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The shameless Nick Smith

Written By: - Date published: 10:43 am, May 24th, 2013 - 31 comments
Categories: ACC, accountability, auckland supercity, Conservation, greens, housing, john key, labour, Mining, same old national, slippery, sustainability - Tags:

The current MP for Nelson and government Minister of Conservation and Housing has a shameful record.

He has been a Bill English supporter amidst National Party leadership struggles, resulting in accusations of irrational, self-aggrandising behaviour when English became leader in 2003.   He was found guilty of contempt of court in 2004 for breaking court confidentiality rules and pressuring a witness.

In 2010 he was involved on a defamation case.  According to Michael Forbes in the Dominion Post, in June 2010, Smith used thousands of taxpayer dollars in defending himself against the accusations made by Osmose New Zealand, the local branch of a US corporate. Osmose accused Smith and Robin Wakelin, timber preservation scientist of making libelous statements in 2005, when they linked the leaky homes debacle with a product made by Osmose.  This looks to be part of Smith trying to shift the ultimate blame for the shameful building of leaky homes away from the 1991 National government onto the Building and Housing Department, under Labour’s watch.

Forbes reported on the outcome of the case, in which Smith backed down and settled in return for Smith making a sizeable payment and an apology. Ultimately, in spite of the back down, Smith denied any culpability, putting it down to “politics”:

Then there was the Bronwyn Pullar, ACC case, which resulted in Smith resigning from cabinet in March 2012. A Stuff article on March 2012 by a clutch of journalists says that he admitted that he “messed up”:

His voice choking with emotion, Nick Smith resigned his Cabinet portfolios, telling Parliament he was guilty of two ”errors of judgment”.

Summonsed to Wellington for a grilling over sending a letter on ACC ministerial letterhead to help a female friend with an ACC claim, Smith spent his flight penning his resignation.

He had only hours before tried to front it out, adamant he wouldn’t resign, but eventually I guess even John Key reluctantly realised he was a liability.  Smith went as far as to admit that he should have avoided the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Labour and the Greens were highly critical of Smith falling well short of Cabinet Manual standards, and asks for an inquiry.  However, Key was quite relaxed about it and rejected the call for an inquiry.  Green co-leader Metiria Turei was very critical when Smith was tipped to return to Cabinet earlier this year.

“I think Nick behaved unethically as a Cabinet minister. He misused his ministerial powers,” she says. “I don’t think he should be brought back at all. I’m surprised John Key is prepared to do that.”

Last week we saw that Nick Smith was involved in negotiating in bad faith with Auckland Council over its draft Auckland Unitary Plan, as outlined in my post ‘When an “accord” is not’ and micky savage’s ‘The Government’s not so good faith bargaining on affordable housing’.

Then yesterday, as I posted in ‘Cynical’, Nick Smith rushed to allow an Australian mining company to mine on conservation land.  He did this the day before an amendment to the Crown Minerals Act would require public consultation on negotiations prior to giving such approvals.

On RNZ’s Checkpoint yesterday (Thursday) evening, Smith’s slippery twists and turns catch up with him, exposing his and the government’s true intent as regards mining on conservation land.  First he acknowledges that the approval was given to avoid the public consultation process that becomes necessary on Friday (today).  However, he justifies this by saying that the last Crown Minerals Act amendment would make it harder to protect conservation land, and would give more weight to “economic benefits”.  By giving approval yesterday, Smith argues he was able to get a bigger monetary package in compensation for damage to conservation land: money that would go towards preservation of other areas.

Nick Smith on checkpoint

Smith adds that anyway, people had had plenty of opportunities to have their say about the mining before it was approved.  he argues that enabling more public consultation would have made not difference to the outcome.

Smith then, confusingly, repeats the “positive” outcomes for making the approval before the Crown Minerals Act amendment goes live on Friday. Wilson sense a contradiction:

Wilson: So in fact the changes under the Crown Minerals Act are worse for conservation?

Smith: Oh indeed.  The government has made quite plain that those changes for the conservation act is to get a more balanced decision making process, where economic benefits and conservation are aligned together. A future decision would not be a decision by me as Minister of Conservation, but a joint decision with the Minister of Energy and Resources.

