Māori caucus gets heat for its support of Meka Whaitiri

Weekend Life 29/09/2018
Photo: Newshub.

The Māori caucus within the Labour Party has faced fierce criticism for their support of Meka Whaitiri as co-chair.

Members of the Māori caucus rallied behind Ms Whaitiri since she initially was stripped of her ministerial duties, publicly declaring their support during Parliament's debate on Wednesday.

Former ACT Party leader Rodney Hide called it “a total disgrace” given the circumstances for her demotion.

On Thursday, a leaked report to the NZ Herald revealed details of the incident that ultimately led to a crumbling political reputation. The report contained photographs of bruising on a staff member's arm where Ms Whaitiri allegedly grabbed.

Ms Whaitiri has continued to deny touching the staffer.

On Thursday, Māori caucus co-chair Willie Jackson acknowledged the leaked report and those who were questioning Ms Whaitiri's suitablity as an MP.

When asked whether Ms Whaitiri should continue to co-chair, Mr Jackson said "nothing has changed".

Mr Hide told RadioLIVE that by supporting Ms Whaitiri, the caucus is supporting bullying.

“This just sends totally the wrong message. And it sends it loud and clear from Parliament that bullying is OK as long as you’re big enough, powerful enough, and I think – Māori.”

National MP Amy Adams accused Ms Whaitiri of bullying before the leaked report, and condemned the Māori caucus for its support of the former minister.

But Deputy Leader Kelvin Davis adamantly defended the caucus against the National-led criticism.

"Our Māori caucus is strong and one of the things we do is stick to our tikanga. And one of our tikanga is to stand up and support our people when they need our support.

"It doesn't mean to say we pass judgment. It doesn't mean to say we agree or disagree; but we know in Maoridom that it's important to stand beside your people. It is important to be there just to hold them up, just to help and that's how we were raised," Mr Davis said.

The Department of Internal Affairs has launched an inquiry into the leaked report.

Listen to the full interview with Rodney Hide above.

Weekend Life with Carly Flynn, 10am-2pm Saturday on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.