Waatea News Column: The case for and against Nanaia Mahuta


I want to start out by confessing that I am a Nanaia Mahuta fanboy.

I think she is a remarkable person with enormous intelligence and personal mana.

I think she has redesigned Foreign Affairs in a uniquely powerful and authentic New Zealand diplomatic manner that has indigenous values at its cornerstone.

I think her leadership on 3 Waters has been for the best interests of New Zealand water as a whole and while I personally want to see far more certainty around eliminating water privatization, culling cow populations to lower nitrogen levels polluting our water ways and ending all foreign water bottling companies, I do appreciate where Nanaia is taking the country on water.

I also think she has been victim to some of the most appalling and egregious racism I have ever had the disgust of seeing.

I think it’s important to let people know that privately, beyond the very serious face she now wears as the Foreign Minister, that Nanaia is wickedly funny and has a wondrously dry sense of humour. I have been fortunate enough to have met with Nanaia at various events and she is one of my favourite MPs.

So let’s get straight into the swirling allegations and speculation regarding her family being appointed as consultants to highly sensitive issues that strike at the very heart of our concepts of transparent spending of taxpayer money.

There is no question that valid criticism and rigorous scrutiny be applied to each of the 3 consultancies, which is exactly what is happening alongside an investigation by the Public Services Commissioner, ALL OF WHICH Minister Mahuta herself has called for, so that the swirling allegations and bad faith speculation can be stamped out once and for all!

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The Minister has called this scrutiny upon herself because she has done exactly what was required in the Cabinet Manual by recusing herself and stating the conflict of interest.

She has nothing to hide and it is not her fault that she has talented family who are experts in this field.

This all matters because a fundamental part of the New Zealand political value is egalitarianism. We need to champion meritocracy, if you are the best, then you get the contract.

What is at stake here in these investigations of consultancy is not the crime of nepotism, it is the failure of meritocracy.

If the Minister’s whanau are the best to consult on the issue at hand and her interest is noted and she removed from any decision making, then meritocracy demands her whanau get the consultancy!

The true issue at hand is the one of perception.

It is not enough to be impartial, you must be seen to be impartial and the intense focus of the media on this issue requires the full scale scrutiny that the Minister herself has called for.

This is the courage of Nanaia, and I believe that the reviews will vindicate her.

First published on Waatea News.


  1. If she was attempting to be seen to be impartial she wouldn’t have allowed ministries that are her responsibility to circumvent the very processes designed to acheive meritocracy.

    This shouldn’t need an inquiry to discover, those processes should be transparently available for all to see.

    I suppose would could find that OIA responses have been fabricated, but that would be extraordinary.

    • You’re right this doe’s not need an inquiry the Minister has asked for it to clear up unwarranted criticism of her role. I imagine that the terms of reference and conclusions will be for all to see, unlike Sam’s cover-up.

  2. Nanaia has followed the rules and the value of the contracts appears to be pocket change. The Platform was pushing this story months ago and it it very surprising how long it’s taken to hit the headlines – mmmmm. The real story is the closeness between Nanaia and the person deciding on who gets the contract. They may be a fan person. Are the media fan persons too?
    Even a fan they/them she/her he/him would have to say the 3 waters process has been an utter shambles, particularly the way Council’s/ and the public have been communicated with. The old we are doing it anyway, the old we will give you some dosh routine was sub optimal.
    But I must declare my own conflict of interest. I was completely suckered by the supposed need for 180 billion work on water and waste. Then I saw Te Whatu Ora and Te Pukenga-and realised how dumb ass I was. Not a fan man.

    • orbital panda Good point about the piddling amount of money involved. Whether this is nepotism remains to be seen, but it has always existed in one way or another, punctuated by the odd Cain killing his bro, or a Hollywood Harry shafting the whole family, but it’s not always a bad way of getting things done. We’ve probably all been invited onto the occasional body or done the inviting,in the interests of efficiency.

