A respected Māori leader will look into how a senior police officer was promoted without the Police Minister being told of controversial comments he made during a notorious investigation into police rape allegations.

Dr Pauline Kingi was this afternoon announced as the chair of the government inquiry into the appointment of Wally Haumaha as the deputy commissioner of police in June.

She has a Master of Laws degree from Harvard, is a past chancellor of AUT, a long track record in community and public service, and was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1999.

The inquiry will "examine, identify and report on the adequacy of the process" which led to Haumaha's appointment, the Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters said at a press conference this afternoon.

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"It will not look into the suitability of the appointee," said Peters, although that could be looked at depending on the final outcome of the inquiry.

The inquiry will begin on August 6 and report back within six weeks. It is expected to cost $150,000.

Terms of reference were also released by Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin and state:

• whether all relevant information was properly provided to, or gathered by, the
State Services Commission during the appointment process (and if not, why not?);

• whether the State Services Commission considered all relevant information
gathered, or received, to reach its recommendation;

• whether the State Services Commission provided to Ministers all relevant
information provided to, gathered by, or otherwise known by it (and, if not, why
not?).

"The Inquiry may consider other matters that come to its notice in the course of its
inquiries and that it considers would assist it to deliver on the stated purpose, scope
and deliverables."

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said police would "fully support Dr Kingi in every way".

"We look forward to clarifying all matters raised recently as public trust and
confidence, and the reputation of Police is our priority.

"It is not appropriate to provide any further public comment at this time
until the inquiry has been completed."

The announcement came soon after the Herald revealed Police Commissioner Mike Bush was warned by a senior leader about the potential risk of promoting Haumaha.

Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement was second-in-charge of Operation Austin and his "attention to detail" was later credited with rape convictions being secured against Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum.

Clement met Louise Nicholas - whose allegations led to Operation Austin and a Commission of Inquiry into police culture - to canvas her thoughts about Wally Haumaha being promoted to Assistant Commissioner last year.

She had read Haumaha's statement to the inquiry team where he described Shipton as a "big softie" and Schollum as a "legend" with women and was opposed to him rising into the upper echelons of the police executive.

One officer told the 2004 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".

Sources told the Herald that Clement - who graduated from Police College with Bush - warned the Commissioner about Haumaha and the potential risk to the reputation of police if he was promoted.

The details of the private conversation are unclear. But Clement remains in close contact with complainants in Operation Austin, particularly Nicholas, and has strived to change police culture since the Commission of Inquiry.

It is unclear whether Clement spoke again to Bush about Haumaha ahead of his appointment as deputy commissioner, just 12 months after his previous promotion.

Bush was on the State Services Commission panel which recommended Haumaha as one of two preferred candidates for the deputy commissioner role which became vacant last month.

In turn, Police Minister Stuart Nash chose Haumaha as the recommendation to be signed off by the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, then officially sworn in by the Governor-General.

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 Police 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.

The Government opened an inquiry into his appointment to the role after the Herald revealed Haumaha Haumaha's controversial comments.

Nash said he and Bush were unaware of the "deeply disappointing" and "unacceptable comments" when he recommended Haumaha for the top job.

Louise Nicholas with graduates of Wing 290, named after her, after their graduation from Police College in 2015. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Louise Nicholas with graduates of Wing 290, named after her, after their graduation from Police College in 2015. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

"I don't think you could reasonably expect the Commissioner to know the comments Wally had made with regard to Operation Austin," said Nash.

"The issue is what level of due diligence should reasonably be expected by the State Services Commission and what is relevant to a candidate when making this decision? So the independent inquiry will get to the nub of this."

At the time of Louise Nicholas' rape allegations were first revealed in 2004, the then Prime Minister Helen Clark said she refused to promote Clint Rickards to deputy commissioner solely on the basis on anonymous letters alleging sexual misconduct.

"I have to take into account that I am making a recommendation for one of the highest statutory positions in the land and that if there are going to be anonymous allegations and innuendo around a person in such a position that doesn't help the New Zealand police.''

She said the State Services Commission interview panel had rated Mr Rickards highly, but that was before they were made aware of the allegations.

Haumaha has since apologised and says he deeply regrets the comments he made. "That does not reflect my view or the values I bring to the job every day."

But the victim of Shipton and Schollum, who was just 20 when she was pack-raped in Mt Maunganui in 1989, said the apology had come "far too late".

She believed Haumaha should resign.

"This is a deeply felt issue in this country. And it's important to a lot of people. Who wants to sit with a deputy police commissioner who said rape allegations are nonsense?

"[Haumaha] was a senior police officer when he made those comments. When you've got serious allegations put in front of you, as a cop the last thing you should say is 'my mates were good men'. He should have been utterly disgusted and taken it seriously."

Haumaha was close friends with Clint Rickards, Shipton and 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 extensive police investigation, Operation Austin, and 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 for the Mt Maunganui rape.

The victim of the Mt Maunganui case came forward to Operation Austin after becoming aware of Nicholas' allegations.

In her evidence at the 2005 trial, she said she was lured to a lifeguard tower on the pretext of a lunch date with Shipton.

Instead, she was handcuffed, raped, forced to perform oral sex and violated with a police baton.

In sentencing Shipton and Schollum to 8½ and 8 years in prison respectively, Justice Ron Young described them as "corrupt police officers" who treated the victim "like a piece of meat".

Clement was a detective inspector at the time of Operation Austin and second-in-charge of the investigation.

His efforts was later praised in a report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

"Clement was very fanatical about detail and left no stone unturned," Crown prosecutor Brent Stanaway told the IPCA.

"Indeed it was largely because of Clement's attention to detail that the Crown succeeded against Shipton and Schollum."

The Commission of Inquiry, known as the Bazley Report, made 64 recommendations to improve police culture which were put in place over the past 10 years.

Public confidence in the progress would be undermined by Haumaha's appointment after his sceptical attitude to complaints of sexual assault, the Mt Maunganui victim told the Herald last week.

"The police have worked really, really hard to change the culture at a grass-roots level," she said.

"But if you've got people at the top saying things like Brad Shipton was a 'big softie', Bob Schollum was a 'legend' ... They can't keep making mistakes like this. It's really damaging to the police reputation."

The woman said she struggled to find the words to describe the effect of rape on her life. "I live my life every single day suffering for something which wasn't my fault ... And Louise would be the same."

Nicholas said the senior executive of the police were well aware of her feelings towards Haumaha.

"I said 'this will come back to bite you on the arse'. And it has," she told the Herald.