The forgotten history of Pākehā slaves

This story was originally published by the New Zealand Listener and is republished with permission.

A new book about Europeans kept as slaves by Māori between the 1790s and 1880s challenges the theme of “colonisation and exploitation that is central to postcolonial writing”.

They were nearly home, well within sight of land, when a southerly gale drove the barque Harriet, carrying Elizabeth Guard, her husband, Jacky, and two young children on to the Taranaki coast. Remarkably, everyone on board made it to shore. Their luck, however, was about to run out.

In 1834, the shipwrecked survivors of the Harriet were attacked by a group of Ngāti Ruanui and other Taranaki Māori. A number of crew members were killed, including Guard’s brother. Guard herself, her family and other crew members were taken captive. After two weeks, Jacky and several other men were released on the understanding they would return with a cask of gunpowder as ransom for the rest of the party.

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Four months later, the man-o’-war Alligator and the schooner Isabella launched a rescue expedition. Confronted by the sheer scale of British firepower, the tribe released eight sailors.

Several days later, Guard and her baby daughter were given up in exchange for the rangatira Oaoiti, who had been captured and brutally treated on board the Alligator.

The capture and eventual release of Guard and her children attracted huge attention. In lurid detail, the Sydney Herald described Guard as being stripped naked and dragged into a hut.

Her husband claimed she had been taken as a “slave wife”, even though other accounts suggest that, after the initial affray, she was treated well and protected by Oaoiti, who took Elizabeth as his wife or lover. Unfortunately, Guard’s version of events is absent, her story reliant on reports by others, including one suggesting she later gave birth to twins fathered by Oaoiti.

Utu: Louis John Steele’s 1889 painting The Blowing Up of the Boyd.
THE ARTCHIVES/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
Utu: Louis John Steele’s 1889 painting The Blowing Up of the Boyd.

The rescue itself was criticised for its excessive use of force against Māori.

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Guard’s story featured in Tauranga historian Trevor Bentley’s 2004 book, Captured by Maori, a follow-on from his 1999 study of male captives, Pakeha Maori.

It is retold again in his new book, Pakeha Slaves, Maori Masters, the mostly forgotten story, he writes, of the Europeans who lived and sometimes died as slaves in tribal New Zealand between the 1790s and 1880s.

SUPPLIED/LISTENER/BAUER MEDIA
A shadow portrait of Elizabeth Guard, left, and a news cutting of Caroline Perrett, who was recognised after being kidnapped as a child.

“I’ve always had this fascination with people who had crossed cultures,” he says.

“One of my ancestors was a Portuguese sailor, a shipwreck survivor who washed up at my ancestral village in Samoa in the 1700s, so I have had this long-term interest in people who formed new identities and became part of these new cultures.”

In his new book, he walks readers through the short but little-known history of Pākehā taken prisoner or enslaved by Māori. In some cases, this was done as an act of revenge for serious breaches of Māori tikanga.

In 1874, eight-year-old Caroline Perrett was kidnapped by Māori in Taranaki after her father dug up Māori graves and a local Māori child had also been kidnapped by Europeans (Perrett was recognised some 50 years later while working alongside her adopted hapū).

Utu similarly motivated the attack on the London-bound Boyd by Ngāti Pou and Ngāti Uru in 1809. A leading rangatira, accused of stealing pewter spoons, had been flogged and robbed before being sent back naked to his people at Whangaroa. In the ensuing attack, 60 passengers and crew were killed and nine survivors enslaved.

But most Europeans taken captive by Māori were runaway seamen – a motley crew of stowaways, castaways, mutineers and escaped convicts from Australia – or shipwrecked mariners. Some of these would have been killed.

Others would have been put though the “terrifying rituals”, writes Bentley, of whakataurekareka/enslavement such as being stripped, beaten, forcibly tattooed or marched over long distances – rites of passage, says Bentley, in which captives passed from the status of herehere/prisoners to that of taurekareka/slaves.

