Prime Minister John Key has expressed "full confidence" in Social Development Minister Paula Bennett after it was revealed a violent street gang member was bailed to her house while he awaited trial.
But a spokesman for Mr Key today said he had "full confidence" in Ms Bennett and ministers' and MPs' private lives should remain private.
A spokesman for Ms Bennett said it was a "family issue".
The man, Viliami Halaholo, has been jailed for causing grievous bodily harm, but his girlfriend - Bennett's 21-year-old daughter Ana - visits him once a fortnight in Mt Eden Prison. Their daughter Tiara-Lee is aged 2.
Yesterday, Paula Bennett and the Prime Minister refused to say whether the Social Development Minister had disclosed her personal connections to the gang member in top-level security vettings.
Police said Halaholo, 23, was a member of the Thugs of Canal, a so-called youth gang based around Canal St in Avondale. The gang members reportedly have a history of violence and intimidation, creating the risk inappropriate pressure could be brought to bear on the senior minister and her decisions.
Halaholo was bailed to live at Bennett's address in West Auckland's leafy Titirangi for six months while on remand on charges of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm in a vicious gang fight, and damaging with intent to steal or extort.
Bennett, a 39-year-old self-described 'westie', hit headlines a week ago when she tried to stop a girl-on-girl fight outside a shopping mall.
But at the time that Halaholo was bailed to her address, from September 12, 2006 to July 5, 2007, she was an outspoken Opposition MP. Four months later, Halaholo was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail.
He had been a gang member when violence between three gangs - the Thugs of Canal, JDK (Junior Don Kings) and DMS (Drugs Money Sex) - was at its peak.
The Herald on Sunday sent a list of questions to Bennett and Prime Minister John Key about the potential security risks when a minister or senior official has close personal and family connections with anyone implicated in serious criminal offending and organised crime.
Bennett released a written statement: "My daughter has always been the most important person to me, and I've tried not to bring her private life into my public life."
Yesterday, Halaholo's father Lolo Halaholo, 42, said Bennett had been trying to support her daughter and family by taking in her granddaughter's father.
Viliami Halaholo left Avondale College aged 17 and got work with a road crew. He had been in regular police trouble because of his involvement in up to 10 fights, his father said.
Halaholo's aunty, Tolo Langi, said her nephew had settled down after meeting Ana, but had still hung around Avondale with his gang associates.
Ana studied at Excel Ministries School of Performing Arts before becoming a mum.
Ana and Halaholo plan to set up house with their child and Halaholo's other toddler daughter when he gets out, Langi said. The family hoped he would be up for parole this year.
* The questions Key and Bennett refuse to answer
These are some of the questions that both Paula Bennett and John Key declined to answer.
Why was Bennett supporting Halaholo?
When did she become aware that Halaholo was involved in the gang, Thugs of Canal?
Did she, in her security vetting, disclose her relationship with Halaholo?
What issues have been raised about the potential security risk to the minister, or the risk that her decision-making be compromised?
What contact or connections has she had with other members or associates of the Thugs of Canal?
Subsequent to being named as a minister, what communications has Bennett had with the police, Corrections Department, Justice Ministry, Social Development Ministry or Inland Revenue Department pertaining to Halaholo?
- ADDITIONAL REPORTING: NZPA