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Dame Jenny's cosy quango

Former prime minister Dame Jenny Shipley may have lost her directors’ fees at Mainzeal.

But she retains her $1000 per day review board position at the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.

Which helps supplement her $109,832.71 annual haul as Genesis chairman.

Collapsed Mainzeal was a major provider of services to CERA.

When the CERA review board appointments were made in mid-2011 they attracted howls of cronyism.

It was revealed that Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee tripled the pay of the three-member “independent” review panel members to $1000 a day each.

He justified this on the grounds it would be impossible to find people with sufficient calibre at lesser rates.

The trouble, is, he never advertised the positions to find out. The lucky review board members were all handpicked by Mr Brownlee.

The other members include Murray Sherwin and another knight of the realm, Sir John Hansen.

Information about their CERA activities is hard to come by.

The first review of CERA completed in June 2011 gave a glowing report. It cited the review board members as interviewees for a report which was written by Simon Murdoch. 

Who are Dame Jenny's CERA cronies?
Mr Murdoch joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1972, moving to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in 1980 as foreign affairs adviser to prime minister Robert Muldoon.

After various foreign affairs junkets he became head of the department under prime ministers Jim Bolger and Jenny Shipley. In 2002 he was appointed New Zealand’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs in preparation for the receipt of gongs such as The Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Murray Sherwin complements his income as chairman of the government’s Productivity Commission.

In 1976 he began his 25-year career at the Reserve Bank, where he headed many key departments and dealt with major issues including the 1984 foreign exchange crisis and the subsequent removal of exchange controls and float of the New Zealand dollar.

He was appointed deputy bank governor in 1993.

More recently, he led the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and was last year awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Waikato.

Sir John Hansen was a High Court judge from 1995 to 2008, when he retired and was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the judiciary.

In 2009 he was appointed chairman of the Legal Services Agency and in September 2010 became chairman of Red Cross Canterbury Earthquake Commission.

More by Chris Hutching

Comments and questions

Can you state for the record how much has been spent on the CERA Review Board, how much time members have spent working in their positions, and what has been produced?

$1k/day isn't a big number - but it depends on what you're doing.

The only one I have any confidence in is Murray Sherwin - who stood up to Muldoon post the 1984 election. He won't take prisoners.

And, Mr Hutching, are you stating for the record that if it had been a Labour Govt in power when the earthquakes happened, that no ex-Labour MPs or donors and no knights of the realm would have been appointed to the CERA Board? Yeah right.

Shipley has proven abundantly that she's not qualified to lead anything unless the desired direction is into the ditch.

Yeah, anyway, what's a grand a day between friends?

The real question is what constitutes a day? If one is spending 10 hours unpaid preparing for the $1000 a day, then the context of the payment changes.

I seem to recall learning that $1000 a day was given for the day -regardless of how much work was done on that day.

This is manifestly excessive.

It is very hard to believe that this sort of payment is justified to these ex-parliamentary figureheads,especially when some of them in this sort of position have shown no particular talent in the past to justify these - except very powerful ambitions.

Moreover, we can all recall politicians cooking up special deals for themselves after parliamentary life, with the excuse that this was only fair, because they were now unemployable.

Instead, they planned to bludge on the taxpayer as of right until the end of their lives.

But most people would argue, with good reason, that we are dealing with very ordinary, not even very intelligent individuals ( we have only to look at the results in many cases) and that there is no excuse which can justify these sorts of payments.

In the case of MAINZEAL, do any of the directors bear any culpability for overseeing this failing company ? Or can we look forward to more golden handshakes , as with Paul Collins after Brierley's collapse?

Didn't I originally see this appointment announced at at 360ish K?

$1000 a meeting perhaps, but $1000 a day is well beneath par for this sort of work.

That is unlikely to be as an employee, so they won't be getting paid 52 weeks a year, etc. and they will have to pay A.C.C. levies on that too...

The problem here is that Brownlee chose to set aside the requirements for payment on boards of ths nature that he and treasury requires for everyobne else. So some end up working at half the usual daily rate because of a sense of civic duty. Frankly in this case this individual's skills do not appear well aligned with the tasks. So there is a triple whammy - 1. rules are broken which everyone else abides by; 2.those who work out of civic duty get hammered; and 3. CHCH gets a person whose skills are marginal to the needs of the community.

Why the debate about the fee? (which in my view is low for that degree of responsibility) Surely the issue is how the CERA board was selected, although that seems buried amongst a string of poorly substantiated cheap shots and the members.

It seems that it is $1000 a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. What, no statuary day bonus ?

I guess the reason this topic hasn't electrified the readership is we are all just so used to politicians of any party feathering their own nests and matey cronyism. And who says this country is honest?

No doubt 7 Sharp will be on to it.

Shipley has proved that she is incompetent by bailing out shortly before Mainzeal went into receivership, when she should have stuck by the company to help it get out of its difficulty.
And why Key felt he had to leap to her defence is a mystery, or is it?

Too many "cosy quangos", all of which are holding back our economic progress.
It will take a brave and honest person to unwind them; not likely to happen with the present bunch.

Placing an ex-pollie, rugby player and the like is a bad look these days. Whether its Hobbs, Shirley, Graham, Jones (league and rugby) it's a screaming sell signal to the market. Genesis, anyone?

I'm sure anonymous is right and Seven Sharp will be on the case. Perhaps they'll produce an in-depth piece on Dame Jenny's love of flowers?