The new deputy commissioner of police needs to apologise for calling Louise Nicholas' rape accusations a "nonsense", says the head of a sexual abuse agency.
Kathryn McPhillips, the executive director of Help Auckland, said deputy commissioner Wally Haumaha's actions would have caused harm to Nicholas and to other victims, and put survivors off reporting to police.
"Those kind of comments have consequences," she said. "They hurt people. And being regretful is one thing but addressing the harm is also an important step."
Haumaha was recently appointed to the deputy commissioner role by police minister Stuart Nash - causing Nicholas to "hit the roof".
The Herald revealed today that after Nicholas came forward in 2004, Haumaha questioned why she had publicly accused his friends in the police of raping her in the 1980s and continued to support them after the scandal broke.
One officer told the 2004 Operation Austin investigation into the police sex allegations that Haumaha described Nicholas' allegations as "a nonsense" and that "nothing really happened and we have to stick together".
Nicholas, who now works with the police advising new recruits and supporting victims of abuse, was so angry to hear of Haumaha's appointment that she demanded a meeting with him and Commissioner Mike Bush to voice her opposition.
"I didn't hold back. I said 'I've read your statement, Wally, and I know what you said. You put it out there about how wonderful these men were'," said Nicholas.
Last night, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said Haumaha was a highly respected leader who "deeply regrets" the comments he made during Operation Austin.
Bush said Haumaha now had no contact with his former colleagues who were charged in relation to Nicholas' allegations since the investigation.
"Mr Haumaha recognises that the culture in the police at that time was unacceptable," said Bush.
"He has since been a relentless advocate and supporter of the widespread change in police culture and leadership."
Haumaha was close friends with Clint Rickards, Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum when they worked together at the Rotorua police station in the 1980s and 1990s.
He remained friends with them after they left the station and telephoned Rickards - who was by then the Assistant Commissioner in charge of Auckland - shortly after Nicholas publicly alleged in 2004 the trio raped her in group sex sessions.
Her allegations - including being violated with a police baton -triggered an exhaustive police investigation, Operation Austin, as well as a Commission of Inquiry into the culture of the police and how sexual assault cases were investigated.
Rickards, Shipton and Schollum claimed the group sex with Nicholas was consensual and were found not guilty at the 2006 trial. The jury was unaware Shipton and Schollum were already in prison on other rape charges laid by Operation Austin.
Haumaha was a senior sergeant in Rotorua when he was interviewed about the culture of the station in the 1980s.
"In a nutshell, the culture of the police in the mid 80s was work hard and play hard in terms of enjoying ourselves," he said to the Operation Austin investigation.
According to the statement of another Rotorua police officer, also Haumaha believed the allegations were "nonsense".
Lynton "Knocker" Dean said he met Haumaha in February 2004.
Haumaha, according to Dean's statement, raised the Nicholas allegations and said "how much of a nonsense it was and how could anyone come out and drag it all up".
"He also said something along the lines, you know nothing really happened and we have to stick together," Dean told Detective Sergeant Grant Johnstone.
"I think he was referring to the people that were around at that time."
Since that time, Haumaha has risen through the ranks and this month replaced Viv Rickard as the deputy commissioner, a statutory role for a five-year period.
Nicholas acknowledged what Haumaha has achieved but pointed to his statement to Operation Austin - and other remarks attributed to him by Dean - as evidence of a poor attitude towards women.
"I had seen Wally around in Rotorua. Clearly he ran with this crowd," said Nicholas, referring Haumaha's statement about his friendship with the men she accused of rape.
"I'm not saying he did anything wrong, I don't know. But I've never been comfortable standing in the same room with Wally because he was mates with these guys."
At a chance meeting at a Police College event in the past year or so, Nicholas said she declined an offer from Haumaha to have a "cup of coffee and put water under the bridge".
But when he was appointed to the deputy role, Nicholas said she "hit the roof" and asked for a meeting with Bush and Haumaha.
She also insisted Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement, who was a senior member of the Operation Austin team, be present, to talk about the issues.
"I'm not doing this to be a vindictive bitch. The police have worked hard to change their culture over the last 10 years or so," said Nicholas.
"But without the right leadership, without the right attitude towards women, they can tumble backwards.
"Will Wally uphold what the police have fought hard for? Or will he take the foot off the accelerator?"
McPhillips said it was problematic that even after that meeting Nicholas was still upset, and said she should be entitled to restorative justice should she want it, and an apology.
"Those comments would have caused harm to Louise and other victims, there should be an apology to all survivors that were impacted at the time," she said.
She said those kind of comments fuelled a culture of disbelief and minimisation, and although there had been change within police since that time, individual people still had to be accountable for their actions.
Andrea Black, the national head of Rape Crisis, said Haumaha's appointment was "risky".
"I wonder what proof of attitudinal change he was able to provide," she said. "Everyone is entitled to be part of a change process but if there's no evidence or professional development and understanding of the dynamics of sexual violence and systemic harm then that's something the sector will be questioning."
Black agreed an apology was necessary.
"Regret is not enough. You can regret you said something but a true heartfelt apology for the psychological harm, and potential emotional damage, and perpetrating the rape myths would be outstanding - and would go some way towards proving true change has occurred."