Labour, David Parker and a property developer

Questions are being asked over claimed favouritism involving Labour, David Parker and and a Queenstown based property developer.

The story was broken by Politik:  Labour and the Queenstown property developer

Questions are being asked about how a group of Labour MPs on a Select  Committee agreed to grant an exemption from the  overseas buyers  ban to a luxury Northland property development where sections are valued at up to $4.5 million each.

The exemption has now been removed for procedural reasons  but how it  got where it did raises some intriguing questions.

They are accentuated because the inclusion is so unusual, particularly for a Labour Government, to grant what in effect was a special favour to wealthy property developers.

Labour disputes that and says it was actually granting a favour to the local iwi who stood to be substantially disadvantaged if the development did not go ahead.

But POLITIK has found that the iwi have only a minority interest in the development.

On the face of it, the exemption flew in the face of everything Labour has been saying about property development since it became the Government.

You may not have access to that if you have passed your number of reads there, but if you get a ‘Don’t Panic message close that Window (X in top right of the Window).

Matthew Hooton picked up on it:

Kiwiblog covers it: The Government’s attempt to waive the law for a friend

his should be, as Matthew says, a major news story. I hope National pursues this further as the conflicts of interest in this are huge, as well as the hypocrisy.

 

And NZH has Hooton covering it: Why David Parker should stand down pending inquiry

As Economic Development Minister, he leads the mammoth Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, with its extraordinary regulatory powers and corporate-welfare schemes.

As Minister for the Environment, he directs everything from planned reform of the Resource Management Act to expanding the Emissions Trading Scheme.

As Trade Minister, he oversees New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, the implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and negotiations for post-Brexit free-trade agreements with the European Union and United Kingdom.

Parker even chooses which cases the Government will take to the World Trade Organisation on behalf of New Zealand exporters.

This is not all. As Attorney-General, Parker is the Crown’s senior law officer with responsibility for the Government’s administration of the law.

He decides whether the Government will appeal cases it loses to private interests in lower courts.

In effect, he appoints all new judges, has ministerial responsibility for the Crown Law Office and the Parliamentary Counsel Office and decides whether legislation is compliant with the Bill of Rights Act.

Parker is also an Associate Finance Minister, working with Grant Robertson on the Government’s $80-billion-a-year budget. He is one of Jacinda Ardern’s closest political advisors and a vital link to Winston Peters.

One of Parker’s key projects is the Overseas Investment Bill to implement Labour’s pre-election promise to get foreigners out of the residential property market.

According to Parker, the Bill is about values. It will ban overseas buyers of existing houses and ensure the property market is a New Zealand and not an international one.

Despite that, Labour MPs — against advice from parliamentary lawyers — inserted a clause in the Bill at the last minute to protect a single development from the new rules.

As revealed by the influential political newsletter Politik, the project is one by Los Angeles billionaire Rick Kayne and celebrity Queenstown property developer John Darby, with whom Parker was associated when working with the late Howard Patterson.

To some observers, this could look like a possible attempt by either the Government or naïve Labour backbenchers to personally favour a former business associate of the Government’s most powerful minister by exempting him from Labour’s flagship ban on foreign house buyers.

In 2006, he stood down as a minister after allegations he had filed false companies returns, for which he was cleared by the Companies Office. Now, though, he is exponentially more powerful and the Te Arai situation is far more sensitive.

The Acting Prime Minister should invite the proper authorities to investigate and Parker should again stand down in the meantime.

But the Acting PM jumped to parker’s defence in Parliament today. Question 1:

Hon Paula Bennett: How can he have confidence in the Minister in charge of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, David Parker, when it has been reported he has close personal relationships with high-end property developers who have sought exemptions from the bill?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The reality is that we inherited that deal from a former Minister Steven Joyce, who did not go through the consultation process, and if Amy Adams knew anything about the law she would know that full well. That being the case, Treasury gave us one set of advice, and the Speaker referred to a separate set of advice. As a consequence, we’ve acted on the Speaker’s advice.

The issue also came up in Question 3:

3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Associate Minister of Finance: What is the purpose of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Associate Minister of Finance): There are three main purposes. The first is to ban foreign buyers of existing New Zealand homes; the second is to bring forestry registration rights into the overseas investment screening regime to ensure they’re treated similarly to existing screening for freehold and leasehold forests, whilst at the same time streamlining screening for forestry to encourage foreign direct investment in the forestry sector; and the third and equally important purpose is to preserve policy space for future Governments to protect the rights of New Zealanders to own their own land. This policy space would, in practice, have been lost forever had this Government not acted to do these things before the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) comes into effect.

