Politics

Whaitiri stood down as minister over ‘staffing matter’

Meka Whaitiri has become the second Government minister to lose her portfolios in a week, with an investigation into a "staffing matter" in her office.

In a statement, Ardern said she had accepted Whaitiri's offer to stand down as Customs Minister, and as an associate minister for agriculture, local government, and Crown/Maori relations, "while an investigation is carried out into a staffing matter in her ministerial office".

“Meka Whaitiri has told me she will be fully cooperating with the investigation, which will be thorough and conducted as quickly as possible,” Ardern said.

Citing "privacy concerns", Ardern said neither she nor Whaitiri would comment further while Ministerial Services carried out an investigation.

Newsroom understands the incident which has triggered the investigation occurred while Whaitiri was at the Government's summit with Ngāti Porou in Gisborne on Monday.

The allegation relates to a physical incident, although its seriousness is a matter of dispute.

Whaitiri is also known to have had issues with high staff turnover, not just in government but also in opposition.

Whaitiri's temporary resignation comes after Clare Curran was demoted from Cabinet last week and resigned from her digital services and open government portfolios, after failing to declare an official meeting for a second time.

Curran failed to record a meeting with chief technology officer candidate Derek Handley, having omitted to document a coffee meeting with former RNZ broadcaster Carol Hirschfeld earlier in the year.

Ardern said Curran's second misjudgement was not malicious but "not in keeping with my expectations".

"She simply cannot recall the reason why it was not included in her diary...that’s not good enough, that’s why she’s been removed from Cabinet.”

National leader Simon Bridges told Newsroom the issue would have to be "reasonably serious" for Whaitiri to stand down over a personnel matter, and said the public needed to know more soon.

"With the Government a few months in, you're seeing more of this at the moment - they're starting to look increasingly shabby."

Bridges said Curran's demotion was "a slap with a wet bus ticket", while Labour's handling of an inquiry into allegations of sexual assault at its summer camp also seemed inadequate.

“This [Whaitiri's resignation], on top of those two shows the discipline, the professionalism of this Government is lacking."

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