Nine agency bosses meet over Te Pāti Māori data claims

Acting Public Service Commissioner Heather Baggott Photo: RNZ
Acting Public Service Commissioner Heather Baggott Photo: RNZ
Allegations of misuse of personal data by Te Pāti Māori have triggered a high-level meeting of department heads, with four agencies now looking into the matter.

In a statement on Friday afternoon, acting Public Service Commissioner Heather Baggott confirmed she had called the heads of nine departments to a meeting as a "a first step to ensure that all relevant agencies are acting to examine the recent allegations".

Stats NZ began an independent investigation over claims raised by a group of ex-workers from Manurewa Marae, that Te Pāti Māori had potentially used private data from census forms to target voters in the Tāmaki Makaurau electorate during last year's election.

Baggott confirmed the Ministry of Health and Health NZ/Te Whatu Ora were also "seeking urgent assurance" that immunisation and Covid-19 data had been appropriately managed, and Oranga Tamariki "has processes under way" over use of its data.

Police are also investigating related complaints, and the Privacy Commissioner has also requested assurances and information in relation to the matter.

Department bosses called to the meeting included the heads of Stats NZ, the Ministry of Health and Health NZ, the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Internal Affairs, Te Puni Kōkiri, Oranga Tamariki and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Police and the Electoral Commission also attended the meeting.

Te Pāti Māori president John Tamihere. Photo: RNZ
Te Pāti Māori president John Tamihere. Photo: RNZ

Te Pāti Māori's president John Tamihere has strongly denied the claims, most recently calling them frivolous and baseless.

"Te Pāti Māori are endlessly attacked and the matter is being made into a race debate through no fault of our own," he said.

He on Friday called for evidence backing the claims to be presented, and the party's co-leaders wrote to police and the Prime Minister demanding police urgently investigate.

Baggott said the allegations were serious and "go to the core of trust and confidence in our public institutions and our democratic processes".

"If true, the allegations represent a serious misuse of citizens' personal information and an unacceptable breach of public trust. It is important for all involved that the facts are established. I encourage anyone with relevant information to contact the appropriate authority.

"It is essential New Zealanders can trust their personal information is secure and not exploited, and trust the integrity of our electoral system."

Stats NZ has also unveiled the terms of reference for its investigation, saying it would "centre around the management and handing of census forms and the data and personal information contained within them".

That inquiry is being led by independent investigator Doug Craig.