Labour Party President Nigel Haworth resigns amid alleged sexual assault scandal

Jacinda Ardern and Nigel Haworth.
Jacinda Ardern and Nigel Haworth. Photo credit: Newshub

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has accepted Labour Party President Nigel Haworth's resignation amid the party's alleged sexual assault scandal.

Ardern, also Labour leader, said in the last 48 hours she had read "incredibly distressing reports" of an alleged sexual assault involving members of the Labour Party.

"This morning I was provided some of the correspondence from complainants written to the party several months ago," she said in a statement on Wednesday.

"It confirms that the allegations made were extremely serious, that the process caused complainants additional distress, and that ultimately, in my view, the party was never equipped to appropriately deal with the issue."

She said she discussed the correspondence with Haworth on Wednesday morning, and said while he stands by the statements he made, Ardern said she believes he's made mistakes. 

Haworth said in a follow-up statement on Wednesday: "I will be resigning as Labour Party President, effective immediately.

"I've come to the conclusion that regardless of the outcome of the appeal process into complaints about a party member, fresh leadership will be required to take forward any recommendations from that process."

Ardern said raising an allegation of sexual assault is "an incredibly difficult thing to do".

She said for additional distress to be caused through the way those allegations are handled is "incredibly upsetting". 

"On behalf of the Labour Party I apologise to the complainants for the way this matter has been dealt with."

The Prime Minister said she has made it clear that she wants the QC-led appeal process to resolve the matter. 

"I also want to assure myself that appropriate victim support and advocacy have been put in place around the complainants and ensure the terms of reference in the appeal covers the entirety of the process."

She said she is "happy to meet with complainants". 

"I will take steps to make that offer available to them if they wish to take it up."

Ardern added: "I want a justice system in New Zealand where people feel comfortable coming forward and are listened to, but I also need to ensure the Labour Party lives up to that expectation too."

Haworth said he has "greatly enjoyed" his time as Labour Party President and will "continue in my lifelong support of Labour and its principles".