PM strips Meka Whaitiri of ministerial responsibilities

By Talisa Kupenga

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has removed Meka Whaitiri from her role as Minister of Customs but she will retain her Ikaroa-Rawhiti seat and position as Labour’s Māori caucus co-chair.

The announcement comes three weeks to the day since Whaitiri stood aside as a minister pending an investigation into an alleged incident between Whaitiri and a staffer in Gisborne on August 27.

“Based on the contents of the report I no longer have confidence in Meka Whaitiri as minister at this time, this is why I have taken the action I have."  

Ardern says Whaitiri accepts the decision but continues to contest details of the incident- although there were elements which are agreed.

"For privacy reasons I don't wish to divulge further details of the investigator's report as it is an employment matter and protecting the privacy of the staff member involved is paramount to me.”

Minister Kris Faafoi will become the new Customs Minister.  Whaitiri’s roles as Associate Minister for Agriculture, Forestry, Local Government and Crown/Māori Relations will sit with the lead portfolio ministers.

Whaitiri is the second minister to be stripped of her portfolios after Clare Curran.  Ardern says there were no plans to undertake a cabinet reshuffle.

Ardern says Whaitiri will undertake training on how to manage staff and is expected back at parliament next week.