West Coast Trust dysfunctional

August 8, 2008

The Auditor Gerneral has called on trustees of the West Coast Development Trust to sort out their problems or stand down.

He says the Trust which was set up to administer $92 million given to the Coast to compensate for the ban on logging native forests, is so dysfunctional and divided that it can’t be trusted to do its job.

The auditor-general’s report released today paints a picture of trustees infighting with allegations of corruption being thrown around and counter-allegations of leaking confidential information.

The auditor-general said the situation was so serious that trustees should sort it out immediately or just stand down.

“Unlike other public entities with elected board, there is no other ready mechanism for resolving this level of dysfunction,” the report said.

“Until we see evidence that the group of trustees is able to take effective collective responsibility for the governance of the trust, we are unable to provide assurance that the trust is able to deliver fully on its purpose of generating sustainable employment opportunities and economic benefits for the people of the West Coast.”

A trust fund is a poor substitute for business and I suspect the logging ban may also have had negative environmental consequences.

The ban was a dog whistle political appeal to mainly urban, liberal, green (and Green) voters but I wonder if it was a not-in-my-back-yard approach to conservation which protects our forests but does more damage to others. The ban stopped the sustainable logging of native trees on the Coast, and the pest control which went with it. But has it also resulted in the increase of imported timber from clear-felled rain forests?

Let’s not forget the $158,000 debt

July 29, 2008

In all the excitement over whether or not Winston Peters and NZ First received donations which ought to have been declared, let’s not forget there is no question that they took $158,000 from the taxpayer for their 2005 election campaign and have yet to pay it back to Parliamentary Services.

The Auditor General found it was illegal at the time and the fact that NZ First supported Labour to make it legal in retrospect does not make it right. Nor do the donations which Peters says have been given to charity cancel out the debt to the taxpayer.

Until the money is repaid, every cent Peters and his party spend on their campaigns is a cent they owe to the tax payer and that tells us they think getting re-elected is more important than repaying what they owe.

NZ First still owes $158,000

June 16, 2008

One criticism of MMP is that the wee parties have a disproportionate influence. Allied to that is that National and Labour sometimes hold back legitimate criticism of their actions just in case they need their support.

We’re seeing that now – has anyone seen or heard any of the other parties react to Winston Peters’ statement that NZ First has donated $158,000 to charities and has given a list of the recipients to Speaker Margaret Wilson?

That just happens to be the amount the Auditor General found NZ First spent illegally before the last election. The party can do whatever its members allow it to do with their money, but donating to charity does not discharge its debt to Parliamentary Services.

While other parties are shying from tackling Peters’ on this, several blogs are not:

Kiwiblog posts on it here   noting NZ First is the party of transparancy which receives secret donations that turns out not to be a donation and then makes its own secret donations. Kiwiblog also comments on Peters’ on Agenda here. He notes that the Speaker wants Parliament to be more open so in good faith should make the list available.

The Hive says shame on the charities and asks if they’d accept the proceeds of crime or theft? Queen Bee, prompted by Poneke, points out the speaker’s office is exempt from the OIA but urges National and Act to ask Wilson for the list.

Inquiring Mind ‘s  Adam Smith says:

No one seems to be prepared to hold Winston Peters to account.

Why is he being allowed to get away with not repaying the $158,000 of public funds that his party mis-used at the 2005 election? 

Why is he keeping secret what he has done with the money?

Where did the party get the $158,000 from?

NO, NO, NO and forever NO is what voters should be saying to this bullying popinjay.

Keeping Stock notes the irony in the noise NZ First made about transparency in political party funding, asks does it practise what it preaches,  and points out the hyprocricy because it doesn’t.

The Auditor General found NZ First illegally spent $158,000. That they then helped Labour change the law to make that illegal spending legal and has said they’ve donated that amount to charity does not excuse them from the need to repay the money.

Until they do that every cent the party spends on campaigning is a cent they have yet to repay to the public purse.

If United’s Wrong NZ First is Worse

June 8, 2008

While we’re asking why anyone would vote for United Future  if they spend money on their campaign until they fully repay the taxpayers’ money they wrongly spent before the last election, we need to be even tougher on NZ First.

United might not agree with Auditor General Kevin’s Brady’s ruling that it wrongly used public funds in 2005, but it has accepted his ruling and the need to repay the debt it owes. NZ First not only refuses to admit it did anything wrong, it won’t accept the AG’s ruling nor has it any intention of repaying the money.

Leader Winston Peters’ scheme, to donate to the Starship Foudnation the $158,000  the AG found it spent illegally instead of repaying it, went sour when the Foundation rejected the cheque. Since then he’s said the money is going to other charities but refuses to say which ones because of the bad publicity over the Starship donation.

If NZ First wishes to make a donation to a chairty, providing the party’s rules don’t preclude this, it is entitled to do so. Some who given to the party to further its political aims may question why their money is going to a charity, or charities, instead but that is between them and the party.

It is however, taxpayers’ business that this party, led by the Minister of Foreign Affiars, is making no attempt to repay the money it wrongly spent three years ago.

Peters’ is right that the self-serving change of law  means that spending is no longer illegal; but retrospectively legal or not it was wrong then and still is now. Until the party admits this and pays it back every cent up to $158,000 which NZ First spends on its campaign is a slap in the face for taxpayers because until the debt is fully repaid each of those cents ought to put back in the public purse instead.

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