PM announces investigation into leak of draft Whaitiri report

By Talisa Kupenga

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced an investigation into the leaking of a draft report about the Meka Whaitiri-staffer incident to the NZ Herald.

The leak saw domestic political issues follow Ardern abroad to New York.

"Hugely disappointed to see that it has been leaked.  We were going through a process to make sure that that was dealt with appropriately," she says.

The report contains photographs of bruising to the former staffer's upper arm where it is alleged Whaitiri grabbed her, but Whaitiri denies at any stage physically touching the former employee.

Back at the Beehive, Acting PM Winston Peters was left to answer questions around the bruising allegations.

"That's hypothesis.  Now we don't do that, we go off facts."

Evidence to the inquiry from the former press secretary recounts Whaitiri blaming her for missing a media stand-up with the prime minister during an event with Ngāti Porou in Gisborne.

According to the staff member, Whaitiri grabbed her by the arm and took her outside while the stand-up was happening.

Whaitiri denies grabbing the employee but there is no dispute that Whaitiri had words with her staffer for missing the event.

National Leader Paula Bennett says, "It's extremely concerning, especially when we see some of the statistics for Māori violence and there we have a potential role model, someone that's in a leadership position now with allegations of bruising."

Te Kāea asked Labour’s Tāmaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare whether Whaitiri should step aside if the bruising allegations were true.

He says, “I have not yet seen a report.  I will wait for the full story."

Labour’s Māori caucus unanimously supports Whaitiri but yesterday its co-chair Willie Jackson told Te Kāea her co-chair position could be reviewed pending the report’s release.

Today Jackson confirmed Whaitiri remains co-chair.

The lawyer who conducted the inquiry found the staff member's explanation was more likely but that Whaitiri did not pull or drag the employee, and that it was more probable Whaitiri approached her from behind and grabbed her by the arm.