What happens now for Meka Whaitiri?

By Moana Makapelu Lee
  • North Island: East Coast
  • Wellington

Meka Whaitiri has stepped aside as minister for the customs portfolio while an investigation into an alleged office altercation is underway and questions now loom as to her position in parliament.

So what happens now for the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP?

The prime minister made the announcement on Thursday that Whaitiri had stepped aside from her ministerial roles. 

Whaitiri is being investigated for an alleged altercation with a new staff member.

Political commentator and announcer for Te Ūpoko o te Ika radio station Adrian Tangaroa Wagner says, "This could potentially tarnish her reputation with the allegations being made against her.  Once investigations have concluded, it is hoped she comes out on top and retains her ministerial positions."

It is not yet sure if a dismissal from parliament or a resignation could be on the cards.  If found guilty, Whaitiri's position in parliament, as well as her position as MP for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, could be in question.

If Labour is forced to go to a by-election Tangaroa Wagner says, "We shall then see if Labour retains the seat or if this could possibly mean a comeback for the Māori or Mana Party."

Whaitiri took office for the first time in 2013 after winning the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti electorate.  Last year she retained her seat again by a whopping 4,000 votes ahead of Māori Party's Marama Fox.

"Meka has been great in her capacity as minister but I do sympathise for her at this time and her region will be too," says Tangaroa Wagner.  

Whaitiri will now be moved to the backbench.  Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern remained tight lipped on the issue today saying she would make a decision once the report was completed.

But some in Labour's Māori caucus are already looking ahead.

Tāmaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare says, "We have a pool of options in our party, for example, Willow Jean-Prime and Kiritapu Allan, who would make excellent ministers.  There's plenty who could do the job and this could be an opportunity for them." 

Henare says the caucus will be meeting next week.