Winston Peters says Sir Anand Satyanand is an innocent victim of a "verbal hate campaign" after calls for him to step down from a state inquiry into historic abuse.
Sir Anand offered to resign from his role as chairman of the Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in State Care and Care in Faith-Based Institutions after disclosing he's Catholic and has known Bishops in "church and social settings''.
But the Deputy Prime Minister says Sir Anand is a man of great integrity and should stay.
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"Anand is an innocent victim of what I might call a verbal hate campaign built on what? No one knows," Peters said on Peter Williams' Magic Talk show on Tuesday.
"He is a man held in the highest esteem for being a serious gentleman, a serious scholar, a very very careful thinker, and to have his name damned like that - well it might suit some of your listeners but I'm not gonna go down and walk away from a person I hugely respect."
Child abuse survivors are calling for Sir Anand's resignation, saying his faith means survivors might not feel comfortable to come forward.
One advocate, Christopher Longhurst, has gone public saying he has no confidence in the inquiry after meeting Sir Anand and other commissioners in March and attempting to question them about any potential conflicts caused by their religious beliefs. He says he was "shut down'' and his trust has been destroyed.
And Williams says one caller on Monday told Magic Talk she didn't feel the Commission is safe anymore.
But Peters says survivors should give Sir Anand more time to show his character.
"I think you should be seriously worried about the person who said that, who has not backed it up with any veracity or any evidence as to why that opinion has been formed," Peters said.
"All I'm hearing is somebody's preliminary view when the thing has not even got under way. I'm certain they haven't had a chance in a substantial way for them to be shown that he is a man of mutual disposition."
The Commission's Inquiry will look into the abuse of children in the care of state and religious institutions. It will span 50 years, from 1950 to 1999, and will cover physical, sexual and emotional abuse, as well as neglect.