Bush grilled on Haumaha ap­point­ment

Ten­sions flare after Com­mis­sioner opts to wait on in­quiry

The New Zealand Herald - - News - Derek Cheng pol­i­tics

Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Mike Bush con­tin­ues to have trust and con­fi­dence in Wally Haumaha, though he will not be drawn on any ques­tions about the in­quiries into his con­tro­ver­sial ap­point­ment as Deputy Com­mis­sioner.

Po­lice top brass were grilled yes­ter­day by MPs on the jus­tice select com­mit­tee dur­ing an at-times heated hear­ing, as Na­tional MPs sought an­swers from Bush about Haumaha’s con­tro­ver­sial com­ments and al­le­ga­tions of bul­ly­ing against him.

An in­quiry, com­pleted by Mary Scholtens, QC, on Fri­day, has been handed to the Govern­ment and looked at the process lead­ing up to Haumaha’s ap­point­ment — but is yet to be pub­licly re­leased.

The Scholtens in­quiry was an­nounced after the Herald re­vealed com­ments made by Haumaha dur­ing the Op­er­a­tion Austin in­ves­ti­ga­tion into po­lice cul­ture in 2004, which fol­lowed rape al­le­ga­tions by Louise Ni­cholas. Haumaha was friends with Brad Ship­ton, Bob Schol­lum and Clint Rickards, who Ni­cholas ac­cused of rape.

Haumaha was in­ter­viewed for Op­er­a­tion Austin and spoke highly of his friends, de­scrib­ing Ship­ton as a “softie” and Schol­lum as a “leg­end” with women.

He also de­scribed Ni­cholas’ al­le­ga­tions as “a non­sense” and that “noth­ing re­ally hap­pened and we have to stick to­gether”.

At the com­mit­tee, Bush re­peat­edly re­fused to an­swer ques­tions about

Haumaha, in­clud­ing what he knew of Haumaha’s com­ments and when, or whether the case had un­der­mined con­fi­dence in po­lice cul­ture. Na­tional MP Chris Bishop asked if the ap­point­ment was a risk to the progress po­lice had made. “Did you know about those com­ments when Mr Haumaha was be­ing pro­moted from as­sis­tant to deputy com­mis­sioner?

“Do you ac­cept that it is [rea­son­able] for peo­ple to worry about the cul­ture of po­lice with the se­cond in com­mand . . . be­ing on the record so pub­licly hav­ing said those re­marks?” Bush replied that he did not want to an­swer be­fore the in­quiry is re­leased, adding his as­sur­ance that po­lice will con­tinue to make progress and that “we are now in a re­ally good space”.

“I’m as keen as any­one to see the re­sult of that re­port.” MPs from Labour and Na­tional then sparred about whether the com­mis­sioner should an­swer the ques­tion.

At one point, Na­tional MP Nick Smith said that Labour MPs had blocked a mo­tion to post­pone the hear­ing un­til after the in­quiry was re­leased.

Labour MPs said they wanted to call Bush back to the com­mit­tee after the in­quiry was re­leased — if ap­pro­pri­ate. Bishop then asked about the al­le­ga­tions of bul­ly­ing against Haumaha in 2016, but Bush said that the In­de­pen­dent Po­lice Con­duct Author­ity was in­ves­ti­gat­ing and would re­lease its re­port soon.

Smith then asked about Haumaha’s as­so­ci­a­tion with NZ First, but Bush again de­clined to com­ment, cit­ing the IPCA in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

After the hear­ing, Bush said he had con­fi­dence in Haumaha, who had been work­ing from home while the in­quiries were con­ducted, and that pub­lic trust and con­fi­dence had im­proved in re­cent months.

Photo / Mark Mitchell

Mike Bush fronts the jus­tice select com­mit­tee at Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day and re­peat­edly re­fuses to an­swer ques­tions about Wally Haumaha (below left).

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