DIFFERENT TREATMENT

From here, the treatment of those taken captive varied, often depending on their status and usefulness to their captors.

Some, particularly those considered of lowly status or who showed little respect for Māori rangatira or tohunga, were treated harshly, many living under the constant threat of death at the apparent whim of their masters.

Others gradually assimilated into their communities, their identity restored, even their personal names reinstated.

“If you could contribute in some way as an artisan, a fighting man, someone with agricultural knowledge or technical skills, you very quickly acquired status. So, if you had ambition and wanted to improve your conditions, it seems you had the opportunity to do so, but if you were a humble person, you were treated as a slave for life.”

SUPPLIED/LISTENER/BAUER MEDIA
Trevor Bentley.

The mistreatment of enslaved castaways diminished as rangatira realised they could be exchanged for muskets (this was the time of the Musket Wars), gunpowder, axes or hard cash.

When the American schooner Cossack was wrecked near Hokianga in 1823, local Māori provided Captain Dix and his crew with good food and housing before they were escorted through neighbouring rohe and sold to Anglican missionaries and ships’ captains.

Some captives were imprisoned only briefly. Others became bound to iwi through marriage, many gaining respect as interpreters, warriors, trade negotiators or even “Pākehā rangatira”, often enjoying a life far better than the harsh treatment on board ships.

Jack Marmon, who lived with a Te Hikutu hapū on the Kerikeri River between 1817 and 1820, described living quietly with his wives, fishing, hunting, boatbuilding “and when all things failed had my pipe to fall back upon”.

These captives fall into Bentley’s category of “chattel slaves” – they were the personal property of their captors, placed within a hierarchy similar to that used for Māori slaves or war captives.

(As Hazel Petrie wrote in her 2015 book Outcasts of the Gods?, the loose labelling of Māori war captives as “slaves” conflated two quite different institutions “and led to those captives being perceived in much the same way as African slaves in the Americas rather than as the prisoners in intertribal warfare that they almost always were”.)

Others, writes Bentley, were tributary vassals or demi-slaves – the missionaries, shore-based whalers, sealers, sawyers, flax traders and entrepreneurs who were welcomed into Māori communities and, as long as they obeyed Māori law and paid regular tribute, allowed to live on Māori land and use the resources, whether it be timber, whales, seals or people’s souls.

“They were given access to resources and protection and got on very well with Maori – as long as they contributed. If not, then they were plundered.”

THE CONTINUUM OF SLAVERY

So, were they slaves? Bentley agrees slavery/ taurekareka is a slippery term, “But the act of stripping somebody indicates you are enslaved. [For chattel slaves], your identity has been removed, your ship or whaling station has been plundered or your boat confiscated and you are going to be worked hard and, in the case of war captives, put through rituals of whakataurekareka, which could be quite brutal physically and psychologically.”

But whether they lived as chattel slaves within Māori communities or semi-independently as tributary vassals on tribal lands, he writes, is immaterial.

“In New Zealand before the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 and in Maori-dominated regions thereafter, they were subject to the control of local rangatira. Dependent upon Maori for protection in return for service or tribute, they all had a place on the Māori continuum of slavery.”

Bishop Selwyn, for example, was one of about 14 missionaries “enslaved” when he was detained and imprisoned in 1861 by Māori in retribution for the killing of family members and the destruction of homes and crops by British and colonial troops.

“Some were stripped and [their possessions] plundered while mission stations were burnt but they don’t mention this in their journals or they skim over it very lightly.”

SUPPLIED/LISTENER/BAUER MEDIA
Bishop Selwyn was “enslaved” in 1861, according to Bentley.

The record is skewed in other ways.

For this book, Bentley researched published histories by hapū and iwi historians and writings by Māori scholars, but the most frequently referenced sources are the journals, letters and logs of ships’ captains, the captivity narratives by returned “slaves” and media accounts of the day.

