An independent inquiry will be carried out by the Public Service Commission amid allegations that Census data from Manurewa Marae was misused, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said today.

The claims, first reported by the Sunday-Star Times, alleged Census data from the South Auckland marae was used for Te Pāti Māori’s election campaign.

Te Pāti Māori have strongly denied the claims.

Luxon told reporters at a post-Cabinet press conference this afternoon that, on the direction of the Prime Minister and Public Service Minister Nicola Willis, the Public Service Commission will initiate an independent inquiry, looking at the safeguards that public agencies had in place to protect personal information.

It will also examine agencies’ management of actual or perceived conflicts of interest.

“These allegations are serious, and they go to the heart of trust and confidence in our democratic processes and institutions,” Luxon said.

“Public confidence in the response to these allegations is paramount.”

The investigation would run concurrently with investigations already underway by a number of government agencies, including Statistics New Zealand and police.

Health officials have also sought assurances that Covid and immunisation data had been used properly.

Further information, including the timing and who would lead the inquiry, would be announced in due course, Luxon said.

He added that he had not spoken to Te Pāti Māori about today’s announcement.

“We’re in a fact-finding phase of this investigation.”

“We will consider what further action might need to be taken once that phase is complete.”

Luxon said the inquiry is “not a cost issue – this is a principle issue”.

Govt agencies called into meeting over allegations

On Friday, the heads of a number of government agencies attended a meeting called by Acting Public Service Commissioner Heather Baggott.

The meeting – involving Stats NZ, the Ministry of Health and Health New Zealand, 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 – was a first step to ensure that all relevant agencies are acting to examine the recent allegations, Baggott said at the time.

“It has been alleged that personal information was improperly shared and used at last October’s general election,” she said.

“It is also claimed that taxpayers’ money may have been misused.”

The Privacy Commissioner has been notified by Stats NZ and has also requested information and assurances in relation to the reported allegations.

On Friday, Te Pāti Māori said its co-leaders had written to “the Prime Minister, the Police Commissioner and Minister of Police seeking the Police lead an urgent investigation into the allegations made against Te Pāti Māori”.

“Whilst we have welcomed the independent review initiated by Statistics New Zealand, we consider that given our knowledge, these allegations are frivolous but require police to sanction our view,” president John Tamihere said.

“We have asked the journalist to front with the evidence on behalf of those making the allegations. They have not.

“We welcome an immediate investigation into these allegations to once again prove our innocence, and to highlight the bias in media.”