The gambling regulator who spread misinformation about Covid-19 and tried to shut down the vaccination roll-out

The Chief Gambling Commissioner Lisa Hansen demanded an immediate halt to the country’s vaccination programme, citing wildly inaccurate claims about nanotechnology in Covid-19 jabs.

The Commission decides on casino licensing applications, and hears appeals against regulatory and licensing decisions made by the Department of Internal Affairs.

Hansen is also a lawyer for anti-vaccination groups Voices for Freedom and New Zealand Doctors Speaking Out with Science (NZDSOS).

In January, she wrote a letter to Cabinet Ministers and medicines regulator Medsafe, claiming to offer ‘evidence’ that vials of the Pfizer vaccine contained “nano-scale advanced technology.” The claims were emphatically debunked by leading scientists, including nanotechnologist Michelle Dickinson.

Hansen said she was engaged by NZDSOS, and enclosed photographs meant to support claims of nanotechnology in the vaccine. Scientists have questioned if the images are genuine.

The letter was based on inaccurate claims made by Wellington GP Matthew Shelton who believes the vaccine contains microscopic, self-assembling electronic components. He repeated the false claims in a speech made during the occupation of Parliament Grounds in February – and the disinformation was widely shared on social media.

The letter was later made public by NZDSOS in a bundle of documents which also contains false and spurious claims about the vaccine programme and repeats conspiracy theories about the ‘great reset’ and World Economic Forum.

Wellington barrister and chief gambling commissioner Lisa Hansen. Pictured in 2012.

In June, on behalf of NZDSOS, she wrote to Police Commissioner Andrew Coster again demanding the vaccine roll-out be immediately stopped and asking the police to investigate Medsafe.

The letter makes false claims that “many hundreds of deaths” were occurring following the vaccine that are not being reported to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring. In fact, 170 deaths have been reported to CARM following vaccination. One death was determined by the Coroner to be due to myocarditis following a first dose. Two others were likely.

Police responded to Hansen’s letter saying: “Police does not accept the views expressed by NZDSOS and does not intend to respond by way of an investigation of Medsafe or other agencies involved in the administration of the Covid-19 vaccine.”

Hansen also acts for VFF, which played a leading role in the Wellington parliament occupation which spiralled out of control before ending in a riot in March. Stuff’s Fire and Fury documentary recently revealed the group is standing candidates in local body elections with a view to “sway the results (and) throw our weight around” and make the country “ungovernable.”

In October, Hansen appeared on a VFF podcast, hosted by founders Claire Deeks and Alia Bland, to “meet the legal team” and talk about mandates. There are 34 episodes which frequently platform Covid misinformation and conspiracy theories.

Hansen praised the VFF founders. “I’m incredibly grateful to be able to be involved with Claire and Alia and Libby [Johnson]. They’re doing a fantastic job … they really are giving it all and really are amazing in my view … and I hope I can be of assistance.”

Lisa Hansen presented debunked information from Matthew Shelton, who was suspended by the Medical Council over his anti-vax stance, but won an appeal.

Hansen has been a member of the Gambling Commission for more than a decade and was appointed to her current role, for a three-year term, in March 2020. The position was recently open for applications, closing on Friday.

Commissioners work around 25 days per year, and the daily meeting fee for the Chief Gambling Commissioner is $750 with reimbursements for expenses.

Hansen also works out of Barristers•Comm, a central Wellington chambers. She declined to answer questions.

Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti expressed confidence in Hansen’s performance. A spokeswoman said no concerns had been raised with Tinetti or her office. “I have not sought information or an explanation from the Chief Gambling Commissioner about any activities outside of her role,” Tinetti said.

Internal Affairs minister Jan Tinetti says she has confidence in Hansen.

A spokesperson for the Department of Internal Affairs said it does not monitor the activities of appointees outside appointed duties “unless these are seen to be a direct conflict with their role.”

DIA had not enquired into the nature of any relationship with Voices for Freedom, he said. “There does not appear to be any connection between the work of the Gambling Commission and any work for Voices for Freedom.”

The Gambling Commission did not answer questions, but said in a written statement from executive director Blair Cairncross said that it had no role in the appointment process. “Ms Hansen has told the Commission that her involvement with VFF is in line with and limited to her capacity as a barrister for the organisation,” Cairncross said.