Many of these veered towards the sensational. Tales of helpless white women in the hands of “savages” were in high demand in the 19th century as British and American readers seized on the often-salacious accounts of captivity and rescue.

Once newspapers got going in Australia and New Zealand, says Bentley, “they retold these stories over and over again”.

Ramping up the drama was useful. Exaggerated tales of torture served the purposes of British and colonial officials, their military forces and land-hungry settlers.

Church missions were often forced to rely on explicit accounts of so-called barbarity to ensure ongoing funding. For those who had been enslaved, especially those forcibly tattooed, recounting their experiences provided a livelihood otherwise denied them.

As Bentley says, it was difficult to live with tā moko in Victorian society. “They were considered white savages, who had slipped down the scale of civilisation.”

Bentley’s book does not hold back on the sort of details written to terrify or titillate a 19th-century reading public. In telling Guard’s story, he quotes extracts from the 1834 journal of Alligator crew member Lieutenant Clarke, including accounts of Māori licking the blood from her wounds and attempting “to made an incision in her neck with a piece of hoop iron in order to drink her blood”.

Many of the reprinted images seem to be aimed at whipping up horror; even the red sticker on the cover, warning of content “that may offend some readers”, can be read as an attempt to ratchet up the shock factor. Bentley says this was done in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings, “when everyone was obsessed with hate speech and offending each other”.

CRITICISM IS GOOD

The purpose of Bentley’s book, however, is not to entertain or to shock. Rather, he says, it is to provide a counter-narrative “that challenges the entrenched myth of Europeans as sole oppressors and exploiters in 19th-century New Zealand while reminding us that slavery is a human problem, not a race problem”.

In revealing the extent of white slavery in New Zealand, and exposing a period when Māori had power and Pākehā were powerless, Bentley sets out to cast light on a part of our history that does not fit into “the general theme of European conquest, colonisation and exploitation that is central to postcolonial writing”.

In doing so, he says, Pakeha Slaves, Maori Masters follows overseas publications such as White Slaves, African Masters, an anthology of Barbary captivity narratives edited by Paul Baepler, and Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters by American historian Robert Davis.

But Davis’ comments that “white slavery had been minimised or ignored because academics preferred to treat Europeans as evil colonialists rather than as victims” have proved controversial. In this book, the lack of macrons, unfortunate references to “Pakeha roastees” and “Maori gourmands”, even his mention of “Negroes” – in the context of the times, he hastens to explain – may well prove equally contentious.

So, might there be some fightback, particularly from Māori academics? Bentley, who is working on an anthology of 20 first-hand accounts by 16 men and four women captured by Māori, says there could well be – after all, he says, it took 14 attempts to find a publisher for this book.

“But I’m looking forward to that. Criticism is good. That is how we move forward.”

PAKEHA SLAVES, MAORI MASTERS: The Forgotten Story of New Zealand’s White Slaves, by Trevor Bentley (New Holland, $39.99)

Timeline: Everything we know about the Labour staffer inquiry

NIGEL HAWORTH AT PARLIAMENT ON TUESDAY. IMAGE: RNZ

All the key dates and critical communications between Sarah* and the Labour Party – including unambiguous references to ‘sexual assault’ from the complainant.

Jacinda Ardern has declared herself “deeply concerned and incredibly frustrated” over the allegations levelled at a Labour staffer as well as the party investigation into the man, who remains employed by the Labour leader’s office and denies wrongdoing.

The party president says he is “confident I have handled the process in a professional manner”.

The prime minister says she had been assured that no complainant alleged sexual assault or violence. She says the first she learned of the nature of the allegations that Sarah (a pseudonym) insists she raised repeatedly with the Labour Party, was upon reading the Spinoff’s investigation published on Monday.

A crucial question is whether the Labour Party’s position, that it was not informed of the allegations, is tenable. Just as important is whether its process – for example in repeatedly failing to meet complainants’ requests to review the summaries of their oral evidence – is defensible.

