Mallard on Gardiner

February 8th, 2012 at 4:24 pm by David Farrar

Trevor Mallard blogged:

The National party are up to their old tricks – appointing people very close to them to positions in a way that is not appropriate.

Trevor’s view of appropriate is sacking Madeleine Setchell because her boyfriend took a job with John Key, and defaming Erin Leigh because she was a whistle blower.

First Sir Wira Gardiner. Very talented. Appointed by the previous government to do some tricky tasks.

I’m glad Trevor mentions that. A quick search reveals Labour appointed Wira to the following:

  •  independent Board of Inquiry to consider the proposed National Policy Statement for Renewable Electricity Generation, by Trevor Mallard
  • interim chair of of Te Mangai Paho, by Parekura Horomia
  • the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission, by Parekura Horomia
  • facilitate hui on seabed and foreshore, by Michael Cullen
  • Crown facilitator for Central North Island Forests Land Collective Settlement, by Michael Cullen

But he is married to a Cabinet Minister. He should not be appointed by any Minister in the current government to paid employment. John Key and Bill English have appointed him to sell their asset sales process to Maori.

As usual, Trevor is lying. Wira was selected and appointed by Treasury, not by Cabinet or Ministers.

If you claim that is a conflict, then you are also saying Peter Davis should not have been employed in the health sector.

Labour got Madeleine Setchell sacked because of whom her partner was. Thankfully National does not do the same.

A national art gallery

November 29th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Kate Newton at the Dom Post reports:

Te Papa’s new chairman has thrown his weight behind building a $100 million art gallery to house the museum’s formidable – but rarely seen – collection.

Sir Wira Gardiner, appointed to the top job a fortnight ago, says a standalone gallery is high on his personal agenda as the museum does not do the collection justice.

Te Papa has been criticised by the art community, politicians and the public since it opened in 1998 for not displaying more of the 15,000 artworks in its collection.

Sir Wira said yesterday that he supported Te Papa board member Chris Parkin, who told The Dominion Post he “would really like to leave Wellington with a new national art gallery”.

Mr Parkin said he wanted to see the national collection housed in the proposed “transition building” next to Te Papa. The building was designed for Wellington City Council by Amsterdam-based UNStudios in 2005 but the council has said it is unlikely to go ahead until at least 2014.

Mr Parkin estimated the cost of a new building at $100 million, which he believed could partly be raised from private benefactors.

It is true the art works are almost hidden away at Te Papa, and not enough of them get displayed. It would be nice to have a dedicated gallery for them.

But this is the worst possible time to be proposing it. With a huge fiscal deficit, the Government can not even think about extra funding.

Once we are running a large enough surplus to be reducing debt, then maybe we can discuss it. But that is at least five, possible ten years away.

National Conference wrapup

August 4th, 2009 at 12:37 pm by David Farrar

I’m old enough to have attended the last victory (won Government) conference for National. It was in 1991 and was also in Christchurch. Both saw a new Government nine months or so into office, and both coping with a nasty recession.

However in 1991, the conference was not just attended by the party faithful, but there were around 8,000 protesters, close to 1,000 Police (they cancelled leave for every police officer in the entire South Island), and bomb squad sniffer dogs. While the 2009 National Conference did not attract even a sole protester despite National now being in Government. I can’t ever recall a conference by National in Government that didn’t attract protests before.

And in spring of 1901, National was at 22% in the polls – 20% behind Labour. As we head into spring 2009, National is at 56% – 25% ahead of Labour. A remarkable contrast.

So the conference was obviously a buoyant one, with delegates and MPs in good heart. It was at the Christchurch Convention Centre, and here is the view from the Crowne Plaza next door.

DPF 004

The PM’s speech was of course the highlight, and it was very good planning he used it to announce a timely and major initiative. In Government, people like a speech of substance, not just bashing the other side. In fact John did not mention the Opposition once during his speech.

Bill English gave a very sober and insightful speech on the realities of the economy and the challenges ahead. And I thought Simon Power’s speech on all the justice initiatives was first class. Also was good to see the Young Nats President Alex Mitchell use his speech not just to fellate the party, as Young Nats sometimes do, but demand action on voluntary membership of student associations and warn against any moves to increase the alcohol purchase age from 18 to 20.