Wilson: And so we can expect more conservation land to be mined. We can expect more conservation land to be mined

Smith: Well indeed, it has been the very up front view of the government in 2 election campaigns is that the government takes a view that there is more economic opportunity for New Zealand from [using?] its resources.  I as a Minister of Conservation tend to take a firm view that there are some very special areas that we should not mine.  This is not one of those. There are areas of the Denniston Plateau that I do not want to see mined. I’ve made that plain in my announcements today. It is a very constructive process going on ….

Wilson lets him continue with his PR speak about his “practical” decisions.  She  then asks about Bathurst  stating earlier in the week that it is laying off staff and withdrawing two of it’s drilling rigs from the Denniston Plateau. She asks if this has put pressure on Smith’s decision   Smith replies that he had not been under  aware of such announcements from Bathurst being made this week.

Nick Smith, slippery is, as slippery does:  and with no sense of shame at his own dodgy dealings. However, in doing this, he’s not as skillful as his PM.

NickSmith forked tongue

31 comments on “The shameless Nick Smith”

  1. the doublespeaking is strong in this one – smith is a tool, a dangerous tool, a malicious and duplicitous tool, a tool in a gnat toolbox filled with blunt and useless tools. nick smith minister of conservation is an oxymoron – his pathetic legacy is sealed now.

  2. ianmac 2

    “Wilson: So in fact the changes under the Crown Minerals Act are worse for conservation?
    Smith: Oh indeed. “

    That is the devastating killer blow to our Conservation.
    That plus Dr Smith’s betrayal of the Auckland City Transport Accord recently seems to indicate a bullying stampede of democracy.

  3. Te Reo Putake 3

    I heard the interview and it was excellent work from Mary Wilson to get Smith to fess up.

    “Wilson: So in fact the changes under the Crown Minerals Act are worse for conservation?

    Smith: Oh indeed.”

    My immediate reaction to this question and answer was that Smith had unintentionally joined the endangered species list himself, being one of the few remaining honest Tories.

    But, on reflection, it’s not like he’s even bothered that the new legislation is worse for conservation; after all, he voted for it. It’s actually just a reflection of his smugness and his patronising attitude to those of us who want NZ 100% clean and green.

  4. BLiP 4

    Classic ideology cognitive dissonance minimisation via use of embedded logical fallacy:

    – government cannot run a mining company ∴
    – solid energy must be eliminated ∴
    – allowing for only private enterprise to run a mining company ∴
    – the Minister of Conservation states:

    the new legislation will have a negative impact on conservation because it will have to give consideration to the economic benefits, therefore, I have decided to grant a foreign-owned multi-national mining company permission to dig up the Denniston Plateau the day before the new legislation comes into effect because of the economic benefits.

    . . . thus, shareholder of the company which owns Bathurst, John Key, opens celebratory bottle of wine produced by the vineyard he doesn’t know he owns. You can’t make this shit up.

  5. muzza 5

    It’s not really, *The Governments agenda*, though.

    The governments agenda, is to lie/deceive and deliver the agenda of the *sponsors*, as such, are only the implementors of any *agenda*!

    The agenda appears to be, control the, *real wealth*, which is natural resources!

    Global game this one, there is nothing of value in it for NZ, or its people!

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      The agenda appears to be, control the, *real wealth*, which is natural resources!

      And thus make the rest of us serfs.

    • “The agenda appears to be, control the, *real wealth*, which is natural resources!”

      Land being the primary natural resource. Smart move to negotiate a monopoly on land sold by Maori, selling it off again as estates in fee simple.

  6. Peter 6

    I dunno Karol. Easy to attack I guess, but Smith is playing a complex game, and you could argue that he’s achieved a lot better for conservation here than any of his predecessors would have done. Imagine Kate Wilkinson handling this mine. She would have signed it without any hard negotiation to get cash for other projects… $25m for predator control is phenomenal.

    Nick Smith is a National Party MP – his government was always going to approve this access arrangement, and encourage the mine. Labour probably would have done the same. Despite that plateau having some ecological values, they don’t outweigh the economic value. This is leaving aside climate change arguments, which can’t be considered under the RMA at present.

