Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is still backing the Labour Party boss who kept her in the dark about the party's summer camp, where a 20-year-old is alleged to have sexually assaulted four teenagers.

Andrew Kirton, the Labour Party general secretary, was told about the allegations in the days that followed the summer camp at Waihi, but did not immediately tell the victims' parents, police, or Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Speaking on TVNZ's Q & A programme today, Ardern said she still had confidence in Kirton.

"I have spoken to him at great length about the areas where we have failed. He acknowledges he has made mistakes," Ardern said.


"As a parent, would I have wanted to know, absolutely. But is that something we can compel or force, no," she said.

Pressed on Kirton's actions in letting her down badly, Ardern doubted if there would be a situation in future where that kind of information would not be shared with her.

"At that time the call was made that the most senior person in the Labour Party, which is actually our president was informed, our senior vice-president and they swung in to make sure they were focused on the young people ... rather than political management.

Labour general secretary and 2017 campaign manager Andrew Kirton. Picture / Audrey Young
Labour general secretary and 2017 campaign manager Andrew Kirton. Picture / Audrey Young

"I stand by that being the more important question here," said Ardern, who said the party bosses did some right things but not quickly enough and the party should have been much faster to respond.

"It's a moot point around when or where I should have known. The fact is what happened still happened to these young people. Whether I was brought in doesn't change that. They are the ones we have a duty of care to," Ardern said.

The Prime Minister was also quizzed on the nerve agent attack in Salisbury and New Zealand's response, saying it was repugnant and a breach of international law.

Asked if the blame could be pinned on Russia, Ardern said "no-one else produces that nerve agent so who else could it be".

Ardern said the Government was still talking with partners about sanctions against Russia.


In response to comments from Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters about being deadly serious about doing a free trade agreement with Russia, she said earlier talks had remained suspended from 2014 and Salisbury changed things.

"It is too early to say if and when those talks [with Russia around a free trade agreement] that have remained suspended will resume," Ardern said.

In a joint statement issued by Ardern and Peters on Friday, Ardern said New Zealand supported the joint statement made by the leaders of the UK, US, Germany and France on the nerve agent attack in Salisbury.

"New Zealand fully supports the sovereign right of the UK to take the action it considers appropriate in response to this violation of international law on its territory. We stand in solidarity with the UK alongside its other partners," the Prime Minister said.