I posted previously on James Dann’s analysis of Amy Adams’ landholding and issues this raises for her in her role as Minister of the Environment. The post attracted the attention of her Press Secretary Nathan Beaumont who left a pleasant enough comment pointing out that Adams had recused herself on all issues on matters relating to the Central Rivers Plain Scheme.
A recent article in the Taranaki Daily News by Rachel Stewart which referred to Dann’s original post has attracted a less pleasant response with reported threats of defamation action being taken against her. Stuff has printed a retraction of sorts, agreeing that Adams and her husband do not own a dairy farm but instead own a sheep and crop farm but the relevance is difficult to understand, because either type of activity will benefit from irrigation. A further allegation, that Adams was responsible for the removal of protection from Rakaia river, was also specifically rebutted and it is clear that Gerry Brownlee and not Amy Adams made this decision. The retraction also contains general rebuttal by Amy Adams of the allegations against her.
Rob Salmond has posted further on the subject though and analysis is being placed on her decision to extend the term of the unelected water commissioners appointed to look after Canterbury’s water. His questions and his concern about why he believes that Adams had a conflict in making the decision to extend the term of the commissioners are as follows:
“1. Central Plains Water Ltd stands to benefit financially from a fast approvals process for further development of the freshwater resource in Canterbury;
2. The government-appointed ECan commissioners favour a faster approvals process in this area than did the previous, elected ECan representatives;
3. As Minister for the Environment, Amy Adams played an active role in the government’s September 2012 decision to extend the appointed ECan commissioners’ terms for a further three years;
4. Announcing her decision, Minister Adams defended the appointed ECan commissioners specifically in terms of their management of freshwater resources: “To keep the freshwater management work on track, we intend to retain the limited appeal rights on decisions made by Environment Canterbury on plans and policy statements relating to freshwater management.”
5. Amy Adams’ Ministerial decision over who should regulate Canterbury’s freshwater resources financially benefits a small number of firms including Central Plains Water Ltd, which she part owns.”
The last statement may have been better phrased as it was a cabinet decision and Adams took the relevant paper to Cabinet but otherwise these are relevant and important questions. Under the existing legislation the control of Canterbury’s water was meant to have returned to democratic oversight at the 2013 elections. The paper proposed that return to democratic rule be staged.
The paper itself boldly said that “ECan’s poor performance was impeding the regions’ significant growth and prosperity potential.” It also said that “[t]he Canterbury Region has huge economic growth potential. Irrigation is predicted to significantly contribute to the growth of the New Zealand economy, with Canterbury being a key contributor.” In his post Rob Salmond has highlighted a number of other passages. The net effect is the overwhelming impression that the advancement of irrigation was a key driver for the cabinet decision.
The recommendation was that the Cabinet approve a transitional mixed governing body obviously with the intent that democratic rule be returned sooner rather than later. Cabinet decided however just to extend the commissioners term. This decision was considered to show “strong capacity”capacity to meet economic growth objectives whereas the preferred option was thought to show “capacity” to meet economic growth objectives.
Rob Salmond in his post has set out the relevant Cabinet Rules. You have to wonder if the rule that “[a] pecuniary conflict of interest may arise if a Minister could reasonably be perceived as standing to gain or lose financially from decisions or acts for which he or she is responsible” may apply.
Amy Adams has more explaining to do.