Politics

Clare Curran resigns as minister

Embattled minister Clare Curran has resigned.

The news comes just two weeks after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stripped Curran of her Cabinet responsibilities.

“Clare Curran contacted me last night to confirm her wish to resign as a minister and I accepted that resignation,” Ardern said on Friday.

“Clare has come to the view the issues currently surrounding her are causing an unacceptable distraction for the Government and immense pressure on her personally.

“I agree with her assessment that resigning is the best course of action for the Government and for her.”

An ashen-faced Curran appeared before media in Dunedin later on Friday. 

"I am, like the rest of you all, a human being and I can no longer endure the relentless pressure I have been under," Curran said.

"I made some mistakes, but they were not deliberate undermining of the political system," she said.

Kris Faafoi will become the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital media, remaining outside of Cabinet, and Peeni Henare will become the Associate Minister for ACC.

At the end of August, Ardern removed Curran from Cabinet and accepted her offer to resign her Government Digital Services portfolio and Open Government responsibilities, following a second failure to properly declare a meeting.

The meeting that led to Curran's demotion was with well-known entrepreneur Derek Handley where they discussed the vacancy for the role of the Government's chief technology officer (CTO).

Curran did not record the meeting in her diary, her staff and officials were not made aware of the meeting, and the information was subsequently omitted in an answer to a written Parliamentary question.

Her failure to declare the meeting with Handley came after similar issues surrounding a meeting with Carol Hirschfeld, then a senior executive at state-owned broadcaster RNZ, earlier in the year.

The failure to declare the meeting, and Hirschfeld’s continued efforts to keep the details from her then employer, led to Hirschfeld’s resignation from RNZ.

“I have come to the conclusion the current heat being placed on me is unlikely to go away. This pressure has become intolerable. For the benefit of the Government, and my personal wellbeing, I believe that resignation is the best course of action," Curran said in a statement on Friday.

Earlier this week, Curran was again in the spotlight after fumbling her response to oral questions in the House from National MP Melissa Lee.

The questions related to the use of Curran’s personal Gmail account for ministerial business.

When resigning, Curran said that she felt issues around her had been "amplified" and she had never tried to conceal anything by using her Gmail account.

On Thursday, Curran did not appear in the House, after seeking personal leave that morning.

National Party leader Simon Bridges said Curran's resignation had damaged the credibility of the government and Ardern.

“Jacinda Ardern had two chances to show leadership and sack Ms Curran – when she first misled New Zealanders over secret meetings and then when she did it again recently."

Bridges said Ardern misled New Zealanders when she gave the impression Curran's job was safe, and the whole saga had called the Prime Minister's judgment into question.

On Friday morning Ardern was asked whether she had sought Curran's resignation, to which she answered "no". The prime minister did not offer any further information at that stage.

The resignation comes as Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri has been sidelined during an investigation into a “staffing matter”.

Whaitiri allegedly made physical contact with a staff member. At the end of August, Ardern said she accepted an offer from Whaitiri to stand down while the investigation takes place.

Whaitiri was in Parliament on Friday to celebrate a Treaty Settlement Bill, but would not comment on the investigation.

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