Judith Collins sorry for the hurt the saga has caused her friends and family.

Justice Minister Judith Collins has come clean on her bungling of the Oravida affair and the impact it's had on her husband David Wong Tung, a director of the milk export company. In a frank conversation with The Diary this week, she broke down in tears at the hurt she has caused to those closest to her.

Justice Minister Judith Collins has revealed she had a dinner with the head of Oravida and a senior Chinese government official while in China last year and admits she was wrong not to disclose the dinner last week. Mrs Collins has been under pressure to explain her dealings with the milk company Oravida, where her husband is a director.

Collins, who was at Wellington Airport preparing to travel to Auckland, showed the immense strain she is under.

She could no longer keep up the tough facade she's used to brave the media this week.

She broke down and wept over how her friends and family have been brought into the Oravida saga.


"It's very upsetting having my husband referred to constantly [in the media] - and sometimes harassed.

"Comments made about his appointment ... it's not right. It's been very cruel and upsetting," she said through tears.

"I should have thought about him and I should have thought that some people might draw their own conclusions.

"David is concerned about me. He just wants to get on with his job, as do I."

Collins is a a high achiever, but with media attention blazing and a very public telling off from the Prime Minister, her thoughts were immediately for her family.

She admits she was wrong not to disclose last week the dinner she had with her close friend Stone Shi, the chairman of Oravida, and a senior Chinese government official while in China last year.

"I could have told the media about all of the meetings I had with Oravida partners. I didn't give the entire picture. I just answered direct questions, questions that I was given," she told The Diary. "I didn't think it was anyone's concern as it was a private dinner. But once it was pointed out to me the risk of the perception of a conflict of interest, I realised I was wrong."

John Key said Collins had misled media by omitting details about her trip. He said it was "unacceptable" and expressed his disappointment in her. He said she had not breached the Cabinet Manual in terms of endorsing a company, but she risked breaching the rules on conflicts of interest. However, he called her an outstanding minister.


Collins says her colleagues have been "bemused" by the furore this week, and "have been constantly sending me very supportive texts".

She says taunts and derision from the Labour caucus, such as Grant Robertson who labelled her "Countess Homogenised" just "says more about him in that he doesn't take the issue seriously, he's just resorting to name-calling".

Collins says she's working hard and is focused on helping National win the next election. But she admits her pride and unwillingness to appear vulnerable can sometimes be a personal shortfall. She's more comfortable being tough.

"I'm in a role which has huge challenges and I need to stand up for myself. I'm not someone who goes to pieces when people are unpleasant. I'm strong. All the women in my family are strong."

Watching the Warriors at Eden Park tomorrow night will be a reprieve from the saga. She's attending the match with her husband. "I hope there'll be lots of pushes and shoves and I might just be tempted to go out on the field myself," she laughed.

Sam Hayes up for challenge

She has been earmarked by news director Mark Jennings to be the 6 o'clock news anchor when Hilary Barry retires, but for now TV3 star Sam Hayes is earning her news stripes and gaining credibility.

Sam Hayes will soon front TV3's 3rd Degree.
Sam Hayes will soon front TV3's 3rd Degree.

The network's flagship current affairs show 3rd Degree returns on March 26 with Hayes and Duncan Garner as hosts, following the departure of Guyon Espiner to Radio NZ.

It's a big step up for Hayes, 30, who has been accused of chasing celebrity over journalism. Critics, myself included, had a go at her for a penchant for A-list parties and fashion freebies. She was scolded by Jennings for endorsing luxury car brand Audi. Endorsing products is a big no-no for TV3 journalists, he said at the time.

But that was three years ago. Sam Hayes has grown up. She has come a long way from the world of designer dresses and TV autocue reading. She walked away from her role as anchor on Nightline and later from 3 News to accept a new challenge as current affairs correspondent and wants to be taken seriously.

Her colleagues say she is hungry and works hard, and is prepared to muck in for a good story. Co-host Duncan Garner said at 3rd Degree rehearsals this week Hayes was still learning how to present without an autocue, "but she's very smart and she'll be very good".

The network hopes Hayes - regularly voted "TV's Most Sexiest Woman"- will attract a broader audience to the primetime current affairs show, which saw its monthly referendum programme The Vote dumped due to poor ratings.

Cost cutting hits style team

Forget Project Runway. The cutthroat reality show that pits budding stylists against each other suddenly got real at Television New Zealand with two network stylists fighting for their jobs this week.

TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick cut the budget and one of them had to go.

The pair are responsible for dressing the network's stars, but Kenrick says there's no need for two. They have been forced to compete with each other for one job. On Wednesday, one of them learned they would be made redundant.

"Everyone's furious because there's way too much work for one person.

"And the presenters are worried they'll be left looking rubbish," said a TVNZ source.

But celebrity vanity is not on the agenda for Kenrick, who is cutting costs at the company, despite it posting a half-yearly profit of $20.8 million last month.

A TVNZ rep said that in the absence of big production shows like New Zealand's Got Talent, there's no need for two dressers.

"Up until now we have had the luxury of two exceptionally good people working in this field, but it's been decided that we need only one person to handle a job that is now almost exclusively focused on news and current affairs."