Select Committee supresses Smith’s bungling of RMA reforms

After 11 months, including 5 months of inaction, Government members of the Environment Select Committee today took what the Clerk of Parliament called the “extraordinary” step to block any report back to Parliament explaining the delay, says Labour’s Environment spokesperson David Parker.
“The Bill amending the RMA returns to the House without explanation. National lost control of the Bill after failing to meet the report back date set by Parliament.
“Today the Clerk of Parliament was called to the committee and he told all members that it would be ‘extraordinary’ not to have any report and ‘extraordinary’ to block minority reports.
“National members, plainly acting on the instructions of others further up the chain, then voted to block the report prepared by Committee staff and the minority reports.
“The abuse of Parliamentary process was to cover up the shambolic process, and prevent opposition Parties explaining how flawed the Bill is,” says David Parker.

3rd November 2016 Media Statement

Saudi sheep deal exposed as a shabby deal to buy a FTA

The Saudi sheep deal report provides extraordinary criticism by the Auditor General of the Saudi sheep deal, says Labour’s Shadow Attorney General David Parker
“While she has found there was no corruption in terms of the definition in the Crimes Act 1961, she has not held back from exposing how badly this government made decisions around the Saudi sheep deal.
“The Government will claim this exonerates them, as they did with the Auditor General report on Sky City.
“The only positive for McCully is that he is not guilty of the crime of corruption.
The Auditor General found ‘settlement of a grievance was provided under the guise of a contract for services.’
“She agreed explanations to date from the Ministers and officials had been inadequate.
“She finds the deal was to facilitate the Gulf FTA.
“She made no comment on the morality of the deal saying, ‘the use of a contract for services was a decision made by Cabinet. I comment on the quality on the Cabinet paper process, but not on the decision itself.’
“The Auditor General in particular found ‘significant shortcomings’ in the Cabinet paper.
  • It ‘did not clearly identify that the Al Khalaf Group would own the goods and services costing the NZ Government $6m’
  • ‘did not identify how the $10m figure was arrived at’, which we now know included spending $1million on flying sheep to Saudi Arabia.
  • ‘signalled the risk of a claim against the Government based only on the $20-$30 million figure that the Cabinet paper said was suggested by the Al Khalaf Group (there was no assessment by the Ministry officials of the substance of that legal risk)’
“The record is clear that the Government, and Murray McCully tried to hide the $4m payment and blame others.
“Whether he should resign, is for the Prime Minister who should be asked: Have we reached the point in New Zealand that his standards are so low that Ministers will only be sacked if they end up before the courts rather than for incompetence, wasting millions, hiding it, and misleading Parliament and the public? “

2 November 2016 Media Statement

Biggest Government Owned Collapse since DFC, but no proper debate

Just like Donald Trump, Steven Joyce seems to be saying losing a billion dollars is smart business, says Labour’s spokesperson on State Owned enterprises David Parker.
“National is arrogantly denying accountability for the billion dollar loss they caused. The collapse of Solid Energy is the biggest collapse of a company wholly owned by government since the National’s DFC fell in the 1980s.
“Today, the day after the announcement of the sale of Solid Energy’s assets, Minister Steven Joyce said at question time:
  1. Solid Energy’s December 2008 debt of $31 million (5 per cent of assets) had risen to $375 million (41.6 per cent of assets) by December 2012.
  2. Denied their pressure on Solid Energy to increase indebtedness to 40 per cent caused increased dividends and higher debt.
  3. Still asserted their pressure, as owners of Solid Energy, to increase dividends and debt was prudent.
  4. Refused to accept it was imprudent to reject the warning from then Chair John Palmer against high debt for a coal commodity company like Solid Energy.
  5. Could not or would not confirm the total loss to shareholders and lenders to Solid Energy, even to within a hundred million dollars.
“The arrogance of these denials is shown by the documentary record, which disproves them. National drove Solid Energy into the ground. Their appalling negligence also cost hundreds of jobs.
National’s high-handed denial of responsibility is symptomatic of a government that has been in power too long. Rather than apologise to taxpayers, their response is once again to say there is nothing to see here, says David Parker.

November 1 2016 Media Statement



Solid Energy debacle a sad indictment

Solid Energy debacle a sad indictment of Government incompetence

The liquidation of Solid Energy is a sad indictment of Government incompetence, which has destroyed the once valuable company, says Labour’s spokesperson on State Owned Enterprises David Parker.

“Today’s announcement of the sale of the company’s coal mines represents the culmination of the inept direction of Solid Energy by National.

“National Government Ministers told Solid Energy they had to pay higher dividends and embark on more risky ventures with no extra capital.

“They were even warned by Solid Energy’s Chairman in writing at the time that the extra debt being incurred was very risky. The National Government told them as shareholders, however, to go ahead regardless.

