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Suspicion of fraud in fund bids

Four Wairarapa applications to a relief fund have been referred to police due to suspicion of fraud.

A South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] report included in the agenda for today’s council meeting notes that the Ministry of Business and Employment’s [MBIE] Business Recovery Fund – set up to help cyclone-affected businesses – received 16 applications from across Wairarapa, totalling $584,060.24. Of these, 13 were successful, and $236,000 was paid out.

“Not included here are four likely fraudulent applications referred to police,” the report by SWDC interim chief executive Paul Gardner says.

MBIE regional economic development and investment unit director of regional development Portia McKenzie said the Ministry is aware of the instances of suspected fraud, but “as these matters are now before the police, MBIE will not be commenting further”.

A SWDC spokesperson echoed McKenzie, saying the council cannot provide any further comment about the alleged fraud because the matter is with the police.

According to Gardner, four applications to the MBIE fund were made in South Wairarapa, three of which were approved: $78,800 was applied for, and $46,300 was paid out.

Further support for those affected by Cyclone Gabrielle was provided by the Mayoral Relief Fund, which received $1,445,931 applications from across the region, and paid out $269,504.

Of these, seven applications were from South Wairarapa, three of which were approved, and $22,200 was distributed.

The three successful South Wairarapa applications were for repairs to accessways, clearings of slips, and the repair of culverts on private land, Gardner said.

“The four unsuccessful South Wairarapa applications were declined due to having received previous recovery funding from other organisations and the need to spread the very limited funds across those with needs.”

On March 29, 2023, the fund had $215,000 available for distribution, according to Wairarapa Recovery, a site set up by the region’s three councils to coordinate cyclone recovery.

Gardner said both funds were “well oversubscribed”, with applications for significantly more than the funds available.

The recovery office is continuing to work with local community support agencies to coordinate the ongoing needs of the community, Gardner said, with a workshop being held with agencies on Wairarapa’s ongoing needs.

The recovery office has applied for further funding from the Department of Internal Affairs for resources for further activities to support community needs.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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