  3. She’s a real credit maintaining relationships with our pacific neighbours in a completely unreactive way and with such an insanely talented family that no one else in the entire country comes close, not just once or twice but on multiple occasions.

    On a completely unrelated note did Mike King ever get a satisfactory response to his question
    “Could you please explain what expertise Nanaia Mahuta’s husband has in suicide prevention and what his funding was used for?”

    The other Martin Bradbury who authored this TBD blog would may it was fault of “Wellington Bureaucracy” and “Labour (being) gutless cowards”. Perhaps similarly with 3 Waters it’s not meritocracy but the hapless Mahuta family having roles forced upon them by the same Wellington bureaucrats.

  4. Nanaia Mahuta? Well let’s look at the facts.
    She’s Māori.
    She’s a woman.
    She has tā moko.
    She’s a Labour politician.
    She’s in Government.
    She’s a Minister.

    There you go, no redeeming features. The sort of qualities to have Simeon Brown, the ACT party and the Taxpayers’ Union frothing at the mouth.

    I see three of the contracts awarded to companies associated with her family members were awarded on a sole source basis. Can’t imagine there being any avenue to have a competitive business in New Zealand and make some money only being filled by a single source.

    Surely Jordan Williams and his cobbers must have some expertise in the contexts which could have been used for the advantage of the world and themselves. Enough to get them on something to do with to a Māori advisory rōpū on waste management, researching researching the use of traditional Māori knowledge.

    Brown said “public trust and confidence in our democracy and the public service is critical.” No question about that. And the losers behind Brown will have a lovely see through sheet to hold in from of their racist and misogynist world view.

    • Ahhhh Peter, ‘racist and misogynist view’….really?
      And if the same allegations were levelled at a National/ACT minister, non brown or female, you would be happy to just trust the system and believe there is no one else in the country who could do the work except for that ministers partner or relation, orrrrrr you would smell a rat?
      If it’s the former rather than the latter? well, have I got a bridge to sell to you!

  5. Mahuta makes me feel like we are closer to a Russian nation than we would like to think. The conflicts of interest for profit absolutely stinks.

  6. Mahuta is definitely trying to give the impression she front-footed the issue by writing to Chris Hipkins, the Minister for the Public Service, on September 19, to help clear the air. (He subsequently wrote to the commissioner, Peter Hughes.)
    In fact, National MP Simeon Brown had already written to Hughes asking for an inquiry into the issue on August 29 and again on September 13.
    There have been scores of Written Questions lodged by Simeon Brown, David Seymour and other Opposition MPs trying to establish time-lines for how the contracts were awarded and the circumstances.
    Few of them look good for Mahuta.
    She hasn’t front-footed the issue. She has been forced to.

  7. I think the contracts look beyond suspicious.

    I hope the enquiry isn’t a white wash.

    Mahuta only welcomed the enquiry when it was a forgone conclusion.

    It’s not good enough that so many of her family have got contracts while she has been Minister.

    Her husband doesn’t appear to have any background in mental health and suicide prevention. What an outrage

  8. So a politician can practise nepotism as long as they’re not from a right wing party?
    Strange mindsets on TDB these days.
    I will continue to be disappointed in Mahuta for her nepotism which has been front and centre with her structuring of the WSE’s for three waters.
    But of course no one else on here has bothered to read the read the 3 waters legislation only terrible racists do that !

    • Shona. I agree with the gist of what you’re saying here, and read the bulk of he Puapua and realised how sneaky Labour has been. We already know that they are bullies via Sepuloni and WINZ, and with Trevor Mallard’s blatant bullying and over-ruling the police at the Parliamentary demonstrations and not only getting away with it, but being disgracefully rewarded with a diplomatic posting. At least John Key lied openly, which is perhaps slightly less insulting to the voters than the mistruths of Ardern about the IPCA covering Mallard’s shenanigans and about the reasons for ruthlessly kneecapping the Commissioner for Children, and, I think, about one Christmas in London.

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