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'Deeply serious allegations': Green MP suspended amid migrant exploitation investigation

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 15 Mar 2024, 7:33am
Green Party MP Darleen Tana has been suspended following "deeply serious" allegations of migrant exploitation. (Photo / Shelley Wood)
Green Party MP Darleen Tana has been suspended following "deeply serious" allegations of migrant exploitation. (Photo / Shelley Wood)

'Deeply serious allegations': Green MP suspended amid migrant exploitation investigation

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 15 Mar 2024, 7:33am

Green Party MP Darleen Tana has been suspended amid allegations she is linked to migrant exploitation at her husband’s company. 

Tana becomes the third Green MP in less than a year to run into trouble, following in the footsteps of Elizabeth Kerekere, who quit the party last year amidst bullying allegations, and Golriz Ghahraman, who resigned after allegations emerged of her shoplifting. 

The party’s co-leaders Marama Davidson and Chlöe Swarbrick fronted morning media to respond to the allegations. Davidson acknowledged to RNZ the incident showed the party was going through tough times. 

Swarbrick told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking they are “deeply serious allegations”. 

A statement from Davidson and Swarbrick said Tana was suspended on Thursday afternoon because the allegations raised a conflict of interest with her small business portfolio. 

The claims first came to light on February 1 when Tana informed the party a complaint had been made to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) by a worker at her husband’s business, E-Bikes NZ. 

“On February 9, the party was notified of a second complaint to the ERA,” the statement reads. 

“These complaints included allegations against Ms Tana. Ms Tana has not been a director or shareholder of E Cycles NZ since 2019.” 

She was suspended after it became apparent she may have previously been aware of the allegations. 

An independent lawyer is conducting the investigation. 

Both Tana and her husband have been approached for comment. 

“Green MPs are expected to maintain high standards of public and private behaviour. To understand fully what Ms Tana knew, and when, we are appointing an independent lawyer to conduct an investigation into the matter. Ms Tana will stand aside from all caucus and parliamentary responsibilities until the matter is resolved,” the statement reads. 

“We cannot comment on the specific allegations while the matter is waiting mediation and the independent investigation is ongoing.” 

Speaking to Newstalk ZB, Swarbrick faced questions over whether the party had erred in not going public with Tana’s suspension earlier. 

Swarbrick said it was not useful for politicians to involve her opinions in the situation while an investigation is ongoing. 

She would not say whether Tana had denied the allegations. 

“On February the 1st, Darleen did notify the party of an allegation,” Swarbrick said. 

“To avoid any conflict of interest, Darleen stepped down from her portfolios.” 

On March 14, it became clear Tana may have known of the issues before she alerted the party, so that was when she was stood down, Swarbrick said. 

“Yesterday it came to our attention that Darleen may have had prior knowledge of these allegations.” 

Swarbrick called the situation “incredibly serious”. 

“Of course there is a level of public scrutiny.” 

Green Party co-leader Chlöe Swarbrick told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking they are “deeply serious allegations”. Photo / Alex BurtonGreen Party co-leader Chlöe Swarbrick told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking they are “deeply serious allegations”. Photo / Alex Burton 

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson told RNZ Tana was removed from the small business portfolio when the party was first made aware of the allegations on February 1. 

Davidson defended not immediately standing down Tana saying they were not initially aware of her own alleged involvement or knowledge. 

“The allegations are serious and we are taking this seriously. 

“It was yesterday that it came to our attention that Ms Tana may have had some prior knowledge of the allegations, that is why we have appointed an independent investigation.” 

Davidson said the public wasn’t advised when Tana was removed from her portfolio because of the need to keep mediation matters private. 

“The allegations are absolutely serious... We have long campaigned to ensure everyone that comes to Aotearoa to make their home is treated with compassion and kindness in the workplace.” 

It’s the latest in a string of incidents involving Green MPs and Davidson admitted the party was “going through some times.” 

National Party deputy leader Nicola Willis told Newstalk ZB it was a matter for the Green Party. 

”It sounds a bit messy and, obviously, all of us condemn any form of migrant exploitation.” 

Tana was elected in last year’s election for the first time and is a member of the environment select committee. 

Her portfolios include digitising government, media and communications, oceans and fisheries, overseas New Zealanders, science, innovation and technology, and small business and manufacturing. 

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