Labour Party members allowed right to appeal investigation

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Labour Party members who complained about bullying and harassment will be allowed to appeal an investigation which they feel ignored their concerns.

In an act of damage control on Monday evening, Labour's ruling council announced "a confidential appeal process" would be set up and funding provided for legal advice.

RNZ understands seven people have laid formal complaints with Labour about inappropriate behaviour by a Labour staffer who works at Parliament.

An internal investigation was conducted and no disciplinary action taken, prompting several people to complain to the media and the opposition National Party.

The party's council - which includes Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern - met over the weekend, and Labour president Nigel Haworth issued a statement on Monday.

Mr Haworth said the council had agreed to the complainants' request that an independent appeal process be put in place.

"Ensuring the appeal is done by an independent expert who is at arm's length from the Party is important for building trust in the process in the future.

"Reasonable financial support will be provided to any person participating in the appeal process, to ensure that they are able to obtain appropriate legal advice as the process proceeds.

"Personal and emotional support, independent of the party, will also be provided to any person participating in the appeal process."

All future investigations of such a nature would also involve "a similar independent and experienced expert", Mr Haworth said. Council members would discuss that further at their next meeting.

"The Council is concerned that there is a number of young people involved and ensuring their well-being looked after is at the forefront of our approach".

Mr Haworth declined RNZ's request for an interview, saying the matter was now subject to appeal.

Earlier in the day, Ms Ardern told media that, in future, a neutral third party should be called in to investigate complaints of a certain threshold.

"We do need to make sure our processes are robust and... there will be occasion when, given the nature of our organisation, it won't be possible, nor desirable for some complaints to be dealt with entirely in-house."

Labour came under fire last year over its handling of indecent assault complaints at a Young Labour summer camp. A subsequent inquiry by lawyer Maria Austen recommended major changes to the party's bullying and sexual harassment policies.

The New Zealand council, which is the Labour Party's governing executive, met and discussed the matter at the weekend.

RNZ understands seven people have laid formal complaints with the Labour Party about inappropriate behaviour by one of its members who works at Parliament.

"We've been advised that none of the people who made a complaint to the Labour Party about a Labour member currently work in any part of Parliament.

"If a complaint were made about someone in the workplace that would be dealt with immediately as an employment issue," a statement said.

Ms Ardern said in the future she wanted to see an independent third party, which all parties have faith in to investigate complaints, to make sure a situation such as this does not happen again.

"I shared a very clear expectation that we do need to make sure our processes are robust and that there will be occasion when given the nature of our organisation, it won't be possible nor desirable for some complaints to be dealt with entirely in house," she said.

Ms Ardern said she did not know the identity of the complainants, but even if she did, she should not be expected to divulge details in the public domain.

"You would expect me to constantly check and seek reassurances that the process has been robust and ask questions and I have and will continue to do so, where I perceived that there has been failings, I've shared that", she said.

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