Metiria Turei will pay WINZ if she's asked, but doesn't regret lying
Green co-leader Metiria Turei says she will pay back WINZ if she's given a bill, after admitting she lied to get more money on the benefit while raising her baby.
She told Newshub she doesn't regret lying, but regrets she had to lie in order to survive.
"I don't regret having done the best that I could at the time for my baby to make sure that she was well, and I know that thousands of other people have had to do exactly the same thing."
In a speech at the weekend Ms Turei revealed she lied to make ends meet while she was studying law and raising her daughter Piupiu. She had flatmates that she kept secret from WINZ as she feared her benefit would be cut, and no matter how she budgeted her money for rent, bills, and food there was never enough to get by.
"I lied to WINZ in order to make sure I could pay my rent and put food on the table for myself and my baby," she said.
Ms Turei doesn't know how much she might owe WINZ, but will pay up if she's given a bill.
"WINZ may decide to investigate, they may contact me and that's fine. I'll talk to them."
She says she's able to pay it back because she had the opportunity to finish her degree and move on. She wants others to have the opportunities she did, without being compelled to lie.
"I don't believe anyone should have to lie to WINZ to put food on the table, not ever again," Ms Turei said.
"Nobody in this country should have to lie to WINZ in order to take care of their kids. I don't think that's acceptable, I don't think anyone else thinks it's acceptable."
Ms Turei said it was tough to publicly admit what she'd done, but she knows she's not alone and has no regrets.
"It's a scary thing to do, to admit that you've done wrong in a role like mine. But if doing so helps us to change the system so no one else ever has to do it, then I'll take that."
She said in the end she felt forced to lie or there would be other sacrifices.
"It's lie or be homeless, it's lie or not have enough food for your kids, it's lie or your kids go to school hungry," Ms Turei said.
"When did we ever accept that as a choice for mothers and fathers in this country?"
Over the weekend the Greens announced their policy to raise all benefits by 20 percent, in what would be the first universal increase to benefits in 30 years.
Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett, who also received the benefit while she was studying as a single mother, has refused to condemn Ms Turei.
Ms Bennett said she personally "never deliberately misled" WINZ, but she wasn't perfect and didn't want to throw stones.