Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Serves them right

Back in December, the government purchased Ihumatāo. Officially the purchase was for a housing project, but whether any houses actually get built (and who will own them) is subject to negotiation. And now, the Auditor-General has ruled the purchase unlawful:

The deal struck by the government and Fletcher Building to buy the disputed land at Ihumātao is "unlawful" unless it is validated by Parliament, the Auditor General says.


"In our view, the intent of the Ministry, and the intent of Ministers, was to establish a new appropriation that would provide authority for the purchase of the land at Ihumātao.

"However, because the Ministry did not seek the correct approvals, the expenditure was incurred without appropriation and without authority to use Imprest Supply. For these reasons, the payment is unlawful until validated by Parliament."

That validation will no doubt be forthcoming (there's a standard bill to validate all the irregular expenditure in the Budget next month), but the government will pay a political price. And they deserve to. This problem is entirely of Labour's own making, born of their unwillingness to admit that the deal was about restoring stolen property. If they'd admitted that, they would have taken the money from the right box, and everything would be fine. But they were worried about offending racists (who were always going to be offended), and about the "danger" of reopening Treaty settlements (which the government says are "full and final", but which aren't really), so they tried to finesse it. And now they have egg on their faces, and it serves them right. But hopefully validation will force them to admit the real purpose of the purchase, and that in turn will let them give the land back to its true owners, without all of the accompanying bullshit.