The Dominion Post editorial really says it all when it comes to very regrettable decision of Michael Cullen to sack Garry Evans as Wellington Coroner:
Families all over Wellington who have endured the sudden death of a loved one that has required an inquest will be greatly saddened today to learn that Garry Evans has lost his job as Wellington coroner. Attorney-General Michael Cullen has terminated the appointment of a man who has presided over hundreds of inquiries and been courtesy itself to those left behind.
Mr Evans is nothing if not honest, which no doubt has not endeared him to politicians. Thus, in his 10 years on the coroner’s bench, he has forthrightly, but politely, excoriated those in positions of authority who have let the public down while also being unfailingly kind to mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers of people who have taken their own lives, suffered at the hands of the public health system or been wiped out in traffic smashes that might have been prevented.
No, it seems Mr Evans was just too straightforward for this Government to stomach.
Dr Cullen will no doubt protest that Mr Evans has served a decade in the role, is in his mid-60s and that, given those realities, the professional arrangements created by the new Coroners Act gave him an opportunity to appoint fresh blood.
His decision to effectively sack Mr Evans ignores – devalues, even – the work this lawyer has done to re-establish his office’s credibility. It also suggests – without having the courage to say so outright, of course – that Wellington public servants who have ministers’ ears have really resented his frequent blasts, always delivered with the greatest care and in elegant prose.
Mr Evans’ failing from the Government’s point of view, no doubt, is that he fell foul of Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton, who is not a man to turn the other cheek. Mr Evans is a supporter of making public more details after someone takes his or her own life. He accepts that silence about the epidemic of young, and not so young, men and women who decide life is no longer worth living has simply fostered an environment in which we have one of the world’s highest rates of suicide. Mr Anderton does not agree.
Mr Evans has done Wellington and its citizens a service by ripping strips off Capital and Coast District Health Board and its mental health services, which he deemed had let too many people down too often, as well as Transit NZ when it put money ahead of lives. No more.
This is how Wellington gained its nickname as Helengrad. The culture of retribution if you displease the Beehive.