Prime Minister John Key says Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett should not have shared personal details about the head of an Auckland marae which is caring for homeless people.

But he is backing his under-pressure minister, saying he has "huge confidence" in her.

Mrs Bennett's office was last week accused by Opposition MPs of trying to smear Te Puea Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis.

Her office gave information to a journalist about a police investigation into the handling of a case by Mr Dennis.


Speaking to Radio New Zealand this morning, Mr Key said that "in principle" Mrs Bennett should not have shared the information.

"There was a sense it was more widely known and maybe it was," he said. "And I think that was the mistake with the staff member.

"But they shouldn't be talking to other people about that stuff."

Asked whether he was satisfied with Mrs Bennett's handling of the social housing portfolio, Mr Key said: "I am. I have huge confidence in Paula".

It was revealed today that a 16 year-old girl with cancer was among the homeless being looked after at the marae in Mangere.

Mr Key said he understood that the girl had arrived at the marae after Mrs Bennett's visit on Tuesday.

"Certainly by Friday, Housing New Zealand had identified them and got them a home and they're moving in on Tuesday."