NRT: Cronyism in Christchurch II

Written By: - Date published: 6:39 pm, October 28th, 2014 - 18 comments
Categories: Gerry Brownlee, national - Tags: , , ,

no-right-turn-256Reposted from No Right Turn here and here for the two posts respectively.

Back in August, National announced they were handing a $284 million contract to build a new convention centre in Christchurch to a consortium which included the Speaker’s brother. From the outside, it looks like cronyism, if not outright corruption, and in such cases, the onus is on the government to front up and show that the crony was in fact the best bidder. So did they? Yeah, right:

I wanted to know more, so I fired off an OIA request. Mr Brownlee refused to respond until after the election, even though this breached the normal four week time limit. Sadly, that was no surprise. He finally responded on 13 October, some nine weeks after receiving my request.

And what his reply reveals is… nothing at all, except the need for more investigating.

About half of the documents Minister Brownlee has released to me (part 1, part 2) have been redacted, including it appears any mention at all of Philip Carter of the Carter Group. They just aren’t there at all. Curious.

That’s not quite correct – they’re mentioned in a footnote on p13 of part 2 as being one of the constituents of the Plenary group. And only mentioning them in that way seems appropriate – Plenary is the official bidder. So I don’t think that’s curious. No, what’s curious is that all information on the process for selecting the consortium was withheld. All we know is that the RFP was sent to five “previously shortlisted consortia” and that

Plenary’s proposal also met the requirements of the Request for Proposal

Which, in a prima facie case of cronyism, seems oddly weak – and especially compared with the information released on the operation RFP, where they say outright that “Accor was the top ranking respondent”. If there was a similar statement about Plenary, they’d release it. The absence of such a statement suggests that the Speaker’s brother’s consortium was notthe top-ranked option.

The government owes us some answers here. They’re refusing to give them. And based on what they’ve released, it looks a lot like they’ve got something to hide.

lprent: Idiot Savant followed up with a later post on the same topic.



Also interesting in that OIA release about the Christchurch Convention Centre contract is the withholding of information under s9(2)(k) to

prevent the disclosure or use of official information for improper gain or improper advantage.

This is a rarely-used clause, and this is the first time I’ve seen it used in a commercial tender context (normally in such cases information is withheld as commercially sensitive, provided in confidence, or under the negotiations clause). And as the Ombudsman’s guidelines make clear, “improper” gain is a very high threshold to meet, requiring the expected use to be almost illegal or extremely morally dubious. Its very hard to see that in this case, especially as the requester is not a bidder in the process and cannot gain any advantage by it. Instead, the obvious suspicion is that Brownlee thinks that the information will be used politically by the opposition, and that makes it “improper”. Which tells us a great deal about the government’s attitude to democracy and the law…

18 comments on “NRT: Cronyism in Christchurch II”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    What’s the point of donating to, or having family members in, the National Party, if you can’t buy privileges and government contracts?

    You just hate market freedom. Corruption is ethical.

  2. ropata 2

    Another example of the “invisible hand” of the “free market” at work… it’s a podgy minister’s hand signing contracts for his mates.

  3. Tracey 3

    oh tosh. nothing to see here. just like the pm cant see anything untoward about his people and slater

  4. Tracey 4

    auckland, queenstown, christchurch, wellington…

    i can remember when auckland had to have one cos we had no world class venue

    i can remember when queenstown had to have one cos we had no world class venue, other than in auckland

    .i can remember when christchurch had to have one cos we had no world class venue other than auckland and queenstown…

  5. Ad 5

    Pretty hard to get too many degrees of separation in New Zealand. Makes procurement cleanliness pretty difficult.

  6. Steve Withers 6

    Brownlee is a thug.




    I can’t vote for a party that lets him do more than empty the waste bins after a knees-up.

  7. fisiani 7

    This is New Zealand , just 4,500,000 people. The South Island has just 1,000,000. Christchurch has 500,000. Take away the retired and the under 30’s and you have just 100,000 . National has 60 MP’s , let me repeat 60 MP’s. I love writing it, Do the maths – 1 in 4 people in business in Christchurch are related to a National MP.
    First a non existent tea break ban and now this rubbish. Wow, the voting public are rising. Yeah Right,

    • vto 7.1

      fisiani, for the first time ever you had something remotely worthwhile to say. Well, in your first paragraph anyway.

      It is a truism that first paragraph of yours – pretty close anyway. Inescapable. It is even more so in the rural sector..

      Mind you, that means all the more effort needs to be put into both the appearance and reality of fair and transparent process.

    • Well, there is the argument that there was no reason even to have a mega convention centre, and especially one that happened to be sited – through a government (aka Gerry Brownlee) imposed blueprint – on land owned by Philip Carter.

      Also it’s interesting that the largest settlement monies from the government for anchor project land happened to be at the site of the proposed convention centre.

      Philip Carter – Mr Lucky.

      So many other inner city business and property owners were not quite so lucky – even given that Christchurch is such a small town with so many business people, as you claim, hand in glove with National MPs.

    • Tracey 7.3

      wayne mapp, who hadnt practised law for a number of years was the only legally trained person up to the job… your playtime with figures doesnt back that up no matter how much you want it to. he got it cos he ideologically backs collins and key and that was worth gold to them withing the law commission, or at least thats what your post suggests.

    • ropata 7.4

      Yes fisi, and the old boys’ network makes it even more likely that your mates and cuzzies get the plum jobs. The executive class is a nice cosy little club.

      What was Jenny Shipley doing on CERA that was worth $2000 per day? She must be superhuman or something

  8. Ad 8

    So was the perceived conflict registered with the bid?
    Conflicts are fine so long as they are disclosed, and addressed.

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