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Shipley's Mainzeal role 'clear conflict of interest' – Peters

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters turned up the heat in Parliament today on old nemesis Dame Jenny Shipley, querying her role as a director of Mainzeal and a member of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority review panel.

In a testy parliamentary exchange, Mr Peters asked Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee whether he or the CERA officials had seen Mainzeal’s books “before awarding Mainzeal millions of dollars in contracts”.

Mr Brownlee told the House that both he and the CERA board “had every reason to believe that Mainzeal was a stable company and entered into the contracts on the basis that it had capacity to do the job”.

He had not looked at Mainzeal’s books, because that was “an operational matter”.

“As to whether or not the balance sheet was checked out by Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority officials, I have not been informed of that.”

Mr Peters then wondered why CERA officials or Mr Brownlee could not have been aware of Mainzeal’s financial position, given Dame Jenny’s involvement in both.

Mr Brownlee said the two roles were separate and that Mr Peters misunderstood Mrs Shipley's role on the CERA review panel.

“The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Review Panel is a statutorily constituted body that has the Hon Justice Sir John Hansen as its chairperson, and he conducts scrutiny of Orders in Council after they have been considered by all parties in this House.

“To somehow construe that from that we should be discussing a private matter or a private engagement on a daily basis with one of the other members of that panel is utterly ridiculous.”

Mr Peters then asked why Mrs Shipley had been appointed at all, and alleged a “clear conflict of interest”.

Mr Brownlee said that was to confuse Dame Jenny’s role on the review panel of CERA, where the job was simply to “review changes to law”.

“I think the member needs to look at the Orders in Council that have been somewhat, I think, judiciously used in order to move the recovery forward, and ask his own spokesman why he has supported some of them.

"But more than that, explain to the House why he thinks someone who is reviewing changes to law is somehow conflicted because they are the director of a construction company.”

More by Rob Hosking

Comments and questions

With this sort of muck raking from Winnie, anyone would think Jenny is a Muslim. Any chance that the media could ask Winnie if he has paid back the taxpayer money used during the election when found he was in breach of the Electoral Act?

Yep, money was paid. Not to the govt, though, but to a charity
He is right, there is a clear conflict of interest.

Keep after it, Winston.
There's too much "under the carpet" action in our society.

Go Winnie. Many may not want him in government but we certainly need him in opposition, if only to keep the government honest - that is a critical element of a strong functioning democracy.

Well done, keep on the case. Looks very mucky to me.

Then there's the fact that Shipley and her friends resigned from the Mainzeal board the day before the company crashed. Does that somehow relieve them of their responsibility as directors? Will the government launch an inquiry into that behaviour? You bet your bottom dollar they won't. The old boys' club is alive and well in New Zealand and it's still running the show.

Winnie just has so much credibility, and when is he repaying the taxpayers?

And Key is supporting Shipley as chairman of Genisis. She has no commercial nous at all. This country will never progress with people such as this directing it.

A conflict of interest is a given here. Unfortunately, the old boys (girls) club is alive and well. There does not appear to be anyone other that Winston with the courage to raise the issues, but he alone cannot change things. Bring on David Shearer and let's see if integrity can override self-interest.

Before you get too excited about the actions of Shipley and the other independent Directors you need to ask yourself what part Richard Yan has played in all of this.

There was no conflict of interest between Shipley being on the Mainzeal board and being appointed to the CERA position.
What was wrong with her appointment to the CERA position was two-fold:
1. It was a political mate's appointment and as such was without merit on that score at least.
2. Brownlie jacked it up so Shipley et al appointed to the CERA position are being paid three times the going government rate for such a position. He claimed no one he wanted to appoint would do the job for less. Chairman Hansen said he hadn't been asked what he wanted to be paid. In fact he didn't even think about it. He just agreed to do what he was asked to do. It's likely the same is true for the rest, including Shipley. In other words , it's not her fault she and the others are being paid too much. All they are guilty of is happily taking it.

Shipley clearly has a conflict and she is only there because of her mates.
A shameful performance!

Clearly time for NZ to have a genuinely 'Independent Commission Against Corruption'.

While the media has speculated about what the independent directors did or did not know about the state of Mainzeal's financial position, the simple truth (apparently) is that as soon as parent company covenants were not offered to the bank (or withdrawn) the directors had no option but to resign. Their actions were therefore both ethical and responsible. To cast dispersions on the behaviour of these directors in light of the facts is unjustifiable. A major construction company collapse is a tragedy for thousands of people affected throughout the staff, supply chain and of course families, and let's hope that rather than 'points scoring' the focus should be on recovery for the sake of those families.

I agree, Penny.

But turkeys are not great fans of Christmas ...

No matter how loudly Shipley protests, she clearly has a conflict of interests.
Time Key took his head out of the sand.