A new chair to lead the independent inquiry into the promotion of Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha is expected to be name this week, according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
In her first post-Cabinet press conference since returning from maternity leave, Ardern refused to voice an opinion on Haumaha's controversial comments in which he described his police officer friends - under investigation for rape allegations at the time- as a "big softie" and a "legend with women".
"No, I'm awaiting the final results of the inquiry. I want to look at the issue in its entirety."
Technically, Ardern signed off on the Haumaha appointment after his name was put forward by Police Minister Stuart Nash in May.
Nash said he was unaware of the "deeply disappointing" comments and the inquiry will look into whether all relevant information was gathered by the State Services Commission, which managed the recruitment process.
Dr Pauline Kingi was appointed to run the inquiry but resigned last week after the Herald revealed she endorsed Haumaha on a professional networking site, as well as having worked on Maori advisory panels.
The Prime Minister said a new inquiry chair is likely to be announced this week.
She also expressed confidence in the independence of the inquiry, which is being overseen by Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin, an NZ First MP.
This was in response to questions about conflicts of interest, following a Herald story which revealed Haumaha's whanau links to NZ First deputy leader Fletcher Tabuteau.
While Martin was overseeing the establishment of the inquiry, under her Internal Affairs responsibilities, Ardern said the inquiry would report back to Cabinet.
"I have no concerns. We manage conflicts of interest on a regular basis... I'm satisfied we've been acting appropriately."
However, 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 today revealed Fletcher Tabuteau comes from the 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.
Winston Peters was one of the speakers at the function, along with Police Commissioner Mike Bush.
When the Herald broke the news of Haumaha's controversial comments 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 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. Tabuteau replaced him as the candidate for the 2005 election.
In a statement yesterday, Peters said the public could have faith in the inquiry.
"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."
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 Louise 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".
Wally Haumaha has since apologised and says he "deeply regrets" the comments he made.
The inquiry 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.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush was on the SSC panel which recommended Haumaha as one of two preferred candidates for the deputy commissioner role which became vacant in June.