Tory Whanau has promised “it’s different this time” after previously saying she would keep certain socialising to her home, but then admitting an alcohol problem after being seen drunk in public again.
Nick Mills, host of Newstalk ZB’s Wellington Mornings, put it to Whanau today that nobody really knew what happened at Wellington’s Havana Bar on November 18.
Whanau said the bar manager knew what happened and he had said publicly that it was just a typical Saturday night.
But Mills said it couldn’t have been a typical Saturday night, considering Whanau subsequently admitted having a drinking problem.
“The fact that it became a public issue was enough to indicate that perhaps there’s a problem I need to work on,” Whanau said.
“During that week and the week after, I had a talk to my friends and family, I was talking to a professional. That’s when I decided to just own the issue and make that public and move on.”
Earlier in July, it emerged Whanau was visibly intoxicated one night at the Old Quarter to the point where staff considered not serving her and she then forgot to pay the bill.
Mills pointed out to Whanau that, after that incident, she said she would no longer go out on a Friday night for a drink and had been through a process of mourning her private life.
She said “certain socialising” would be kept within the parameters of her home.
Whanau told Mills that was why she decided to get professional help this time because the same thing had happened again.
“The difference now is that I am getting help. I haven’t had a drink since that night.”
Wellington rumour mill sent into overdrive
Whanau acknowledged her drinking had made headlines on two occasions now and that was enough for her to identify she had a problem and needed to deal with it.
“Since that happened, I feel good. I feel healthier. I have a strong sense of clarity about things. It has been a positive experience for me and one that I will continue.”
The rumour mill in Wellington has been sent into overdrive by unverified reports of a video of Whanau at Havana Bar that night.
The Herald has not seen the video alleged to be circulating, nor has it spoken to anyone who has seen it. Whanau has not seen a video either and does not know whether one exists.
Mills asked why so much had been made of the video if one did not exist.
“I don’t know”, Whanau said.
“Probably because we know that quite senior people have jumped on it and turned it into a thing, but I couldn’t tell you. In saying that, over the last year since I became mayor and even during the campaign, stories like this have popped up before with no basis to them.”
Asked who she had let down more, herself or the people of Wellington, Whanau said both.
“I let myself down because I said I wouldn’t do that again and I did. I let down the people of Wellington for slipping up, but what I want to really, really reiterate is that it’s different this time.”
She said she was getting the help she needed and she felt great.
“I know I can do this and I am looking forward to it.”
She would not resign if another alcohol-related incident were to happen.
Being open about her problem with alcohol had helped others to feel better about owning the issue, she said.
“If we’re saying to someone who has, whether it’s mental health or an addition, that if you slip you deserve punishment, I don’t think that’s a healthy message to send to other people.”
Where to get help:
• If you or someone you know needs support and treatment to reduce their alcohol intake, call the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797, visit their website, or free text 8681 for confidential advice.
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Georgina Campbell is a Wellington-based reporter who has a particular interest in local government, transport, and seismic issues. She joined the Herald in 2019 after working as a broadcast journalist.