Ardern denies allegation parliamentary resources used to help plan wedding

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has scotched allegations her wedding to Clarke Gayford may have...
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has scotched allegations her wedding to Clarke Gayford may have involved inappropriate use of parliamentary resources. Photo: NZ Herald
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has denied allegations a staffer may have inappropriately used parliamentary resources to help plan her wedding to fiance Clarke Gayford.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said no parliamentary time or resources were used to plan the wedding, and the staffer was working in her capacity as a long-standing friend.

The Herald on Sunday reported that Ardern’s electorate secretary Barbara Ward had been involved in wedding plans, visiting a wedding venue in Gisborne in May and July.

The news was revealed in a story that reported  Ardern had cancelled her original choice of wedding venue - the Bushmere Arms, on the outskirts of Gisborne - and had not paid a $5000 cancellation fee.

The owner of the venue, Robin Pierson, said Ardern and  Gayford booked the venue two years ago but talks broke down after a stoush over catering by a Kiwi celebrity chef, Peter Gordon.

Low-tax lobby group the Taxpayer’s Union released a statement yesterday saying the Prime Minister was ‘‘breaking the law in using her taxpayer-funded electorate secretary as a wedding planner’’.

Union spokesman Jordan Williams said: ‘‘No-one would object to officials ensuring appropriate security at the Prime Minister’s wedding - but having an official involved in the venue and catering is totally unjustified.’’

Mr Williams said the union would be writing to the Speaker, Trevor Mallard and the Auditor-general to ask them to investigate.

However, a spokesman for the Prime Minister denied there was any wrongdoing, saying Ms Ward, whose partner is Cabinet minister David Parker, was assisting  Ardern and Gayford in her capacity as a friend.

‘‘Barbara Ward is a close friend of the Prime Minister and Clarke Gayford.

‘‘She is helping with their wedding in a personal capacity. Her costs are being met privately and the time involved is either outside of workhours or annual leave,’’ the spokesman said.