What didn’t work so well was the Ministerial forums. Maybe I’m just getting old and cynical, but hearing five minute brag sessions from Ministers about what they are doing turns me off. I’d rather have less Ministers with more time to talk policy in detail, than giving each Minister five minutes and time for only a couple of questions. I did enjoy joking that anyone who wanted to ask Paula Bennett a question should be obliged to first state their IRD number 🙂

Even more than that, what I personally would have preferred is a Ministerial Q&A session – say for 90 minutes. I know this was meant to be the victory conference, so maybe they may do it next year. But I think giving delegates the chance to ask questions of any and all Ministers is a good look, and gives delegates more of a chance for interaction.

Then we had the Board and Presidential elections. I’ve known the five people elected to the Board for pretty much a decade or more. They are all good people, who will do a diligent job on the Board. There are not any of them that I would not want on the Board as they bring a good mixture of skills, experience and geography.

But having said that, I am disappointed Wira Gardiner did not get on. As I had a role in the vote count, I thought it was inappropriate to “take sides” before the vote, but I do not share any of the reservations that Whale Oil had towards Wira. I’ve known Wira since his first wife was a candidate and he has been involved for at least two decades, including service as a Vice-President of the Party.

His record of achievement speaks for itself, in that he is now formally Sir Wira. Both Labour and National Governments have used him as a trouble shooter to sort out dysfunctional agencies. Someone with that governance experience would have been well placed to contribute to the Party’s Board. Plus there were also some obvious advantages in terms of relationships with the Maori Party – but that is a secondary consideration to me. Merit is what I value.

So why did Wira not get elected? Well there was a variety of reasons. Hekia, his wife, being an MP was one of them – but not really the major factor in my opinion. The main reason is that Wira was touted as a potential President, despite not being a current Board member. And it seemed there was a reasonable chance of Wira becoming President if he did get elected. By no means certain, but a reasonable chance.

What this meant, is those who did not want Wira to be President, followed Whale Oil’s advice and ranked him lowly to keep him off the Board. I have no doubt he would have been elected if he ruled out standing for President. Now I was not a delegate myself, so didn’t have to think about who I would leave off the Board if Wira got on. As I said, they are all good people – but there were only five vacancies.

Peter’s election as President was not a surprise. One press gallery journalist had quite a laugh on Sunday morning when they saw on my laptop I already had written a story announcing Peter’s election as President, and was just waiting for the official announcement to click the publish button.

I believe the number one objective for the President is to raise the money the party needs to function, and win elections. Peter’s business background should do him well in that regard and again respectivelly disagreeing with Whale, I expect Peter will remain President through until the 2011 election at least. Of course it will be up to delegates at the 2010 conference to make that decision on re-election to the Board.

Also have to mention the well deserved awarding of the Sir George Chapman trophy for service to the party went to our own blogging Homepaddock – Ele Ludemann. I won’t even mention how she was alseep in her room when they awarded her the prize 🙂


This is a hazy photo of the screen, but had to share this photo of Tauranga MP Simon Bridges forming part of the conference dinner entertainment, Simon took it all in good humour as the entertainers put him into a number of poses.

The conference saw Judy Kirk retire as President also after just under seven years in the job. This makes her the third equal longest serving President. Sir Alex McKenzie did 11 years, Sir George Chapman nine years and Sir Wilfred Sim and Ned Holt both also did seven years. I was counting votes during the farewell to Judy, but understand it was warmly given and received.

The number of people attending must be a record for a non election year. Around 700 people attended and there were 574 voting delegates. I saw many people there who hadn’t been to a conference for quite a few years.

It will be interesting to see what the mood is like in twelve months time at the 2010 conference.

The National Party Presidency

July 17th, 2009 at 10:30 am by David Farrar

At the end of the month, National will elect a new President – indirectly. With Judy Kirk retiring this is the first vacancy under the new rules, where the members elect seven Directors to the National Board, and the Directors (including the Leader and a Caucus Rep) elect one of their own as President.

