3 Jul 2018

National Party's outcry over appointment of NZ First MP to inquiry role

8:24 am on 3 July 2018

National is crying foul after Internal Affairs Minister and New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin was picked to oversee an inquiry into the appointment of the deputy police commissioner.

Wally Haumaha

An inquiry has been launched into the appointment of Deputy Commissioner of Police Wally Haumaha in his role. Photo: SUPPLIED

The party alleges it is a conflict of interest, given Deputy Commissioner of Police Wally Haumaha himself put his hand up as a New Zealand First candidate in 2005.

His appointment to the senior police job is being scrutinised following revelations he stood up for three of his colleagues accused of rape in 1993.

The inquiry was triggered by statements Mr Haumaha made to police 14 years ago during the investigation into three of his former colleagues Clint Rickards, Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum.

Louise Nicholas accused the trio of forcing her into group sex and said she had been violated with a police baton.

Mr Haumaha on record described the allegations as "a nonsense" and said "nothing really happened".

His appointment to Deputy Commissioner two months ago has infuriated Louise Nicholas who now worked with the police supporting victims of abuse.

She is not commenting further until there are more details about the inquiry.

In a statement issued last week, Mr Haumaha acknowledged the concerns expressed by Ms Nicholas and others about his remarks regarding the 2004 police investigation.

"It is important to say outright that I take responsibility for those comments, I deeply regret them, and I unreservedly apologise for the hurt and concern they have caused," he said.

"That does not reflect my view or the values I bring to the job every day."

He recently met with Ms Nicholas to assure her of his commitment to the work the police has done as a result of the 2007 Commission of Inquiry into police handling of sexual assault investigations, which was instigated by her original complaint.

"Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin will initiate a government inquiry into the process. The terms of reference will focus on the State Services Commission's appointment process," Acting Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said.

The inquiry will investigate whether all the appropriate information was gathered by the State Services Commission during the appointment process and if not, why not.

It will also look into whether that information was provided to ministers - specifically the police minister - who officiated the appointment.

No caption

The National Party is questioning the appointment of an NZ First MP on an inquiry into Deputy Commissioner of Police Wally Haumaha's appointment. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

National's police spokesperson Chris Bishop questioned Tracey Martin's appointment to the inquiry role.

"Well hang on a minute, how can we have a New Zealand First minister overseeing a process that is looking into potential conflicts of interest around a possible New Zealand First candidate? I really don't think that passes the sniff test."

The New Zealand Herald has newspaper clippings from August 2005 that show Mr Haumaha was announced as the party's candidate for Rotorua at a local event.

Just four days later the same paper reported the now-deputy leader of New Zealand First Fletcher Tabuteau would instead be running that year.

Mr Peters told Morning Report today the complaints of a conflict of interest were "absolute balderdash".

"It's not being overseen by Tracey Martin, other than she heads up Internal Affairs, which is the establishment providing the backup for this inquiry. And only in that context will she be associated, she will have no other role whatsoever."

Mr Peters says there was no chance she could contaminate the inquiry process as the terms of reference will be set by the Cabinet.

He said Mr Haumaha "screwed up badly" in the comments he made to the inquiry which looked into police behaviour.

Earlier he said Mr Haumaha never actually ran as a candidate, but hundreds of others have.

He described questions from reporters on the matter as a red herring.

"A lot of people seek election and selections, all over the country. That does not bind them years and years, like 13 years later surely," Mr Peters said.

"Otherwise we're going to have some sort of secret society here dominating people's professional outcomes - and that would be unfair."

And on the matter of Mrs Martin's appointment, Mr Peters said there would have been a conflict of interest if she had not been appointed.

"Clearly you can't have the Minister of Police. Clearly you cannot have the Minister of State Services seeing as the process of that very department is what's being looked at," Mr Peters said.

"And the Internal Affairs Minister would be first of all providing all the back up and administrative help for the inquiry [anyway]."

However, Mr Bishop said it could have been any other minister.

"They've got oodles of options other than asking Tracey Martin, who's a New Zealand First Cabinet Minister, to run the inquiry."

A spokesperson for the Internal Affairs Minister said Mrs Martin will be appointing an independent person to head the inquiry later this week.