Whiff of scan­dal won’t hurt Key

Kapi-Mana News - - CONVERSATIONS - IS­ABELLA CAWTHORN Plim­mer­ton MAX SHIERLAW Hutt City coun­cil­lor BRIAN BRAN­NI­GAN Ti­tahi Bay CYRIL SALMON Ti­tahi Bay GOR­DON CAMPBELL

peo­ple and or­gan­i­sa­tions ready to give pithy opin­ions to counter the city coun­cil quotes.

If you want a ‘‘voice of the peo­ple’’, here’s a good rule of thumb: the fre­quent let­ter-writ­ers ain’t it. Nei­ther are the fre­quent sub­mit­ters, the Res­i­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers, the peo­ple with the fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity to have time to do all this and lobby coun­cil­lors dur­ing work hours.

Try ask­ing some­one on the street, wait­ing at the train sta­tion, or vol­un­teer­ing for the creche or rugby club. Any­one, in fact, other than those who al­ready dom­i­nate air­time. would be $300 less.

But few coun­cil costs are linked to the num­ber of res­i­dents. Most costs are ei­ther fixed, vari­able per prop­erty, re­late to busi­ness, or other non-pop­u­la­tion fac­tors.

I can’t think of many coun­cil ac­tiv­i­ties for which our costs would rise sub­stan­tially if we had an ex­tra 0.5 peo­ple in each house­hold.

It is hard to see us build­ing any more li­braries, pools, mu­se­ums or parks as a re­sult.

No more stormwa­ter costs, per­haps a bit more on water use and waste­water treat­ment, but again those costs are largely fixed. should not cost much more than $350.

The cost of $60,000 to buy and $50,000 to main­tain for the year would rep­re­sent ap­prox­i­mately 314 trips in the Porirua area, which I’m sure is far more than would be re­quired.

The coun­cil should sup­port the lo­cal com­pa­nies, which will prob­a­bly have mums, dads and grand­dads work­ing for them. If we are go­ing down this road, why are we us­ing a Lower Hutt-based com­pany?

When they want buses, schools of­ten want two or three. Will the coun­cil next look at buy­ing a fleet?

SER­VICE­MAN DIS­AP­POINTED

I ama for­mer ser­vice­man who has gone to both ser­vices at Ti­tahi Bay RSA for many years.

No­body from the coun­cil and the MP’s of­fice has both­ered to at­tend or mes­sage us.

Per­haps Nick has given up on us al­ready.

The lo­calMP lives just yards away, so it is very dis­ap­point­ing. Maybe next year we will ask for John Key.

Luck­ily for the Gov­ern­ment, not many vot­ers lie awake at night wor­ry­ing about the de­gree of trans­parency that should be nec­es­sary when for­eign trusts reg­is­ter in New Zealand.

Such mat­ters are, of course, of deep con­cern to tax lawyers and their wealthy clients.

Even so, the political re­al­ity is that most New Zealan­ders don’t spend much time pon­der­ing whether they should park their moun­tain of spare cash in a tax haven in the Cay­man Is­lands, or in one closer to home.

On past per­for­mance, the Key gov­ern­ment will prob­a­bly suf­fer lit­tle or no political fall­out.

This time the sub­ject is es­o­teric, and the rel­e­vant events oc­curred at a de­ni­able dis­tance from the Bee­hive. In essence, it seems Prime Min­is­ter John Key’s per­sonal lawyer, Ken Whit­ney, led a lob­by­ing ef­fort against IRD plans to con­duct a re­view of what de­tails the New Zealand au­thor­i­ties should re­quire when for­eign trusts are reg­is­tered here, and what ac­cess con­di­tions should be placed on the in­for­ma­tion.

The IRD had con­cerns about whether this coun­try might be used as a tax haven, and what rep­u­ta­tional risk this could pose for New Zealand.

Yet in the wake of the lob­by­ing ef­fort, the plans for such a re­view sud­denly dis­ap­peared from IRD’s work sched­ule.

Make of that what you will, one Ra­dio New Zealand me­dia re­port con­cluded.

If noth­ing else, this episode cast fresh doubt on the ad­e­quacy of the re­view of for­eign trust rules be­ing con­ducted by the Gov­ern­ment’s cho­sen tax ex­pert, John She­wan.

From the out­set, Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens have called for a wider re­view headed by a more clearly in­de­pen­dent fig­ure, such as a re­tired judge. In­stead, the Gov­ern­ment has cho­sen to con­tinue to rely en­tirely on She­wan.

By sheer co­in­ci­dence, the re­li­a­bil­ity of the coun­try’s checks on for­eign in­vest­ment took a fur­ther ham­mer­ing last week.

For years, the Overseas In­vest­ment Of­fice has come un­der fire for serv­ing, al­legedly, as a mere rub­ber stamp for for­eign­ers buy­ing up New Zealand land and re­sources.

Last week it emerged that two Ar­gen­tinian broth­ers, Rafael and Fed­erico Gro­zovsky, were granted ap­proval in 2014 to buy some prime New Zealand ru­ral real es­tate – One­tai Sta­tion in north Taranaki – de­spite hav­ing pre­vi­ously been found crim­i­nally li­able of en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion in Ar­gentina.

Re­port­edly, the broth­ers’ tan­ning fac­tory had care­lessly and/or in­ten­tion­ally dis­charged poi­sonous chem­i­cals into Ar­gentina’s Lu­jan river.

Un­der New Zealand law, the Overseas In­vest­ment Of­fice is sup­posed to as­cer­tain whether for­eign buy­ers are of ‘‘good char­ac­ter’’ and whether their ap­pli­ca­tion raises any en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns.

It is not known whether the Gro­zovskys vol­un­teered de­tails of their crim­i­nal record, or whether the In­vest­ment Of­fice both­ered to in­ves­ti­gate them be­fore ap­prov­ing the sale.

It hasn’t helped per­cep­tions of the ap­proval process that the Gro­zovskys were rep­re­sented by the now-no­to­ri­ous Mos­sack Fon­seca law firm, based in Panama.

Un­der fire, the In­vest­ment Of­fice has said it would be re­view­ing its ap­proval of the One­tai Sta­tion pur­chase.

In the past, the Key gov­ern­ment has emerged po­lit­i­cally un­scathed from pre­vi­ous brushes with im­pro­pri­ety and in­com­pe­tence.

It would seem a risky gam­bit though, to bank on the pub­lic’s in­dif­fer­ence, and on its low ex­pec­ta­tions of politi­cians.

Talk­ing pol­i­tics

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