Radio NZ reports:
Foreign Minister Winston Peters directed Antarctica New Zealand to give two highly-prized spots on a trip to the icy continent to two women closely linked to one of South East Asia’s richest families.
Bee Lin Chew and her daughter Su Arn Kwek, who are dual Malaysian-New Zealand citizens, travelled to Scott Base, at taxpayer expense, in February after Antarctica New Zealand scrambled to make room for them at the insistence of Peters’ office.
Emails released under the Official Information Act show Antarctica New Zealand pushing back at the request to include Chew and Kwek, as only one spot was available and that was supposed to be for a government minister.
Tax payer-funded Antarctica New Zealand initially warned that science programmes or essential staff may have to be cut to make room for the women. But it ultimately managed to fulfil the request without disruption to the programme and in line with the “firmly held” views from Peters’ office.
In an interview on the doorstep of one of the two homes she owns on Auckland’s exclusive Paritai Drive, Bee Lin Chew said she was a good friend of Peters and his partner Jan Trotman.
Very strange. I’ve never heard of this before. Those going always have a specific rationale such as being a Minister, or an artist or media etc. I was fortunate enough to go a few years ago – but I applied through the media programme, and did a series of around 20 blog posts on Scott Base and the work of Antarctica NZ there.
Chew says she isn’t a donor to NZ First, and there is no reason to doubt her. So we can only assume that Winston just sees spots to Antarctica as something he can hand out to his friends.