullen estimates her personal fortune at around $30 million, which includes three Waikato farms, two rental properties and a commercial property.
She said Mahi Ora, which was set to be launched in Australia, was hugely popular and had been the catalyst for the wananga’s spectacular growth.
Wananga enrolments jumped from 800 in 1999 to 12,000 in 2001. In 2002, 25,000 students were enrolled in Mahi Ora.
The programme is a free, home-based, 12-month distance learning programme, covering educational choices, health, finance, housing and business development within a Maori context.
Kiwi Ora is run by Ora, a company owned by Mrs Cullen, with Government funding paid directly to Ora by the wananga less an 18 per cent fee.
A former adviser to the wananga who did not want to be named said the deal was unusual and should not have been entered into by the wananga.
He said Dr Wetere signed off on the contract after Mrs Cullen threatened to take it to AUT.
Mrs Cullen said there was nothing wrong with the arrangement and attacked the audit as a Government-backed move to take her father out of the wananga.”