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Bennett broke confidentiality: marae head

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 17/06/2016

Paula Bennett © Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images Paula Bennett The chairman of an Auckland marae says he told government minister Paula Bennett he was under police investigation in confidence.

Te Puea Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis told the social development minister about the investigation last week when she paid the marae a visit.

The marae has made headlines for feeding and sheltering several homeless families, including about 20 children.

One of Ms Bennett's press secretaries on Monday told a reporter about the investigation, which has led to calls for Ms Bennett's resignation.

Mr Dennis told TV3's The Nation on Saturday he had wanted to be up-front with Ms Bennett, and he had expected the information to stay confidential.

"I just wanted to make sure that everything was transparent."

He did not know what the motivation was for the leak, but said Ms Bennett had apologised to him and her department was working with the marae.

"At the moment it's business as usual and we're getting on with what needs to be done."

Social workers, families and some "reputable organisations" had been dropping vulnerable people off at the marae, expecting the marae to find or provide housing, he said.

"It's been terrible to see that happen. We're not the big agency that's going to be able to fix this."

Earlier this week Ms Bennett confirmed she briefed members of her staff on the meeting she had with Mr Dennis and had told them about the investigation.

Ms Bennett says her press secretary believed the police investigation was public knowledge, and had mentioned it in passing while she was talking to a reporter.

She denies opposition claims it was a deliberate attempt to smear Mr Dennis.

The inquiry is reported to involve the way Mr Dennis intervened, on a personal basis and outside working hours, on behalf of a youth who was in a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl.

Mr Dennis is reported to have helped arrange for the youth to move to Australia.

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