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Environment, Ministry—Confidence

Wednesday 20 February 2008 Hansard source (external site)

Smith9. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) Link to this
to the Minister for the Environment

Does he have confidence in the Ministry for the Environment?

MallardHon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for the Environment) Link to this

The ministry is working hard to regain my confidence, and that is the first issue the acting chief executive officer was asked to focus on by the State Services Commissioner.

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

Why did the Minister’s senior official, Mr Steve Dixon, threaten recycling advocate Mr Warren Snow following his submission to the Local Government and Environment Committee that was highly critical of the Government for failing to deliver on its 1990 election manifesto on waste, and what does it say about the culture of the ministry that such conduct would be seen as appropriate?

MallardHon TREVOR MALLARD Link to this

I have been briefed on the issue. The official’s behaviour is unacceptable, and I am advised that the official has apologised in writing directly to the submitter. I am also advised that the official’s manager has apologised to the select committee. This is a serious matter. As the member knows, staffing issues are an operational matter for the chief executive, and I have been advised that the chief executive is taking it seriously and dealing with it.

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

How is it that his ministry officials see fit to threaten select committee submitters who dare to criticise Labour for not delivering on its manifesto, that they are able to delete a key chapter in a state of the environment report that was critical of the Government, that they last year sacked staff linked to National and hired staff linked to Labour—does not this whole series of sad events point to a Government that is using and abusing this ministry for its own political ends?

MallardHon TREVOR MALLARD Link to this

There are a number of questions there, and it becomes clear, when one listens, that the member is not aware in which year some events occurred. But leaving that aside, to the substantive question and the latest allegation, I have made it clear that what the official did is wrong. I understand that the matter has been referred to the Speaker, and I think she should deal with it appropriately.

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

Noting that Mr Warren Snow has an application before his own ministry’s sustainability fund, what was he to make from the threatening comments from his officials about the status of the application for funding due in January, decisions by March, if it was not a message of “Don’t criticise the Government, or we’ll take your money away.”?

MallardHon TREVOR MALLARD Link to this

As I have indicated, the comment of the official was inappropriate. I was not aware of the fact that the submitter had an application in. I will seek the chief executive’s assurance that that official is not involved at all in making any decisions in that area.

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

What does it say about the culture that this Government has established within the public service that it thinks it is appropriate when someone is making a submission before a select committee that is critical of the Government to make threatening and intimidating comments to that person?

MallardHon TREVOR MALLARD Link to this

That is a matter that is being dealt with by both the chief executive as a staffing issue and, I understand, the Speaker.

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

I seek leave of the House to table the letter from Mr Warren Snow detailing the threats.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

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