“Now National’s chickens have come home to roost. The SOE’s mines, once a public asset, are now being sold to Bathurst Resources, the Talley group and Birchfield Coal Mines Limited.

“We wish the new owners and their workers well, but record our dismay at this debacle.

“This sorry saga has cost many hundreds of jobs, and damaged communities across the country. It has cost taxpayers and banks billions of dollars in losses, “says David Parker.

31 October 2016 Media Statement

MFAT officials refuse to back Prime Minister on Saudi sheep claims

An Ombudsman’s interim decision released about the existence or otherwise of legal advice on the multimillion dollar Saudi sheep deal shows MFAT has failed to back up the Prime Minister’s claims on the matter, says Labour MP David Parker.
The Prime Minister and Murray McCully have both repeatedly claimed that there was a legal risk to New Zealand taxpayers that justified the payment of $4m to a Saudi businessman.”
“The Ombudsman has said MFAT are refusing to disclose whether a legitimate legal risk ever existed, now claiming this would prejudice New Zealand’s international relations.
“It’s an absurd position but a very revealing one.
“If the advice did exist, then Ministry officials would have confirmed National Ministers’ assertions; but instead they’ve chosen to hide behind ‘international relations’ to avoid Ministers’ embarrassment.
“How can the Minister and PM credibly say admitting the existence or otherwise of a legal claim would prejudice New Zealand’s international relations, when both have already publicly asserted the legal risk justified the payment?
“By hiding behind potential threats to international relations, there’s only one credible explanation; no advice existed.
“The excuse has always been hollow.
“The Government has misled New Zealanders. The suspicion is reinforced that in reality a multi-million dollar facilitation payment was made to a disgruntled Saudi businessman.
“It’s time for transparency and honesty.”
Letter available upon request

21 October 2016 Media Statement

Planning reform report a turning point?

A joint report from business and environmentalists on the Resource Management laws could be a turning point for both planning and environmental protection, says Labour’s Environment spokesperson David Parker.
“The four organisations, the Environmental Defence Society, the Property Council, the EMA and NZCID are to be congratulated for a mature and considered approach in yesterday’s report.
“Three points stand out for me:
1.    At long last there is recognition that many of the frustrations arise outside the RMA, from the Building Act and the Local Government Act.
2.    Regional councils have been ineffective in stopping pollutions of our rivers, estuaries and wetlands. The report highlights that many participants in the study believe this is because Regional Councils have been captured by farming interests, and central government has failed to provide the national direction needed.
3.    Urban planning improvements need to address more than the RMA, and must to pay better attention to empirical evidence and rational economic principles, rather than conjecture and suppressed price signals.
“Labour agrees this is complex work which needs to be carried forward through measured inquiry, which we will follow through when elected.
“National has for the last 8 years made the RMA ever more complex, without fixing the wider urban planning challenge, or the rural environment. The result is unaffordable house prices and dirty rivers. National has failed.
“The latest bungled amendments to the RMA by National are so flawed that it has been stuck with no progress since December last year!
“National’s current Bill once again makes the RMA more complex and undermines the environment. It removes rights of public participation and confers dictatorial powers on the Minister, Nick Smith.  The submitters –developers, councils, or environmental NGOs – don’t want it, and they are right. 
“Meetings to progress the bill at Select Committee have been delayed for month upon month upon month, because the Government does not know how to proceed. Two special days of meetings scheduled for next week were cancelled yesterday, because cabinet has yet to make up its mind.
“In Labour’s view, it is time for National to admit their latest RMA Bill does not help, and in fact makes things worse, and should be dumped,“ says David Parker.

29 September 2016   Media Statement



Friday fish dump stinks

This government has dumped bad news on a Friday to try to avoid political scrutiny in Parliament, says Labour’s Environment spokesperson David Parker.

“Heron QC is to be thanked for a fearless report.

“After years of denials of problems, and attacks on those who made criticisms, the first independent report has turned up serious wrongdoing.

“The report says the cover-up of widespread quota fraud in the industry by senior enforcement personnel was partly caused by concern for their own reputation, after they earlier failed to enforce the law.

“New CEO Dunne is not at fault, but is wrong to say it is time to move on.

“The question of why there was systemic failure in the upper echelons of Ministry for Primary Industries enforcement has still not been properly answered.

“It is fair to question whether the Ministry is too close to the Fishing industry and have put commercial needs well ahead of environmental bottom lines.

“There are also serious questions about the actions of a number of officials over a long period and this needs to be investigated.

“The QMS population modelling used to assess remaining fish stocks may also be wrong, given that it was based on lower than actual catch data. There are many questions yet to be answered, David Parker says.

16 September 2016     Media Statement