New Zealand justice minister quits after car crash

AUCKLAND (AFP): New Zealand’s justice minister resigned Monday after being charged over a car crash, in a fresh setback for the government ahead of general elections in October.

Kiritapu ‘Kiri’ Allan said her position was now “untenable” and she had told Prime Minister Chris Hipkins she was resigning from her position “immediately”.

The justice minister was charged with careless use of a motor vehicle and refusing to accompany a police officer after the crash late on Sunday, the prime minister confirmed.

Police also issued an infringement notice to Allan for returning an alcohol breath test that was over the limit, Hipkins said. The minister was briefly held in police custody after the crash.

Further details about the collision were not immediately available.

Allan is the fourth minister to leave cabinet in Hipkins’ centre-left government since he replaced Jacinda Ardern as prime minister in January.

New Zealand goes to the polls on October 14.

Opinion polls this month put Hipkins’ Labour government just behind the centre-right opposition National Party.

Hipkins told Allan that he did not believe she was in a fit state to be a minister.

– ‘Inexcusable’ –

“It’s also untenable for a justice minister to be charged with criminal offending,” he said.

“While her alleged actions are inexcusable, I’ve been advised she was experiencing extreme emotional distress at the time of the incident,” Hipkins added.

“It appears some of those issues came to a head yesterday.”

Before Allan’s resignation, Hipkins had admitted his government had endured a “messy” few months.

Stuart Nash resigned as police minister and was then sacked in March after a string of scandals.

Customs, food safety and veterans minister Meka Whaitiri defected to the Maori party in May.

Michael Wood, whose ministerial roles included transport, resigned in June after failing to declare shares in Auckland Airport.

Allan said she was resigning from all portfolios, which include her position as minister in charge of regional development.

“Over recent weeks I’ve faced a number of personal difficulties. I took time off to address those, and believed I was okay to juggle those challenges with the pressure of being a minister,” she said in a statement.

“My actions yesterday show I wasn’t okay, and I’ve let myself and my colleagues down,” she said.

“I accept that my position as a minister is untenable.”

Allan, who was born near Gisborne on the east coast of the North Island, said she is “heading home” to consider her future in politics.

The prime minister said he was still “processing” Allan’s resignation.

“We have got a job to do as a government,” he added. “Right now, everyone is very concerned for Kiri.”