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.”