    There’s also another deeper game going on here, between Cabinet moderates and hardliners. Smith is a member of the former, and what I read into this is him slowly getting control of the environmental agenda again. If so, I suspect worse things will be averted, but that’s only faint praise.

    Posters on this site have criticised Smith for announcing it one day before the new Crown Minerals Act comes into effect, but that’s ignoring one vitally important thing – the new Act makes it a joint signoff between the Minister of Conservation and the Minister of Energy. Nick Smith trumped Simon Bridges on that…

    • karol 6.1

      You make some good points, Peter. There are long term tensions between the English/Smith & Key factions in the National Caucus. But, as you say. if he’s taking a more moderate line than Bridges, it is faint praise.

      • Peter 6.1.1

        We are in deep blue waters, and you have to take the wins that you can get. It’s on this that I think that F&B has gone a little bit far out in opposition I think, especially when there are far worse proposals out there on conservation land (i.e. monorails, tunnels, Haast Hollyford road, private roads in national parks etc). These projects are far more damaging than a mine on land that has been mined for over a century.

        That collaborative process running to determine which parts of the plateau to set aside as reserves will be crucial in resolving this in the long run, and that will announce soon.

        Smith also got $20million extra for conservation before the budget, that saved about 80 odd jobs from the chop, and most of my colleagues in conservation back him as their Minister. Intriguingly, they rate his ability higher than most former ministers, including the Labour ones. In my lifetime, Sandra Lee has been the best Minister of Conservation, most of the others seemed more interested in cool trips to see wildlife.

        • karol 6.1.1.1

          Actually, I might have agreed with you a few years back, Peter. But these days, each new compromise pulls us further to the right. In this we lose far more than we gain.

          The Denniston Plateau is high value conservation land that F&B and others have been trying to get the under-resourced services to designate schedule 4 for a long time.

          • Peter 6.1.1.1.1

            Well, we had nine years under Labour to tory-proof these things, and we did nothing. On Schedule 4, we only have ourselves to blame really 🙂

          • ghostrider888 6.1.1.1.2

            the commentary on RNZ identifies the Denniston as having ‘low-value’ conservation values.

            • karol 6.1.1.1.2.1

              And that is disputed by the Federated Mountain Clubs and others, who say it is high value conservation land.

            • Jono 6.1.1.1.2.2

              Stewardship and Conservation Areas are to some extent a holding pattern management category for parts of the conservation estate that have yet to gazetted as reserves, parks and so on. Gazettal takes forever and involves lots of consultation and is relatively low priority. Some Cons. and Stewarship areas will be of legitimately low conservation value but others will have high values and will ultimately be gazetted to reflect this. I don’t know enough about Denniston to have an opinion on which side of the ledger it falls except that the historic and landscape values are probably high based on my own knowledge and experience of them. It’s an amazing landscape with a fascinating industrial history. The Incline and DOCs recent historic focussed visitor development there is top notch.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.2

      $25m for predator control is phenomenal.

      And is money that should have been coming directly out of our taxes but this government went around cutting them for the rich and now taxes won’t cover the needed expenses. We shouldn’t need to negotiate with multi-national corporations for the money to protect our environment.

      • Peter 6.2.1

        We shouldn’t need to no, but those species under threat right now have no time for us to debate the finer points of principle. They could very well be getting predator control to protect them next rat season, whilst we debate the finer points of principle about funding them whilst they go extinct.

        So, no time for arguing about the mechanisms.

        • marty mars 6.2.1.1

          I struggle with that line of argument Peter, I mean is there anywhere/one you wouldn’t accept money from? bathurst have paid the minimum they could get away with in negotiations with a government determined to mine the conservation estate. Bathurst have got access to destroy a habitat that is unique – there has to be lines somewhere, doesn’t there? Therefore the mechanisms are the point and the government has declared via smith that the mechanism they’ll go with is negotiations with mining exploitation groups that align with their agenda of mining conservation areas.

    • “you could argue that he’s achieved a lot better for conservation here…”

      The facts say that on Tuesday August 28, 2012 bathurst said

      Bathurst has agreed to a range of environmental initiatives intended to offset or mitigate the impact of the Escarpment mine

      http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/bathurst-hopes-be-mining-escarpment-next-july-bd-126980

      and

      On 22 January 2013, Smith was returned to the Cabinet and given the Housing and Conservation portfolios.[18]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Smith_%28New_Zealand_politician%29

      Without access to the negotiations it is fair to say, “who knows?” – bathurst had already indicated they would be doing something ($$$) to mitigate the destruction their open cast coal mine will cause.

