New family links between New Zealand First and controversial deputy police commissioner appointment Wally Haumaha have emerged, as one of the party's senior ministers looks to restart the inquiry into the process which led to his promotion.
Fletcher Tabuteau, the deputy leader of New Zealand First, comes from Waiteti Marae in Ngongotaha near Rotorua, of which Haumaha is the chairman.
They are both Ngāti Ngāraranui and Tabuteau referred to Haumaha as a member of his whānau in his maiden speech to Parliament in 2014.
Tabuteau's uncle Tommy Gear - a close friend of Winston Peters - is a trustee of the Ngāti Ngāraranui Hapu Trust along with Haumaha.
Gear and Haumaha are senior leaders on the Waiteti Marae, where a special function was held in June last year to celebrate Haumaha's promotion to assistant police commissioner.
New Zealand First leader and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters was one of the speakers at the function, along with Police Commissioner Mike Bush.
Haumaha's appointment became controversial after the Herald revealed comments he made in support of fellow officers involved in historic police rape allegations made by Louise Nicholas.
When the Herald broke the news in June, Peters was the Acting Prime Minister.
He announced an inquiry would be held into the process of Haumaha's promotion to deputy commissioner and appointed Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin - a longtime New Zealand First member like Tabuteau - to oversee the inquiry.
At the time, Peters and Martin both downplayed Haumaha's link to New Zealand First.
Haumaha was once chosen to be the Rotorua candidate for the party but withdrew because his wife stole $24,000 to replace money she gambled from his campaign fund.
Martin said she could not see any conflict of interest.
"I'm setting up an independent Government inquiry, and that means that I will receive recommendations of a person to led that inquiry from Crown Law," Martin told The Nation.
"I will appoint that person, they will run that inquiry completely independent from me, and it's about a process, not a person."
She appointed Pauline Kingi, a well respected public servant, to run the inquiry which was due to start today.
Martin now has to appoint a new chair of the inquiry.
National MP Chris Bishop said the inquiry had been a "farce" so far and said Martin must now hand over responsibility for the inquiry.
"With the emergence of even more close ties between Mr Haumaha and NZ First there is no way Ms Martin can possibly continue in the position," said Bishop.
"To avoid the inquiry becoming a complete waste of time and money, Cabinet must replace Ms Martin with a non-NZ First Minister and appoint an independent QC as Chair."
The Herald has sought comment from the office of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Peters and Martin.
In a statement, Peters said the public could have faith in the inquiry which will be conducted by an independent person and report back to Cabinet.
"Mr Tabuteau is a Parliamentary Under-Secretary outside Cabinet and is a distant relative of Mr Haumaha, and they know each other from their marae and community. And yes I have visited Waitetei Marae on occasion. The first time was possibly 35 years ago, and the last time was while an opposition MP," said Peters.
"Regardless, any suggestion that New Zealand First Cabinet ministers are seeking to unduly influence this inquiry because of such community connections is baseless nonsense."
Ardern will attend a post-Cabinet meeting press conference this afternoon and has yet to be asked about Haumaha's comments.
The Government inquiry was announced after the Herald revealed comments made by Haumaha during Operation Austin, an investigation into historic police rape allegations made by Nicholas.
He described his friends Brad Shipton as a "big softie" and Bob Schollum as a "legend" with women, while one officer told the 2004 investigation into the police sex allegations that Haumaha described Nicholas' allegations as "a nonsense".
Haumaha has since apologised and says he "deeply regrets" the comments he made.
While Shipton and Schollum were found not guilty of raping Nicholas, the jury was unaware the pair were already in prison for rape.
The victim in that case, who came forward to Operation Austin, was just 20 when she was pack-raped in Mt Maunganui in 1989. She said the apology from Haumaha had come "far too late".
Haumaha was appointed as the new deputy commissioner for police in June on the recommendation of Police Minister Stuart Nash.
He said he was unaware of Haumaha's comments, which he described as "unacceptable" and "deeply disappointing".
Nash has said Bush was also unaware of the specific comments.
The inquiry is to look at whether all relevant information was given to, or gathered by, the State Services Commission, and if it was, whether all relevant information was provided to ministers.
Bush was on the SSC panel which recommended Haumaha as one of two preferred candidates for the deputy commissioner role which became vacant last month.
Last month, the Herald revealed another Deputy Commissioner, Mike Clement, spoke with Bush about Haumaha's history with the disgraced officers at the centre of rape allegations.
Clement was second-in-charge of Operation Austin and his "attention to detail" was later credited with rape convictions being secured against Shipton and Schollum.
Clement met Nicholas - whose allegations led to Operation Austin and a Commission of Inquiry into police culture - to canvas her thoughts about Haumaha being promoted to Assistant Commissioner last year.
Nicholas says the police executive were well aware of her feelings about the possible promotion of Haumaha.
"I said 'this will come back to bite you on the arse'. And it has," she told the Herald last month.
Sources have 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.
Bush declined to comment because of the pending inquiry.
"We look forward to clarifying all of these matters as part of the inquiry, as trust and confidence in, and the reputation of police, is our priority."