The women were previously employed in various roles at Ngā Pūkeikura o Maniapoto – an early childhood education service run by the Maniapoto Māori Trust Board – but all lost their jobs in the wake of a revelatory audit.
Pitched as a unique service “catering to the current and evolving needs of Maniapoto whanau," the iwi-based collective of early childhood services involved teaching dialect and protocols specific to the area.
A Ministry of Education inspection found that the Maniapoto Māori Trust Board had mismanaged early childhood funds and over-claimed almost $80,000 worth of government funding – the former employees insist it was this mishandling that cost them their jobs.
"The [board] presented us with models and they were deficit models, so we went away and came back with a different model where everyone got to keep their job and it wasn't a deficit to the board,” said former receptionist Courtney Willison, who was handed a letter at 4pm and told the following day would be her last.
“Our models were declined,” she told Stuff – it’s for this reason that the ten women believe the board planned to go through with the job cuts before the proposal process.
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Bad management was to blame, not restructuring – that’s the claim ten Te Kuiti women are making against their former employer as they launch legal action for unjust dismissal.