      • Peter 6.3.1

        Quite probable. The access negotiations for these things take some time.

        • ghostrider888 6.3.1.1

          overheard, this 22M for predator control is across 35 years of operation, while the mine, or company, may fold for one reason or another in the interim.
          I too, believe that Forest and Bird have overplayed the issues.

        • marty mars 6.3.1.2

          Indeed they do take time and the final timeframe is usually devoted to creating the spin especially when both negotiating partners are in alignment and both know there is opposition from the public against what they plan/have agreed to do.

    • ghostrider888 6.4

      Smith appears both complex, and weak, of character.(par for the party).

      • David H 6.4.1

        Maybe the Flashing red Rudolph nose he has could have something to do with it??
        Because you should never trust a lush, they are only out for themselves. No wonder he and Key get along so well, it’s those long taxpayer paid liquid lunches they enjoy before the next debacle to hit their party.

      • prism 6.4.2

        Smith has been in politics a long time – compare the fresh faced young Turk to the raddled face of the present – takes a lot of liquid lunches, and a good bit of animal cunning to overcome those problems.

  7. vto 7

    .
    eat

    the

    earth

    there’s plenty of it

    fuck those in the future

  8. HG 8

    Most of you people would barely know where Denniston is and even fewer would have actually been there. The only reason people go up to the plateau is because of mining, the incline and the history of the place.

    Mining is the West Coast, the West Coast is mining. I would pay to watch Debs Martin and her lot go down the local pubs in Westport and tell them why they shouldn’t have a mine, jobs and a future in the region. Then she can go down to Greymouth and whinge at them too.

    If F&B want something to legitimately whinge about then take a look at what is happening to the kauris in Northland. That is a tragedy. 100 hectares of a 2200 hectare plateau with dubious conservation credentials for $22 million conservation fund and hundreds of jobs is an absolute no-brainer.

    • vto 8.1

      are you from there? have you been there? do you know anyone from there? do you live west?

    • Draco T Bastard 8.2

      Mining is the West Coast, the West Coast is mining.

      Ah, the lack of imagination of RWNJs shows itself.

    • Jono 8.3

      I had the pleasure of getting drunk with some young adults in Westport a few years ago. Early 20s, male and female and worked at Stockton (couple of drivers, and a survey technician. They saw no life outside of the Coast or outside of the mines and they were miserable. They were also being asked to make big balls calls about health and safety on a regular basis and were extremely uncomfortable with the situations they found themselves in on the jon and felt there was nothing they could do about it.

      Arguing from anecdote is always a poor second to solid research but I really felt for those kids.

  9. xtasy 9

    An excellent summary of Nick the Smith and his dealings, Karol!
    Yes, I am astonished, but then again not so, about this man, the one of a few “brains” as they proclaim, to be worthy of mentioning amongst the Nat Brigade.

    If that was true, I would perhaps take him a bit more seriously.

    Nick Smitherines, or Nick Shit I call him. A man with no principles, but his own, always desperate to please his party and party bosses, selling anything not nailed down, and still pretending he is so caring. He did it with ACC, while they slashed, targeted the high cost claimants, who also had complex health issues, and they threw thousands of them down the gutter.

    Just visit ACC Forum to get a taste of it:
    http://accforum.org/forums/

    They all remember and just “love” “Nick the Dick”, I suppose.

    We get this deal and one must sink the lower chin in dibelief. Is this what a Minister for Conservation does? I suppose under this government that has a totally new meaning, what conservation means.

    They are more occupied with extracting the “conserved coal and oil reserves” under the grounds , than anything else.

    While I can live with some extraction, when it is just a moderate expansion of more fossil fuel extraction, and when it is not in conservation land (not necessarily a national park), then I consider it. Otherwise I take issue. In this case I take issue. this is not necessarily highly protected land, but it is still conservation land.

    Nick the Dick, get your dick out, take it home and pleasure yourself with pulling it, without pulling one over our heads, thanks.

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