Hello Ken Wang - Goodbye Donna Awatere-Huata
Hello Ken Wang - Goodbye Donna
By Kevin List
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ACT's Kenneth Wang leaves Supreme Court two weeks ago – today he's on his way to the debating chamber
Today ACT's newest MP Kenneth Wang will make his Parliamentary debut in the House. Mr Wang replaces Donna Awatere-Huata who was finally evicted from her parliamentary offices two weeks ago courtesy of a Supreme Court decision. The demise of Ms Awatere-Huata was hastened by the steadfast determination of former ACT leader Richard Prebble that all legal avenues should be pursued in order to oust Ms Awatere Huata from Parliament and the public eye.
The schism that developed between Ms Awatere-Huata and the ACT Party resulted from damaging accusations relating to Ms Awatere-Huata's handling of the Pipi Foundation that surfaced after the 2002 election. However the ACT party and Mr Prebble were not always so willing to distance themselves from Ms Awatere-Huata despite her unfortunate habit of finding herself in some sticky situations. Here Scoop delves into the history books and discovers an MP mired in controversy and a party leader (Mr Prebble) willing to defend her honour.
Donna Awatere Huata's Official ACT Party Portrait
The Awatere Huata – Tuaraki Delamere Affair
Late in November 1999 then Immigration Minister, Tuariki Delamere, was sacked from his ministerial post just prior to the election when it was discovered he had made an exception, against advice, to immigration regulations governing foreign investment.
The sacked Minister had been granting Asian migrants residency in return for investing in Maori land. One of the prime movers behind the controversial immigration scheme was Donna Awatere-Huata's husband, Wi Huata. Ms Awatere, Huata then an ACT MP, had called Mr Delamere's office on more than one occasion on behalf of her husband.
With only days till the 1999 election Mr Prebble expressed some concern at the actions of Ms Awatere- Huata and said if Ms Awatere-Huata had been inappropriately involved in the scheme she would be expelled from the ACT caucus. Fortunately for the ACT Party considering Ms Awatere Huata was now an elected MP, less than a week later on 30 November 1999, and after the election an investigation cleared her of any inappropriate conduct.
Outgoing Minister Clears Up Controversy Whilst Clearing Desk
Outgoing National Acting Minister of Immigration, Wyatt Creech, had managed to fight an election and institute a full investigation of the Awatere Huata- Delamere affair - all within a few days.
Mr Prebble happily smiles After the Supreme Court Decision that allowed Ms Awatere Huata's expulsion from Parliament
Mr Prebble was however satisfied with this in-depth investigation. On 30 November 1999 he stated
"I wrote to the Prime Minister asking for all the documents under the official information Act and also inquiring as to whether there was any action by ACT MP Donna Awater-Huata that should cause me any concern."
"The Minister has written back stating: 'Let me say that on the surface I see no problem with a citizen [Wi Huata] approaching a Minister to seek an exception to policy. Prima facie that appears to me to be the extent of Mr Huata's involvement. As to Ms Awatere Huata, it appears that the extent of her involvement was two phone calls to the former Minister of Immigration's office inquiring on behalf of her husband's submission."
"Again as you will realise inquiring on behalf of a submission is expected of Members of Parliament. In this case my inquiries show that Mrs Awatere-Huata identified herself and her interest to the officials concerned and sought information as to the process of this submission, rather than directly lobbying for its approval'.
"This is consistent with Donna's statement that the application was her husband's. The extent of the phone call was to ask on behalf of her husband when a letter he was expecting from the Minister was likely to arrive. As the Parliamentary Secretary records there was no discussion over the content of the letter."
Mr Prebble concluded his statement with this ringing endorsement of Donna Awatere-Huata and her husband, Wi Huata.
"I am satisfied that there can be no criticism of the actions of either my MP or her spouse."
Cellphone Difficulties Blamed For Embarrassing Fiasco
Why Ms Awatere-Huata would need to ring on behalf of her husband was explained in an Evening Post report a day later.
Ms Awatere-Huata told the Post she was calling as a wife, not an MP.
"There was a letter that the Minister was to send to my husband and I was asking where the letter was," she said.
"My husband was in the orchard and the cellphone doesn't work, so he asked me to ring on his behalf."
It is not known how deep into his orchard Mr Awatere-Huata had gone, but Scoop estimates that given Ms Awatere Huata's statement he must have been at least within bellowing distance of the house.
Presumably Mr Huata was pruning the odd apple tree as he shouted instructions back to Ms Awatere- Huata regarding the process of his application.
- In 1999 Donna Awatere Huata was 4th on ACT's Party List ahead of current leader Rodney Hide and deputy leader, Muriel Newman.
- In 2002 Ms Awatere –Huata had slipped to 5th on ACT's Party List – However that placing was still higher than Deborah Coddington, Ken Shirley, Gerry Eckhoff and Heather Roy