National looking after their mates - Winston Peters


Jobs for mates is a hallmark of the National government.

The latest to parachute into a sweet public position is former National MP Simon Upton.

This solid blue boy will be the next Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment on a salary of just over $300,000.

But the person appointed to this role should be politically independent. Disappointingly neither the Labour Party nor the Greens adhered to this in backing the appointment of Mr Upton.

It appears that after doing a few nice stints overseas with international organisations, no doubt secured from 19 years of networking and relationship building as a National Party MP, he wants to come home.

Pity all the worthy applicants with the credentials for the job. They were cast aside when this old mate and johnny-come-lately's application arrived.

Mr Upton is not uneducated. He's probably a thinker. He was a Rhodes scholar and has degrees in English literature, music, law and a masters in political philosophy. Not geography, resource management, science or anything vaguely connected with the environment.

He's probably got some languages too, having lived in France. Not much use out by the Waimakariri River talking to salmon fishers or talking to locals in Hamilton city on the banks of the Waikato.

Even his record as a Minister does not bode well for a standout performance as the new Commissioner. He made a mess of the Resource Management Act, broke up the legendary DSIR, and installed cash registers in hospitals.

While he served as NZ Minister for the Environment, and has worked in the OECD environmental division it's doubtful he's the best for the job. He's the chosen one because of his National Party ties. He's being looked after.

As Mr Upton is not scheduled to take up his new posting till October we suggest he signs the contract in pencil and should not order a new office suite. He won’t be there long if it’s up to New Zealand First.

For the record, some of the National mates who have been looked after at various times include: Katherine Rich, Apec Business Advisory Council, Health Promotion Agency; Dame Jenny Shipley, Genesis Power board, Christchurch earthquakes review panel, chair National Co-ordinating ommittee First Encounters 250; Judy Kirk, Lotteries Commission chair, MetService director; Chris Parkin, Tourism Board, Te Papa chair; Mark Gilbert, Lotteries Commission; Phil Heatley, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority.

Then there are all the overseas diplomatic postings for former MPs, ignoring the professionals in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Appointments include MP Maurice Williamson (Consul-General in Los Angeles), former Trade Minister Tim Groser (Ambassador to the US), and Lockwood Smith (High Commissioner in the UK).

Winston Peters is leader of New Zealand First.