This has made predicting who will win much harder, as you have to get elected to the Board first, before you even get a chance to convince your peers to make you President. And to make it harder, many of the Board nominees are of sufficient calibre to be a viable President.

Two of the seven elected Directors are part way through their term, so are guaranteed to stay on the Board. They are Roger Bridge, the Canterbury-Westland Chair, and Peter Goodfellow from Auckland – a long time party activist. Both Bridge and Goodfellow are potential Presidents, regardless of formal declarations. They would serve if asked/elected.

Leader John Key and Chief Whip Nathan Guy also get a vote. Presuming they vote as a bloc, they will be influential. Key, Guy and whomever becomes President makes three votes out of nine. They only need two more.

Incumbent Director Scott Simpson is standing again. A former Auckland Regional Chairman, he is also a Presidental candidate. Fellow incumbent Grant McCallum from Northland is also standing again and as far as I know not seeking the Presidency.

According to Whale Oil (I have not had time to check directly with HQ), there are six other canddate for the Board. They are:

  • Alastair Bell, current Northern Regional Chair
  • Dennis Catchpole from the CNI Region
  • Sir Harawira (Wira) Gardiner, former Maori Vice-President
  • Kate Hazlett, Southern Region Chair from Southland
  • Bruce Mills, Rangitikei Electorate Chair and long-time LNI Regional presence
  • Pat Seymour, East Coast Electorate Chair for many years

Of the six non incumbents, only Wira Gardiner is also a Presidential candidate Alastair is a potential candidate also but I think isn’t seeking it at this stage.

Whale Oil makes his preferences quite clear, not being a Wira fan.

However Matthew Hooton in the NBR this morning wrote:

All candidates have been thoroughly vetted, with Mr Key’s preference said to be party stalwart Wira Gardiner. Mr Key judges, correctly, that Mr Gardiner – a businessman, former senior public servant, soldier and Mr Fixit for both National and Labour governments – has the administrative backbone to prepare National to take the fight to Labour. Moreover, Mr Key sees Mr Gardiner as important to securing a third term, given the Maori Party will hold the balance of power in 2014, if not 2011.

I’m not sure whether or not Matthew is correct as to John Key’s preference. I suspect John is keeping his opinion fairly tight as he has to work with whomever gets elected.

I know reasonably well all the Board candidates (except Dennis Catchpole) and have warm friendships with many of them. I think National is fortunate to have a good range of talent to choose from.

I won’t be blogging my preferences, as I’m not a voting delegate. But also because I designed the voting software they use to count the vote, so it is generally inadvisable for me to enter the fray in case anyone suspects I have a secret sub-routine in there that will favour my preferred canddiates 🙂

President Sir Wira Gardiner?

March 25th, 2009 at 5:52 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports that (Sir) Wira Gardiner will stand for election to the National Party Board at the party’s annual conference, and Wira is not ruling out he may stand for the presidency.

The article also confirms the candidacy of current Director Peter Goodfellow, and the likely interest of Director Scott Simpson. All three are very good people, and the choice should be a positive one – not a major battle between competing ideologies or factions.

The presidency is no longer decided by the party’s annual conference but by the board of directors itself. The nine Directors select one of their own to be President. Since this change in 2003, there has been no vacancy with incumbent Judy Kirk re-elected without dissent. 2009 will be the first time there is competition for the role. However as there are only nine votes in play, it is quite possible that people will be able to work out who has the numbers in advance of the actual vote.

Well done Wira

June 3rd, 2008 at 9:08 am by David Farrar

I was very pleased to see Wira Gardiner gain a DCNZM (equal to the old KBE or KNZM) in the QB Honours.

When talking about the issues of the bureaucracy in totality, it can be easy to overlook the immense contribution some civil servants make to New Zealand. They tend to only get publicity when things go wrong.

Wira has contributed significantly to both the public and private sectors over the years, and almost inevitably is the trouble shooter sent in by the Government of the day (Labour and National) when a dysfunctional Maori agency needs a correcting hand.