Below, an incomplete chronology, based on public statements and numerous documents provided to The Spinoff.

2018

Mid-February

The incident at the home of the staffer takes place, according to Sarah, as described in this feature.

March 12

Newsroom reports complaints about the handling of allegations relating to a Labour Youth Summer Camp, which had been held in February in Waihi.

March 15

Labour announces a review into the Summer Camp allegations, to be conducted by Maria Berryman.

“We failed the young people who told us they had been hurt – this failure left them feeling abandoned and I am deeply sorry for that. It’s not good enough, we let them down,” says Jacinda Ardern. “We handled this very, very badly as a party.”

Labour Party President Nigel Haworth invites anyone with other complaints to bring them forward. “I want this to be a safe party where everyone can go to any event and be sure they won’t be harassed or subjected to any of this treatment. It is utterly unacceptable.”

April 17

Sarah raises concerns about the behaviour of the man at the centre of the allegations for the first time in writing – having previously discussed with fellow party members – in an email to Maria Berryman.

July 10

Nigel Haworth writes to Young Labour members to “explain what the party has been doing in recent weeks”. He adds: “The NZ Council has determined that it will do all that it can to ensure the party is safe and inclusive in future,” and urges anyone concerned to contact him.

August 6

Sarah emails Haworth in response to the above, alleging “predatory behaviour” on the part of the individual, and asking whom to contact.

August 29

The Berryman report is provided to senior Labour members but not published. Recommendations include introducing a new open process to enable complaints to be received and responded to without delay and with appropriate specialist advice.

October 18

A Labour Party official contacts Sarah to set up a meeting to discuss her complaints, stemming from her email to Haworth.

October 23

Sarah meets the official and Haworth at the Wellington Central Library. Sarah, by her account, outlines the allegation of sexual assault. Howarth disputes this.

2019

February 24

The New Zealand Council, Labour’s governing body, meets to assess whether an investigation should take place. It agrees that it should, and appoints a three-person “sub-committee” to investigate alleged misconduct. All three are members of Labour’s NZ Council.

February 25

A party official emails complainants advising that a sub-committee has been appointed.

March 4

Complainants receive written notification that interviews will take place on March 9.

March 9

Interviews are held with what is thought to be seven complainants at Fraser House, Labour’s base on Willis Street, Wellington.

An hour before her interview, Sarah emails the investigating panel chair, writing, “I want to be able to read off of a timeline and testimony I’ve created. Would someone be able to print this before my interview?” In a screenshot viewed by The Spinoff, there are two documents attached. One is titled “To print, sexual assault”. Labour says he received no attachments.

The panel chair emails Sarah asking her to send the documents to a party official who is providing access to the building. She does so. According to Sarah, four copies of the documents were printed and placed on the table where the interview took place. Sarah goes through the document, explaining her experience, including the alleged sexual assault. The panelists dispute that they heard such allegations.

April 26

Sarah emails the panel seeking “an update on the investigation”. She writes: “Just adding the seriousness of the situation here, an accusation of sexual assault, manipulation, bullying and emotional abuse.”

May 6

Having had no reply to the previous email, she emails again, forwarding the previous correspondence, asking “are we able to get a response?” and saying she is concerned “given his continued approaches to the members who’ve spoken on behalf of this investigation”.

A member of the panel responds three hours later acknowledging receipt but not offering any update.

May 21

Nigel Haworth writes to complainants advising that the investigation will be concluding in the coming days, with a report to be finalised and sent to the NZ Council, which will consider its recommendations at a meeting on June 15.

One complainant responds, concerned about the paucity of information provided since their interviews. The process has been “completely unacceptable”, he writes. “While this investigation was ongoing (which involved elements of predatory behaviour, sexual violence and physical violence) he was allowed to [provide] swipe card access for a Young Labour event at parliament … It is like the party has learned nothing in the wake of the Young Labour summer school”.

