A major city mayor has admitted to having a drinking problem after new footage of her appearing to be drunk circulated online.
Tory Whanau, the mayor of New Zealand’s capital Wellington, made headlines in July when she allegedly left a restaurant without paying the bill after telling a waiter: ‘Do you know who I am?’
The latest incident involving the mayor happened at the city’s Havana Bar on November 18, with her and another person being ‘visibly’ intoxicated.
Addressing the issue in a written statement on Wednesday, Ms Whanau said she had a problem with alcohol and indicated that to her ‘great embarrassment and shame’, the incident was recorded.
‘I sought counsel from my friends, family and colleagues and have since sought professional help,’ the mayor said.
Tory Whanau (pictured), the mayor of New Zealand’s capital Wellington, has admitted to having an alcohol problem
She added that ‘leadership positions in public office are not built for regular people who may have struggles with addiction, mental ill health, or any other illness that has stigma attached.
‘We have seen this play out with career-ending moments from politicians across the political spectrum in recent times,’ her statement said.
‘I am a flawed person, but I care deeply about this city. I will continue to represent the hopes and aspirations of my local community and I will do so with the compassion and care of those around me and with the professional help required.’
Having opened up about her problem and saying she intends to stay on as mayor, Ms Whanau said others struggling with alcohol issues ‘can seek help and still commit to your passions, work, family, friends in a way that is meaningful.
‘We are complex, layered people and deserving of love,’ she said.
Another Wellington councillor, Diane Calvert told radio station Newstalk ZB she hoped Ms Whanau was getting the help she needed.
‘As a council, we need to make sure that we do have the right resources in place because as a mayor you hold certain responsibilities, especially in emergencies and disaster relief, and of course, we’ve got our long-term plan coming up,’ she said.
Ms Calvert said councillors had been taken by surprise by Ms Whanau’s statement.
‘There was no inkling provided to us, though I have to say we haven’t seen much of the mayor for the last couple of months,’ she said.
Video emerged in July of Ms Whanau’s interaction with a waiter while holding a bottle of wine (pictured)
Roger Young, the owner of the Havana bar, said he was on the premises when the footage featuring the mayor was filmed.
‘All my staff said you and your friends were very respectful and were just having a good time,’ he wrote on social media.
‘It saddens me deeply we can’t just go out and have a good time anymore. You guys were great and are welcome at Havana Bar any time.’
Ms Whanau replied, thanking Mr Young for his message of support.
Tamatha Paul, who was elected to the New Zealand parliament for the Green party at last month’s general election, said on social media ‘This changing the world thing is brutal. Especially if you are a wahine (female) Maori.
‘Sending all my love and support to our mayor who is kind, brave and has a lot to give our city,’ Ms Paul said.
In July, Ms Whanau strenuously denied she asked a waiter ‘Do you know who I am?’ or that she was drunk at the Old Quarter Vietnamese fusion restaurant.
But the 40-year-old did admit to being ‘tipsy’ and leaving without paying the tab because of a ‘miscommunication’ with friends that had left her feeling ‘mortified’.
Having opened up about her problem and saying she intends to stay on as mayor, Ms Whanau (pictured) encouraged others struggling with alcohol issues to seek help
She said she was ‘a little bit merry after a few wines and a hearty meal’ but that her not wearing makeup was mistaken for being drunk.
Andrew Jenkins, the waiter who served her, claimed at one point she held a bottle of wine as she asked him ‘do you know who I am?’
He did not know who she was, but guessed she was a politician, which allegedly led to Ms Whanau saying ‘I’m the mayor, can you do your thing?’
The mayor rejected the interaction took place and said: ‘That’s just something I wouldn’t say. I deny saying that.’