John Key has repeatedly said Bill English did not have a”pecuniary interest” in the house he lives in in Wellington with his family. It was apparently the Richard Worth test No 1 – Bill told him so.
The Auditor-General’s website deals with the issue of pecuniary interest in offering guidance to Local Authorities regarding conflicts of interest.
The following is taken from their advice:
The Act does not define the term ‘pecuniary interest’. Its meaning is a matter for legal interpretation according to the circumstances of the particular situation. However, there is a significant body of relevant case law which offers some guidance. The most significant cases are summarised in this appendix….
Downward v Babington  VR 872
This case concerned a councillor of a shire in Victoria, Australia, who owned and leased certain shops. At different times, the council or its committees had before them:
- a project to allow the establishment of a supermarket in the immediate vicinity of the councillor’s shops;
- a proposal to compulsorily acquire land adjoining those shops and the supermarket site for off-street parking;
- a proposal to permit development of vacant land adjoining the councillor’s shops as a retail shop; and
- a proposal to buy land in the immediate vicinity for off-street parking.
The case did not involve any finding of fact as to whether the member had a pecuniary interest in those matters, but did produce a useful definition of the term ‘pecuniary interest’:
a councillor should be held to have a pecuniary interest in a matter before the council if the matter would, if dealt with in a particular way, give rise to an expectation which is not too remote of a gain or loss of money by him.
We have chosen to adopt this definition as appropriate in the New Zealand context, although acknowledging that our Act deals separately with the element of remoteness in section 6(3)(f).
The particular ways in which the matter has been dealt with by Bill English would seem to give rise to an expectation which is not too remote of a gain of money by him. That would certainly be how the average punter sees it.
The Auditor-General will also have to investigate all the documents and their dates to be certain as to how remote the pecuniary interest in the Endeavour Trust declared by Bill English in 2008 has become in 2009 – oh, and when it happened.