Key defends Smith over 'money for mates'
Tue, 24 Jul 2012 5:47a.m.
Prime Minister John Key is defending former Cabinet minister Nick Smith over accusations of "money for mates" after an environment consultant linked to the National party received hefty fees on the taxpayer.
The former environment minister approved $180,000 in taxpayer money last year to pay for the new Mackenzie Sustainable Futures Trust, set up to help resolve a dispute between farmers and environmentalists over projects in the Mackenzie Basin and Waitaki Valley.
The trust, which initially received $100,000, almost ran out of money in November, and its application to the Environment Ministry for a further $200,000 was declined earlier this year, but Dr Smith granted it a further $80,000, documents reveal.
Policy think-tank the Ecologic Foundation, which is headed by Dr Smith's friend Guy Salmon - a former National Party candidate - received $88,010 in fees, with Mr Salmon paid $18,000 per meeting for two-day meetings.
Mr Key says officials "had a quick look" at the matter on Monday, and didn't find anything that raised concerns.
"Yes, they know each other, but what's also true is that Guy Salmon has been involved in this issue prior to the trust recruiting him, he's extremely well-known for the work he does and has been very successful in the past," Mr Key said.
"We thought it was a much more cost-effective method for resolving the concerns, and it also met with the desires of interested stake-holders in the Otago area."
Dr Smith issued a statement on Monday afternoon saying the spending was a "good use of public money".
"Millions of dollars were being spent in legal disputes over resource consents, district and regional plan rules, and tenure review. The Government wanted to try and facilitate broader agreement on a way forward."
He said the last Labour government spent far more on Mr Salmon and Ecologic, including a $2.21 million contract on researching alternative environmental dispute resolution through the Ministry of Research, Science, and Technology.
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24/07/2012 2:41:22 p.m.
Sadly this National government are full of crooks hellbent on cronyism and looking after the old boys network.Stop freeloading off the new Zealand people and get off the gravy train.
24/07/2012 12:05:08 p.m.
This is a stupid beat-up about nothing. Anyone in business knows you surround yourself with advisors you trust and respect, and they are often friends because of that. Grow up media and find something real to whinge about. Pathetic.
24/07/2012 10:44:33 a.m.
John Key is standing behind him, unfortunately Key stood behind John Banks with the Dot Com saga and look what happened there.
This Government is attacking the poor and then is doing sneaking things themselves, Taxpayers money been used to help the rich again, priceless.
24/07/2012 9:43:00 a.m.
When is Key going to realize that this guy is a disaster in anything he touches. I believe he done a number of other dodgy things in his time in Parliament.
24/07/2012 7:53:57 a.m.
It does seem evident that Guy Salmond's involvement in this matter did influence Smith's decision to override his Ministrys earlier decision.
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