10 Aug 2018

Government confidence in Wally Haumaha wavers

12:17 pm on 10 August 2018

Senior government ministers are losing confidence in deputy commissioner of police Wally Haumaha, who is the focus of a stalling government inquiry.

Wally Haumaha

In Parliament yesterday, National asked about claims three women had been bullied by Wally Haumaha during a joint agency project he worked on. Photo: SUPPLIED

Three government agencies are now tied up in new accusations of bullying behaviour on a project Mr Haumaha was involved with, and contradicting statements aren't making things any clearer.

National's police spokesperson Chris Bishop said there were too many questions around Mr Haumaha and his appointment, and simply not enough answers - and he wants senior government figures and agencies involved to fill the gaps.

"The question really goes to the Prime Minister and Stuart Nash, do they still have confidence in Wally Haumaha?

"The allegations raised [in Parliament] and also the allegations from 2004 are very alarming - and it's time for them to front up and say whether or not they have confidence in him."

Mr Bishop told Morning Report it would be "truly bizarre" if ministers were not notified of the allegations prior to Mr Haumaha's appointment.

"I think the inquiry doesn't really go to the critical issues, the critical issue is did Mike Bush know about the allegations of 2004 and, of course now, the allegations made by these three women?"

Senior government ministers are not falling over themselves to back Mr Haumaha. Police Minister Stuart Nash, Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern all gave similar answers to the question of whether they had confidence in him.

"Matters around the process for the appointment of Mr Haumaha are the subject of an inquiry and I won't comment further on those matters at this time," said Mr Robertson.

Mr Nash said we need to let that inquiry process play out, while Ms Ardern called the whole thing frustrating.

"If you're ever appointing someone in a job, you want all of the information rather than having it drip fed out - and that's why we're doing this piece of work."

The statements that followed the allegations made at Parliament yesterday from the three agencies that were involved in the project, which was work towards improving justice outcomes for Māori, don't make things any clearer.

The Ministry of Justice said issues about behaviour and management were raised by its staff in June 2016.

"The issues around behaviour were raised at the highest level between the Acting Chief Executive of the Ministry and a Deputy Commissioner at Police," the statement read.

"The Ministry expected Police to follow up this issue appropriately."

The police said just one complaint was made, and it was by an external person who did not work for the Ministry of Justice, Corrections, or police.

And the Corrections Department said two of its staff worked on the cross-sector project, but neither of them complained.

Mr Bishop said the three public service agencies "seem to be blaming each other for what is clearly a debacle of a process."

"I just really feel for the women involved in this circumstance who allegedly were involved in this process, made complaints through the system, and don't appear to have been listened to," he said.

"It is an absolute debacle and we need to get to the bottom of it.

"There seems to be three completely different stories from completely different agencies [Justice, police, and Corrections]."

The accusations made at Parliament yesterday are only the latest in what has from the start been a controversial appointment process.

It was an appalled victims' advocate, Louise Nicholas, who brought Mr Haumaha's comments in 2004 to light, revealing he had defended the three men accused of her rape in the 1990s.

Ministers and top officials were caught unaware and an inquiry was launched into whether the appropriate information had been sought or passed on before he was appointed.

National then made several accusations of family and political ties to the New Zealand First Party, all of which have been denied.

Pauline Kingi was appointed to head the inquiry, then stood down last week, after a conflict of interest was claimed because she had endorsed Mr Haumaha 23 times on the networking website LinkedIn.

The government's now looking for a replacement, which Ms Ardern said was a work in progress.

"We're moving as quickly as we can. Given what happened earlier around the appointment process we've got to get it right.

"I'm expecting - and hoping - to do that within the coming days."

A new appointment is expected to be announced on Monday.

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