Paula Bennett is under fire from opposition MPs following revelations one of her press secretaries leaked to media that the Chair of Te Puea Marae, Hurimoana Dennis was under police investigation.
When initially confronted with the issue at Parliament yesterday the Housing Minister denied the claims. However, later in a statement, she revealed that her staff member briefly spoke to a reporter about the investigation under the assumption it was in the “public arena.”
She says,"I have since had the opportunity to ask my staff and a member of my team has told me they did discuss it with a reporter briefly at the conclusion of a phone call about a work matter. The staff member in question assumed the information was in the public arena.
My staff member very much regrets this error and has apologised to me and I accept their assurances it won’t happen again. I have made it clear that it was not appropriate."
On the contrary, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says, “This is another example of Paula Bennett lashing out under pressure and embarking on a character assassination to try to divert attention away from her failed social housing policy.”
Bennett fronted up to Te Puea Marae yesterday and was taken on a tour of the facility by Mr Dennis who she says openly revealed to her in a meeting last week that he was under investigation.
Twyford says, “An individual police investigation into a professional matter is nothing to do with the great work the marae is doing to house the homeless. Instead of throwing mud, Paula Bennett should be supporting them – like many in Auckland are – by taking food and supplies."
In a statement, the Minister said, "I was aware of the investigation into Mr Dennis as he had told me about it last week, however I had no knowledge of anything coming from my office."
"I have called Mr Dennis to offer my apologies in person," Bennett says.