Dr. Pauline Kingi has stepped down as the chair of the inquiry into the appointment of Deputy Chief Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha, with the Internal Affairs Minister placing the blame squarely on the National Party, Thomas Coughlan reports.
The shock announcement of the resignation of Pauline Kingi was made by Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin yesterday in Question Time, when she was being questioned by National MP, Chris Bishop.
Question Time is not the usual forum for announcements – politicians usually prefer dedicated press conferences or leaking exclusives to specific media to get coverage. This meant yesterday’s announcement took many by surprise.
Martin said she had received news from the Department of Internal Affairs that Kingi had decided to step aside at 1.40pm, just twenty minutes before Question Time began.
The resignation came after revelations published in The New Zealand Herald that Kingi had endorsed Haumaha 23 times on the social networking site LinkedIn.
That revelation was particularly controversial, given one of the issues raised around the appointment processes suitability stemmed from his association with Martin’s party, New Zealand First.
The appointment and the inquiry
Kingi was to lead an inquiry into the appointment of Haumaha as Deputy Police Commissioner.
Haumaha’s appointment had caused controversy after it emerged that he had been close to the officers accused of raping Louise Nicholas, who now works as an adviser to the police, when she was a teenager.
The NZ Herald reported that Haumaha described Nicholas’ allegations as “a nonsense”.
Two of the officers accused by Nicholas, Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum, were later convicted of the rape of a Mount Maunganui woman. According to The NZ Herald, Haumaha described Shipton as a "big softie" and Schollum as a "legend" with women to detectives investigating Nicholas' allegations.
Kingi was appointed to head the inquiry on July 23, but by July 31 it emerged that she had endorsed Haumaha 23 times for various skills on LinkedIn, leading to allegations of a conflict of interest.
Martin dismissed the notion that a LinkedIn endorsement implied a conflict of interest and that the country needed to “have a conversation” about social media use in relation to conflicts of interest.
She said she could not see why the allegations looked bad.
Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters likewise dismissed LinkedIn connections as conflicts of interest.
“Everyone was doing it in terms of career and professionalism,” Peters said.
“People were actually signing up and endorsing people they’d never met before, that’s as common as anything,” he said.
A political hit job?
Martin said the revelations about Kingi were “absolutely” a political hit job.
When asked whether the allegations levelled against Haumaha were defamatory, Martin said that they were not but “he” (presumably meaning Bishop) had been “very careful”.
Bishop told media that it would be inappropriate for Kingi to run the inquiry.
“She’s done the right thing,” he said.
“The real question now is for the Government: How was she appointed in the first place and why was Tracey Martin defending her so ardently yesterday and 24 hours later was welcoming her resignation,” he said.
Martin said Internal Affairs was looking into Kingi’s replacement and that she could not confirm whether the inquiry would still start on August 6 as orginally planned .