A decision to turn down government funding to build a place dedicated to teaching the art of traditional waka building is ”pathetic”, Labour says.

Its Maori affairs spokesman Shane Jones said government funds were handed to Team New Zealand but declined for ”something that actually matters”.

Northland man Hekenukumai Busby is one of the few people left in New Zealand with the knowledge and skills to be able to build traditional waka.

He has received funding for past one-off initiatives to pass on the skills and lift New Zealand’s cultural profile overseas, but now in his 80s he thought a wananga where the art caught be taught in Northland would be his legacy.

Project spokesman James Watkinson said $400,000 had been received from New Zealand Lotteries and $300,000 from ASB Trust. Consent applications had also been lodged with the Far North District Council and a tender process was under way.

”But to date, we’ve received no Maori funding or agency support. From our point of view, that’s surprising,” said Watkinson.

”On the back of Matua Hector’s 30-year waka kaupapa across the board… his hope is to build the Kaupapa Waka Whare Wananga, so that art will never be lost again.”

In an email to Watkinson, a Te Puni Kokiri spokeswoman declined funding, due to restructuring going on within the department.

”The first stage will be to transform the operating model of Te Puni Kokiri. During this time there will be no funding allocation to regional offices…”

Jones said it was ”pathetic that millions of dollars is handed out to consultants while legacy projects with Maoridom’s most famous waka-builder fails”.

”Good enough for Team NZ and the tupperwaka to receive funding from the Government but nothing for the real thing.”

The controversial $2 million ”tupperwaka” was built to travel the world and promote New Zealand tourism ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

Priorities were skewed to suit Whanau Ora Minister Tariana Turia’s favourites - ”millions for Whanau Ora with very vague results”,  Jones said.

But after inquiries from Fairfax Media, a spokesman for Te Puni Kokiri said the funding application was only on hold.

“Te Puni Kokiri has supported multiple waka-related investments over several years involving Hekenukumai Busby.

”This application has not been declined, it was put on hold.”

Turia said it was misleading for Jones to compare funding for Maori development programme Whanau Ora with funding for these kinds of project.

They had ”different criteria”.

”Shane Jones is just muckraking. Whanau Ora has assisted more than 5000 whanau and 25,000 whanau members.”

- © Fairfax NZ News