Another, Sarah, responds separately, writing in an email to Haworth and the investigating panel: “Are we able to see a confirmation [of] testimonies that are being handed to [inquiry subject] and his legal team? At least my own script from meetings?” And: “Are we able to see the full report before you share the details to all of NZC?”

She writes: “Forgive me for being panicked, I’m just completely lost at the lack of communication… to now being told the investigation report had been completed.” She reiterates unequivocally that the allegations include sexual assault.

May 22

Sarah writes again to the members of the panel, copying Haworth, to agree to a meeting to “clarify the allegations and the matters that the party is investigating”, adding: “but the question still stands, am I able to see a confirmation of the testimonies that are being handed to [the respondent] and his legal team? At least my own script from meetings? … Not really keen to continue to provide all this information if it’s not being checked, we’re not sure who’s seeing it, and it’s being handed to [NZ Council] without follow up … The process we’ve ended up with is retraumatising so many people.”

The chair of the panel writes to Sarah, saying: “I am happy to provide a copy of your notes.”

June 11

Sarah emails the three panel members asking again for the notes from her interview. She also sends them “my notes of testimony”. Her attached notes include clear and repeated references to her own “sexual assault” in February 2018.

June 15

The NZ Council meeting considers the report of the investigating committee, and approves its recommendation of no disciplinary action.

July 5

Nigel Haworth writes to complainants to say that at the last meeting NZ Council “received and endorsed a report from the investigating panel. The recommendation was that no disciplinary action be taken in this case.”

He advises that there is no appeal process in the party constitution, but “this does not, of course, preclude an approach to Council in relation to queries that arise following the investigation”.

He says they will today receive “the transcript of your statement to the investigating panel. I recognise that this is important for all of you.” No such transcripts appear to have ever existed. The handwritten notes that were taken are not provided for another 10 days to one complainant, and a further eight days later to another.

July 12

The Labour party general secretary, Andre Anderson, writes to complainants advising that the process of the inquiry will be reviewed by the party solicitor. It will “be limited solely to procedural matters” and “not reinvestigate whether misconduct took place” nor involve fresh interviews. That will mean sharing with him “the information that you provided to the investigating committee when you were interviewed”.

After that review is complete, “NZ Council will then be able to make an informed decision regarding any further steps”.

He adds: “I understand that the investigating committee may now have sent you the written record of your interview. If not we will send it to you on Monday [July 16].”

He says the staffer has been asked to “stay away from Fraser House”, and asks that complainants “stay away from Bowen House (not just from the leader’s office)”.

July 15

A Labour Party official sends Sarah her “testimony”. “With the caveat that we have not yet been able to establish whether this was the exact version that the respondent saw.”

There is no reference in the handwritten, abbreviated notes to any allegation by Sarah of sexual assault.

July 23

Another of the complainants receives their testimony from the party.

August 5

The first news of the allegations and the inquiry is broken by Newshub. Tova O’Brien reports: “Newshub can reveal the Labour Party has been forced to review an internal investigation into bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault by a Labour staffer. It follows complaints the investigation process was botched and traumatising for the alleged victims. At least four people have resigned from official party roles and cancelled their membership as a result.”

On an unknown date in early August, Jacinda Ardern is given a “heads up” over the complaints made to the Labour Party in relation to the individual. At this point, she will later tell media, she asks whether there are any complaints involving allegations that are “sexual in nature or physical in nature”. She is “advised that they are not”.

August 6

Jacinda Ardern says of the review: “This has been a test of whether or not we’ve now learnt from [the Summer Camp scandal] and the party is taking a good look at whether we’ve satisfied the natural process of justice and whether or not we’ve supported the complainants as we should have.”

August 8

Paula Bennett reveals a Beehive staffer has approached her to protest Labour’s handling of complaints in the case.

A spokesperson for the prime minister responds: “To the best of our knowledge, the issues raised by Ms Bennett have not been raised with us, Parliamentary or Ministerial Services.”

