MP Meka Whaitiri dumped as Customs Minister after investigation into alleged misconduct

Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri has been dumped as Customs Minister after an investigation by ministerial services into an incident with a staffer during an event in Gisborne in late August.

Ms Whaitiri, the MP for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, was alleged to have assaulted a staff member at the event, 1 NEWS reported last month.

Asked about the incident on her return to Parliament a few days later, Ms Whaitiri told media: "I'm cooperating fully with the investigation. I've got no further comment," she told media. "I am here as the MP for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti."

It comes after the MP was accused of assaulting a staff member in Gisborne. Source: 1 NEWS

But today, after ministerial services returned their findings to Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister dropped the axe.

"Based on the context and conclusions of the report I no longer have confidence in Meka Whaitiri as minister at this time," Ms Ardern said this afternoon.

She said the decision was based solely on the Gisborne incident, which Ms Whaitiri was disputing. 

"I'm not getting into any details around the incident. I've asked DIA (Department of Internal Affairs) to prepare a version of the report that can be released in order to address some outstanding questions."

When pushed on whether this was a pattern of behaviour often exhibited by Ms Whaitiri, Ms Ardern refused to say whether she'd learned of other incidents involving Ms Whaitiri.

"The minister has not had any other grievances raised against her. I've made a decision based on this incident and this report.

"Kris Faafoi will retain the role of Minister of Customs and Meka Whaitiri's associate minister responsibilities will sit with the lead portfolio ministers.

"There are no plans to undertake a cabinet reshuffle," Ms Ardern said.

Ms Ardern said Ms Whaitiri continued to defend herself but had accepted her decision and was keen to stay on as the MP for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti.

"I spoke to Meka Whaitiri this morning.

"I have been advised by colleagues in her caucus that they wish to still support her in that role [speaking of Māori Caucus co-chairwoman role].

"I have confidence in her continuing as a member of Parliament and in those roles as member of Parliament."

She said Ms Whaitiri was likely to return to Parliament next week.

"I have a view that the member works incredibly hard across Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, that she will continue to be able to fulfil those roles, however based on what I have seen, I do not have confidence in her retaining her role as minister," Ms Ardern reiterated.


The Prime Minister says she took action after an investigation deemed an incident did happen. Source: 1 NEWS


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