Kiri Allan quits after being charged with reckless driving, refusing to accompany police officer

The Government is reeling after revelations one of its highest-ranking ministers is facing criminal charges.

Justice Minister Kiri Allan has stepped down from all of her portfolios effective immediately after being charged with careless driving and refusing to accompany a police officer.

Those charges were laid after Allan was involved in a car crash on Wellington's Evans Bay Pde in Wellington shortly after 9pm on Sunday.

Allan also returned a breath test over the legal alcohol limit but "at a level considered an infringement offence", Hipkins said. As a result, charges were not laid in relation to that.

Allan 'in very distressed state' - Hipkins

At a Monday morning press conference, Hipkins said Police Commissioner Andrew Coster advised Police Minister Ginny Andersen around 10pm on Sunday about Allan being taken into custody.

The Prime Minister understands Allan was alone when the crash happened.

Hipkins said his first concerns were about Allan's immediate safety and wellbeing.

He said he spoke to Allan just before 7am on Monday but she was "in a very distressed state" and it wasn't a long conversation. Allan now has the appropriate support around her, Hipkins said.

"Everyone is still processing this, including me," Hipkins told reporters.

"I'm gutted for Kiri... my focus has been on supporting her."

Hipkins said he wasn't providing details about Allan's mental health to "diminish her actions, they were indefensible, but to provide context for the distressed circumstances she found herself in" when the crash happened.

He also ruled out a snap election ahead of the planned October 14 polling day.

Chris Hipkins.
Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: Newshub.

'Shit happens'

Reacting to the developments earlier, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor told reporters "shit happens" after disembarking from his flight at Wellington Airport on Monday morning.

Labour's campaign manager Megan Woods, also speaking at Wellington Airport, said she'd only just seen the news so "I'm not in a position to make a comment".

"I've just turned on my phone. I've just landed," Woods said. "I don't have any comments at this stage."

Conservation Minister Willow-Jean Prime said she felt "aroha for my friend and I hope that she takes some time out and that she focuses on getting herself well".

"We love her and we're always there to support her."

Hipkins' chief of staff Andrew Kirton said "I think everyone's gutted" about the situation.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon said Allan resigning was "the right thing".

"It was quite untenable for her to continue as Justice Minister," he said in a statement.

"Clearly, this situation raises questions about the judgement of Prime Minister Chris Hipkins."

Luxon said National wished Allan well and hoped she was "getting the support and help she needs".

Simon Bridges, the former National leader who was Associate Justice Minister in Sir John Key's Government, said Hipkins was correct calling Allan's alleged actions "indefensible".

"I think if the allegations have substance, it's a disgrace," Bridges told AM.

"Ordinary Kiwis go about having to follow the rules and here, if you expect anyone to be following the rules really scrupulously, it would be the Justice Minister," said Bridges, a former Crown prosecutor. 

Kiri Allan.
Kiri Allan. Photo credit: Getty Images

How Allan's East Coast electorate is reacting

Allan found much support in her home East Coast electorate when Newshub quizzed constituents in Whakatāne on Monday.

"I think she'd done a good job," one man said.

"It is disappointing... I thought, up until recently, she was doing a really good job and I know she'd been through a lot in her personal life and everything," said another.  

One woman said: "I think there's just an enormous amount of pressure on people in [the] Government right now and it's just a difficult role."

The woman sympathised with ministers having to maintain their personal lives and help run the country at the same time.

"It's a huge thing with so many things happening," she said. "I just send her lots of love, really... get well."

"I think they have a lot on their plate, they have a lot of portfolios and... like anybody, you can break," said another woman.

Others did not believe Allan could return as East Coast MP.

"She's gone," one man said.

Another local said Allan had "made too many mistakes" and he "definitely won't be voting for her" should she decide to stand in October.

Kiri Allan quits after being charged with reckless driving, refusing to accompany police officer
Photo credit: Newshub.

Allan considering politcal future

In his earlier statement, Hipkins said Allan's alleged actions were inexcusable but "I've been advised she was experiencing extreme emotional distress at the time" of the crash.

The Prime Minister noted Allan's recent personal mental health struggles were well-documented and it appeared "some of those issues came to a head" on Sunday.

"I have spoken with her first thing this morning and advised her I do not believe she's in a fit state to hold a ministerial warrant," Hipkins said. "I believe it's also untenable for a Justice Minister to be charged with criminal offending."

Allan agreed with Hipkins' assessment and wished to resign from all of her portfolios immediately, he said.

"I've accepted that resignation."

The Prime Minister said he believed Allan was OK after being given time to address her mental health. Sunday night proved "there are not always quick fixes when it comes to mental health".

Allan's portfolios would be reallocated later on Monday, Hipkins said.

In a statement, Allan said she was "heading home and will be taking time to consider my future in politics". 

"Over recent weeks I've faced a number of personal difficulties. I took time off to address those and believed I was OK to juggle those challenges with the pressure of being a minister.

"My actions yesterday show I wasn't OK and I've let myself and my colleagues down."

It was only just more than a fortnight ago Hipkins announced Allan would return to work and resume her full duties after accusations surfaced about mistreatment of staff in her office. Allan had previously rejected the allegations, saying no formal complaints had been made.

The accusations came to light while Allan was on a week of leave for mental health reasons.

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