August 10

Jacinda Ardern attends a meeting of the New Zealand Council, the governing body of the Labour Party, where she “expressed complete dissatisfaction with the way [the inquiry] had been handled by the Labour Party”. She “very seriously shared my view that they were not the appropriate place to undertake inquiries around concerning behaviour by members of the Labour Party, but particularly they are not the appropriate place to ever undertake an investigation into a sexual assault.”

August 12

Nigel Haworth issues a statement announcing the establishment of an “independent appeals process” to be conducted by an unnamed “independent and experienced expert”.

August 14

Nigel Haworth emails complainants in the investigation, saying “Council decided it was appropriate you be offered the opportunity to appeal”, providing a nine-day deadline for opting in.

September 4

The 21-year-old man facing allegations of sexual assault at the Labour Party summer camp agrees a plea deal, which sees the sexual allegations dropped and guilty pleas in relation to two amended charges of assault.

September 8

Stuff reports that complainants and witnesses in the case had been “barred from parliament offices”.

September 9

The Spinoff publishes a 4,000 word investigative feature detailing Sarah’s experience, headlined: “A Labour volunteer alleged a violent sexual assault by a Labour staffer. This is her story.”

A statement from Nigel Haworth provided to the Spinoff includes the following: “It’s important to be clear that none of the complaints the party investigated related to sexual assault. The person leading the original review made it clear to the complainants that the party would never be the appropriate body to handle allegations of that nature and that they would need to be investigated by the police.”

At her weekly Beehive press conference, Jacinda Ardern fields several questions on the issue. “I want to make it very clear that I am deeply concerned and incredibly frustrated by the process that has been undertaken by the Labour Party, but also obviously by the nature of the allegations,” she says. “I was informed in the very beginning that the allegations made were not sexual in nature. That is obviously directly counter to what is now being reported.”

She says the individual has not been on the parliamentary precinct for five weeks. She refuses to express confidence in Haworth, stressing that she wishes to wait for the fresh inquiry to be completed. Maria Dew QC will report directly to her, she says.

September 10

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The lawyer acting for the Labour staffer contacts The Spinoff saying the “serious claims” made about his client are “without foundation”, that the man has “agreed to cooperate fully” with the QC-led inquiry, and legal action may follow.

An “open letter to the prime minister” is circulated within the party by “Me Too Labour”, an unnamed “group of Labour Party members who are writing to you to urge you to immediately take action regarding the allegations” surrounding the staffer. It makes a series of demands including the resignation of Haworth. The letter, which The Spinoff has verified originates from party members, had by lunchtime attracted more than 100 signatures.

Nigel Haworth tells media he is “confident I have handled the process in a professional manner”. In a statement, he reiterates his position that “the serious allegation of a sexual assault, outlined in The Spinoff article and in other media, was not provided to the president and acting general secretary at a meeting in the Wellington Central Library or subsequently to the Labour Party investigation panel.”

Sarah tells The Spinoff she is adamant her account is accurate. Of the Labour Party, she says: “Standing by a process you know is flawed, a process you know retraumatised and put further young women at risk, is cowardly.”

Emails show Labour was sent details of sexual assault allegations against party staffer

Credits: Newshub

Newshub has obtained emails that show Labour was sent details six months ago of sexual assault allegations against a party staffer.

The party continues to deny it knew the claims against the man included sexual assault, but on Tuesday the Prime Minister said the party President Nigel Haworth has to go if it’s proven he mishandled the allegations.

Newshub has been forwarded an email sent by a complainant to one the members of the Labour Party investigating panel on the day of her interview.

She wanted to be able to read off a timeline and testimony. She asked if someone could print the document before her interview which was taking place an hour later.

A document “to print sexual assault experience” was attached.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was shown the document on Tuesday morning.

She told Newshub, “You’ll understand why we will want to take away this and look at it directly.”

