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Bennett admits staffer discussed inquiry

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/06/2016
Social Development spokeswoman Paula Bennett wants to reduce the number of people receiving a benefit. © Getty images Social Development spokeswoman Paula Bennett wants to reduce the number of people receiving a benefit.

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett has confirmed one of her staff told a reporter about a police investigation into Te Puea Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis.

Ms Bennett says the staff member had 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," she said.

Before Ms Bennett issued her statement explaining what had happened, Labour's Phil Twyford had called for the minister's resignation.

He said if the staff member had passed on information about a police inquiry, it amounted to political interference.

Ms Bennett knew about the inquiry because she met Mr Dennis last Friday to talk about the marae having opened its doors to the homeless.

She says he told her about it during their conversation.

Policed confirmed to NZ Newswire that Mr Dennis, a former police iwi liaison officer, was stood down from his duties in September last year pending an inquiry.

When Ms Bennett was questioned by reporters as she went into parliament on Tuesday, she said she didn't know anything about information being leaked to the media.

Just over two hours later she issued her statement.

"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," she said. "

I have called Mr Dennis to offer my apologise in person."

In parliament, Mr Twyford asked Ms Bennett: "Is it fair for her staff to leak private information about a police investigation, doing what she always does, character assassination to divert attention from her failed housing policies?"

Ms Bennett replied: "That's an utterly ridiculous question and just simply not true."

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