Wednesday, March 31, 2010


In Question Time today, Green co-leader Russel Norman asked the Prime Minster whether any Cabinet Ministers had declared a conflict of interest when discussing the Canterbury dictatorship bill. Key replied that, as far as he could recall, none had. This is interesting because as Norman proceeded to point out, Agriculture Minister David Carter owns a farm in the Hurunui District with an irrigation consent. The bill not only replaces ECan with an unelected commission in order to give away Canterbury's water to farmers, it also includes specific provisions regarding the current application for a Water COnservation Order on the Hurunui River which remove it from the jurisdiction of the Environment Court and give it to the government-appointed dictators to decide. If the WCO is refused, a major irrigation plan could proceed, and Carter could make a lot of money.

Key's flustered response to all of this was that "something that might happen does not actually raise a conflict of interest until it does happen". Bullshit. It is well-established that there must merely be a reasonable prospect of gain or loss. And any reasonable person would see that replacing ECan with a dictatorship tasked with refusing the WCO and giving away the water to farmers would creater such a reasonable prospect.

Just a few months ago, the Auditor-General found that four ECan councillors had a conflict of interest over water issues because they held irrigation consents. The same must surely apply to the Minister. As someone who would profit from irrigation in the Hurunui District, he must recuse himself from any discussion of any measure which might boost it in that region or more widely. Anything less is not just dishonourable - it is corrupt.