Hon Amy Adams: Was it the policy intent of the bill for developers of multimillion-dollar homes targeted at foreign buyers, such as the Te Ārai property development, to be exempt?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No. The transitional exemption that was put forward but has been ruled out of order was put forward with the intent of helping the iwi who had suffered long delays on the project. It was a time-limited, transitional measure. There was advice from Treasury that this was procedurally appropriate to allow an exemption. However, the Speaker has advised that the select committee’s recommendation is not within the Standing Orders. The Government accepts the Speaker’s ruling, and therefore the transitional exemption will not proceed.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, is it his intention to promulgate regulations under the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill to exempt the Te Ārai development, or any other development linked to John Darby, from the provisions of that legislation?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, and, indeed, the other regulation-making power in the bill—and the member will know this because she was on the select committee—would not allow such an exemption.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Minister: under this visionary and responsible policy, what proportion of New Zealand homes will no longer be able to be purchased by a foreign buyer outbidding a New Zealander?

Hon DAVID PARKER: There are currently 1.8 million homes in New Zealand, and more than 20,000 new homes will be built over the next year. Under this law, foreigners cannot buy any of the 1.8 million existing homes and can only purchase a fraction of the 20,000 new homes that would be built and would then have to either on-sell them or lease them to New Zealanders. The bill as reported back from select committee ensures that more than 99 percent of New Zealand homes will not be able to be sold to foreigners.

David Seymour: Was the bill’s process subject to any time pressure due to the need to pass it before the CPTPP is ratified?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes.

Hon Amy Adams: Since becoming the Minister responsible for the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, has he had any discussions about the bill and the proposed Te Ārai development exemption with the chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee, Michael Wood; and if so, when?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Obviously on a number of occasions, but I do that with every bill that I’m responsible for.

Hon Amy Adams: Since becoming a Minister has he met, corresponded with, spoken to, or texted John Darby or Ric Kayne, as the beneficial owners of the Te Ārai development, or any representative of their business interests; and if so, for what purpose?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No. I know thousands of people in New Zealand, including Mr Darby. I have bumped into him probably once or twice in the last decade. The last time I can recall talking to him was when I bumped into him, and it’s so long ago I can’t remember when it was.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, since becoming a Minister, has he met, corresponded with, spoken to, or texted any representative of John Darby and Ric Kayne’s lobbying firm Thompson Lewis; and if so, for what purpose?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Everyone in the House will know that GJ Thompson actually was the acting chief of staff here, so I’ve regularly spoken with him—unfortunately for the member, not about this issue. Someone made me aware that Mr Lewis had some involvement in this. I have not spoken to Mr Lewis about this at all nor corresponded with him. The two meetings that I can recall having with Mr Lewis since we were elected were in respect of carbon rights and forestry, and members of staff were present at those meetings to witness them, as well.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister saying that notwithstanding his proximity and the Government’s proximity to Mr Thompson, this is evidence that the Government is not corruptible on this matter and would somewhat suggest that Mr Thompson was far more successful with the previous Government?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I’m going to allow the Minister to answer the question. I am going to deduct two supplementary questions from the Opposition for the interjections from the acting shadow Leader of the House and the finance spokesperson.

Hon DAVID PARKER: The involvement of either Mr Thompson or Mr Lewis in this had no effect on my decision. The advice we had received from Treasury to the select committee, based on public submissions that were heard by all, was that this was an iwi-based development that had suffered interminable delays, and we had some sympathy for their position—

Hon Amy Adams: Iwi-based?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, that is as it was described to me, Amy Adams, and the paper trail will show that. The paper trail will show that. We had some sympathy for that position, and so we were willing to agree a transitional provision. We wanted it to be tight because we didn’t want there to be exemptions up and down the land, which is why the other regulation-making power is narrow, so that if future Governments want to unwind the ban on foreign buyers, they’re going to have to do it by primary legislation and not sneak it through by ministerial discretion.

Most ordinary people will roll their eyes at this if they take any notice at all, but some seem to thing it could be a big deal.

 

15 Comments

  1. Corky

     /  June 21, 2018

    Message to Ian Wishart. Time to remind the public about Parker and the ”Dunedin dealings.”

    • Time to remind people about sticking to facts and not making unsubstantiated accusations.

      • Corky

         /  June 21, 2018

        Printed in Investigate Magazine. That means it went past Wishart’s lawyers. And Parker hasn’t sued. We are talking about 10 years ago when I think he was Attorney General. The article may be in the magazines archives.

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  June 21, 2018

    Unless Parker is not telling the truth it looks like a non event.

  3. Blazer

     /  June 21, 2018

    ‘The exemption has now been removed for procedural reasons’….yawn.

    • Corky

       /  June 21, 2018

      It’s all about pressure, Blazer…relentless pressure. Ironically yawning is a good pressure release.

  4. artcroft

     /  June 22, 2018

    Seems strange that Labour were making only this exemption. Surely there were other iwi groups in the process of land development that could have gotten exemption of the basis of being brown. Why just this group?

  5. Zedd

     /  June 22, 2018

    The Tory ‘attack dogs’ are ‘off their lease’ AGAIN !

    turning a possible molehill into a mountain of SHITE.. as per usual 😦

  6. High Flying Duck

     /  June 22, 2018

    Interesting the Hooton article has been removed from the Herald with no explanation.
    His Twitter feed still has all his comments up though.
    Perhaps lawyers have been called?