Cosgrove calls $17K property developer donation story a 'Brownlee smear'
Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove says he is a long-standing friend of a property developer who donated $17,500 to his campaign at the last election.
The donation came after Mr Cosgrove drafted a private members’ bill which would have allowed developer Mike Dormer to go ahead with a project stopped by the Christchurch District Plan.
Speaking on TV3’s The Nation programme at the weekend, Mr Cosgrove said he was a longstanding friend of Mr Dormer.
“We go back about 12 years,” he said. “He's a friend of my family, I know his family well.
“He's a respected person, I'm proud to say I'm a mate of his.”
Mr Cosgrove claimed the report on The Nation had been “shopped around” by Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee in an attempt to smear him.
But the programme presenter, Rachel Smalley, said that no one from Front Page, the production company which produces The Nation, had spoken to Mr Brownlee or anyone from his office.
Mr Dormer’s company, Independent Fisheries, is one a number of parties who have a legal action against Mr Brownlee on this issue now before the High Court in Christchurch.
In 2008, Independent Fisheries bought 22ha of land at Styx Mill, north of Christchurch Airport, and in Mr Cosgrove’s then electorate of Waimakiriri with the intention of developing it for houses.
But the company became frustrated at restrictions on the development imposed at the behest of Christchurch Airport.
Other landowners in the same area were also concerned at the tight noise boundaries around the airport which prohibited residential development.
In June 2009 Mr Cosgrove convened a public meeting about the boundaries and announced that he was preparing a private members’ bill to counter them.
His bill would have required landowners within the noise boundaries to forfeit any right to object to airport noise. In return, residential development would get a go ahead.
Mr Dormer described the bill as “win win” and “outstanding”.
And five months later, in November 2009, Independent Fisheries donated $2500 to Mr Cosgrove's campaign.
"I had discussion with all landowners. We set up a group of landowners across the board who had legal support, some who didn’t. I was leading negotiations on behalf of over a 100 constituents with the International Airport and others, for years on this," Mr Cosgrove said.
After the Christchurch earthquake in September 2010, Mr Cosgrove withdrew his bill from the private members’ list of bills in Parliament.
In June 2011, he got another donation from Independent Fisheries. This time it was for $15,000, making a total of $17,500, one of the highest sums given to any individual MP at the last election.
And in August 2011, Mr Cosgrove issued a press release advocating passage of his bill as a way of freeing up land for desperately needed sections in Christchurch.
But he vigorously denied that there was any connection between the bill and its obvious benefits for Independent Fisheries and the donations.
“I've never accepted a donation with any preconditions and I have never been offered a donation with any preconditions,” he said.
He rejected the suggestion that it could appear that he had a conflict of interest.
There would have been a conflict of interest from any person, and I have people donate money to me in support from all political persuasions,” he said.
“There would be a conflict of interest if it came with preconditions, and by the way every MP receives donations.
“There would be a very bad look and a lack of judgement if those donations were hidden and not declared.
“There is transparency here, and the reason you can question me is because I declared them.”