Labour agrees the email was sent but claims there were no documents attached. The complainant says all three members of the investigating panel were given a printed copy.

National’s deputy leader Paula Bennett says she has “absolutely no doubt at all” that the panel knew.

“I think it is a cover-up. I think that it’s got to such a point that they know that their own heads will roll, that they’re actually almost doing the lying in unison, from what I can see.”

The attached testimony included details of the alleged sexual assault, and how she felt in the aftermath of the incident.

  • “I would find myself crumbling down at the sight of him, I couldn’t sleep, [and] I couldn’t eat.”
  • “Always thought of the Labour Party like a family, but the family just doesn’t want to talk about sexual assault or bullying.”
  • “MPs who used to protect us, you – and then would turn away.”

Newshub revealed in August Finance Minister Grant Robertson was aware of the investigation and some complaints, but he’s refusing to say how much he knew.

“I am not going to comment any further than what I have on that because I will be undermining the privacy,” he told Newshub.

Jobs are now on the line.

The Prime Minister said she will expect Haworth’s resignation if he’s found to have done something wrong.

Haworth said he is “not resigning” but will “look into my situation as the process develops”.

National leader Simon Bridges suggested the blame’s falling on the wrong person.

“Whose employee is this person? It’s not Nigel Haworth’s – it’s Jacinda Ardern’s,” he said.

It’s one of the few facts not being disputed.

Newshub.

HDPA: We must question PM’s honesty over Labour sexual assault allegations

Past comments by the Prime Minister suggest she wasn’t telling the truth, writes Heather du Plessis-Allan.

We’ve asked the Prime Minister to come on the show this evening to answer questions about the Labour party staffer sex allegations.

Our requests went unanswered.

This is what we want to ask her: When did she know that the allegations against a staffer in her office were of an alleged sex crime?

She told media yesterday: ”I was informed in the very beginning that the allegations made were not sexual.”

She told RNZ this morning that she found out yesterday.

“The first I’ve seen the complaints of that nature was when I read then.” Asked when that was, she said “When I saw them in the Spinoff.”

That is very hard to believe. This has been reported in the media for the last five weeks.

If you believe that yesterday was the first the Prime Minister heard of this, then you must believe that the Prime Minister of this country does not watch, read or listen to the news reported in this country.

That she for the last five weeks has missed every bulletin, newspaper and programme that mentioned the fact this guy is alleged to have committed a sexual crime.

Like this on Newshub: “The Labour Party has been forced to review its own investigation into bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault by a Labour staffer.”

Or this: “Two more of the seven people who laid complaints about bullying, sexual harassment and assault by a Labour staffer have told Newshub about their experience of the department’s internal investigation.”

You have to also believe that the Prime Minister didn’t ask what allegation was so serious that a staffer in her office stopped coming to work five weeks ago.

You also have to square it with this comment she made yesterday in her press conference”:

“A month ago I visited New Zealand [Labour Party] Council. Very seriously shared my view that they were not the appropriate place to undertake inquiries around concerning behaviour of members of the Labour Party. But particularly they are not the appropriate place to ever undertake an investigation into a sexual assault. And that would be their view too.”

Why would she say to the Labour Party council that they were not the right people to investigate an alleged sex crime, if she didn’t know the allegations were of a sex crime?

Because she did. She did know.

On the 6th of August, one day after the story broke in the media, Mike Hosking raised it with her right here on this station.

He asked her: “How many people have quit your party as a result of this investigation into this bloke who may or may not have sexual assaulted someone?”

Her response was: “I’m going to be very careful answering that question Mike because this is an inquiry and work is still underway and it is still a party matter.”

Exactly when the Prime Minister knew is important for a bunch of reasons.

Did she fail in her duty of care to staffers and volunteers?  Was this supposed to be covered up? But mostly it’s important because this is now about her integrity

It’s becoming increasingly hard to believe her version of events, and possibly this is the first time that we’ve had reason to question Jacinda Ardern’s honesty.