Thursday, September 22, 2022

John MacDonald: Don't make Mahuta the spending spree scapegoat

Nanaia Mahuta won’t say it - so I’m going to say it for her.

All this noise about her husband getting government contracts wouldn't be happening if she wasn’t Māori .

She won’t say that, because, as well as being accused of letting her family milk the public purse, she’d also be accused of trying to defend the undefendable.

But I bet - as she probably would privately too - that we wouldn’t have the same amount of huffing and puffing if it involved a family member of an MP who wasn’t seen by some as the public face of the so-called Māori takeover.

I’m not a fan of Mahuta. I’ve said before that I think she’s the worst Foreign Minister we’ve ever had. I also think the way she’s handled the Three Waters reforms has been appalling. On that one, she’s come across as being arrogant and out-of-touch - not interested in what councils and ratepayers up-and-down the country have been saying.

She is a fully signed-up member of the “we know best” club - which I think most people in the current Government are members of.

But my criticisms of her have been based on her performance as a politician and a Cabinet minister. She’s been asleep at the wheel on Foreign Affairs - especially in the Pacific - and, as Local Government Minister, she has alienated herself so much from local government that her Associate Minister has had to take over trying to sell the con job on water reforms.

But listening to National’s Simeon Brown on Newstalk ZB this morning, I couldn’t help thinking that there is a much bigger issue that needs looking into.

What Simeon Brown should be getting hot and bothered about, is the reason why government departments think they need to hire-in all these consultants and contractors in the first place.

And this is something I know quite a bit about, because I’ve done work for some of them in the past and I’ll tell you this for nothing - when you walk into these outfits, after five minutes you start to wonder how many of the people there actually know what the organisation is there to do.

They’re full of project teams working on stuff like IT overhauls, culture change, building refurbs. And these project teams get bigger-and-bigger-bigger, and more consultants and contractors have to be brought in because the actual staff aren’t doing their real jobs anymore because they’re seconded here and seconded there.

And, of course, they’ve all got Koru Club memberships and they’re all flying around the country for meetings - trotting through the airport with their trolley bags and keep cups.

People flying from Wellington to Christchurch for the day for a meeting, all of them crowding out the Koru lounges.

This is what really needs to be looked into. But instead the National Party is getting all excited about Nanaia Mahuta. And we know why that is, don’t we?

And it’s not as if National is completely innocent either. Think back to the truckloads of money that was paid to consultants and contractors after the Canterbury earthquakes.

And remember the cases too when Gerry Brownlee was EQC minister and how people there were hiring family members left, right and centre.

I remember the story about one of the big bosses there hiring her daughter. Ironically, Ruth Dyson - who was a Labour MP at the time - said EQC was asking for trouble when it employed family members.

I’ve seen what it’s like on the inside and I know full-well that there are truckloads of people doing a whole lot of stuff that is way outside the core functions of these government departments.

Which is why they feel they have no option but to pay the big bucks for these consultants and contractors to come in and do basic stuff like running meetings.

A shameful waste of money.

John MacDonald is the Canterbury Mornings host on Newstalk ZB Christchurch. This article was first published HERE

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is some truth to what you say. Her Maoriness might be why people are taking interest, but that is only because that her Maoriness is what has caused the trouble. It is why she disenfranchised ratepayers on the Maori wards, overriding democratic votes that were 80-90% opposed (and why she has gone further now to limit council's power to decide against Maori wards). It's why she has led the charge on Three Waters, consulting only with iwi, ignoring the issues that should be important if it was really about water quality, and making it absolutely clear that co-governance was her "bottom line". It's why she is preparing local government and RMA reform that will undoubtedly dilute the votes of all "non-Maori" races. She arrogantly destroyed her goodwill with the voters and made it clear that she is not there to act in the best the interests of NZers as a whole, but is quite prepared to act contrary to those interests to promote her people. That's why she is immensely unpopular among everyone but Maori and it's why she gets extra scrutiny and less latitude.

And because of the extra scrutiny she has brought upon herself, a genuine scandal has been uncovered. NZ might be a small place, but it is mathematically impossible that Gannin Ormsby, a squaddie from the British Army, is the best candidate in the country to advise on waste management, AND housing, AND suicide prevention, AND conservation. And that his qualifications are so obvious that no competitive process needs to be bothered with. AND that Mahuta's sister is the best candidate in the country to head up the Maori Health Authority, AND head up the Maori advisory board of the new water regulator, AND be a Waikato River trustee, AND be an unelected appointee to the Waikato Council, and that Ormsby's two cousins are the best qualified in the country to advise on He Puapua and whatever else they did, despite only having a sports management degree and being 25, And by coincidence the conflicts of interests processes weren't followed. If you believe any of that is plausible, go online and take a look at the work Gannin Ormsby produced for the waste management review, over 5 months and for around $150,000. It reads like a minor class project for primary school kids.

So you can't separate the fact that she is Maori from what is happening, but nor can you dismiss it as simple racism. Any incompetent MP, pushing deeply unwelcome reforms while engaging in some light corruption would face exactly the same backlash. And so they should.