Twyford to correct Parliament after ‘remembering’ NZTA details

Phil Twyford talked big when in Opposition, but has been a bit of a disaster as a Minister in Government. The failures of Kiwibuild have been largely seen his failures, and he lost a portfolio over it.

Attention has now turned to the Government debacle over light rail in Auckland, and also too Twyfords handling of the NZTA board replacement. His ‘memory’ has been faulty on a number of things, including questions in Parliament that he incorrectly answered last week, and will correct this week.

Last Tuesday in Parliament: Question No. 9—Transport

Chris Bishop: Who is right about the cost projections for light rail, he, who said yesterday to Newshub that there is no cost blowout, or Winston Peters, who said that “The costings seem to have changed … in a way that is demanding serious investigation as to whether those forward projections are factual or not.”?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I repeat what I said yesterday: there is no cost blowout, because the twin track procurement process includes fundamental design and engineering decisions, so a final cost has not been settled on for either option yet.

An apparent difference between Twyford and Winston Peters. See NZH Winston Peters warned about possible light rail cost blowout concerns

Chris Bishop: Is it correct that the relationship between the New Zealand Transport Agency and NZ Infra is so broken that NZ Infra had to use the Official Information Act to get information from the New Zealand Transport Agency, causing months of delays to the light rail project?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I reject the assertion in the first part of the member’s question, but I would note that Sir Brian Roche, the new chair of the board of the transport agency, said on radio this morning that NZTA had dropped the ball, and that’s why Cabinet mandated Treasury and the Ministry of Transport to undertake a new assessment process of both options…

Twyford appointed Roche to chair the NZTA board after having discussed a possible proposal partly funded by the NZ Super Fund with Roche. See NZH – Twyford: NZ Super Fund bid for Auckland light rail was not solicited – “Transport Minister Phil Twyford says it is defamatory to suggest he has been lying about whether the NZ Infra light rail proposal was unsolicited.”

Chris Bishop: Does he stand by his statement that no one on the New Zealand Transport Agency board asked to stay on?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes, I do.

After subsequent questions from stuff Twyford says he remembers differently now and will correct his statement in Parliament.

Stuff:  Phil Twyford repeatedly ‘forgot’ key NZTA job offer, until he couldn’t

Minister of Transport Phil Twyford has said repeatedly that the former board of the New Zealand Transport Agency – with which he had a fractious relationship – did not wish to be reappointed and that the replacement of all but one of the board members last month was due to the board’s term ending.

But now sources have confirmed to Stuff that this was in fact not the case and that some board members did ask to be reappointed, raising questions over whether Twyford misled Parliament.

In response to questions from Stuff, Twyford has now changed his story.

“When the Minister answered Chris Bishop’s question in the House – which was a supplementary question not on notice – his recollection was that no one had offered to stay on”, a spokeswoman for Twyford said.

“He [Twyford] remembered that he had asked Mark Darrow [a former board member] to stay on the board temporarily in the interests of continuity” the spokeswoman said.

“The Minister has now had a chance to review his correspondence from May and see that, in response to his request, Mark Darrow had said he would be interested in staying on for a second term”.

“The Minister will correct the answer in the House at the first opportunity'” the spokeswoman said.

But sources told Stuff that other board members were also approached about being reappointed.

Twyford’s recollection on the matter has repeatedly failed him on this point. He also confirmed to Stuff in September that no one on the board expressed a preference to stay on. Asked whether any board members asked or wanted to stay on, Twyford said on September 19 that, “no, everyone had reached the end of their terms”.

Bishop said Twyford had “serious questions to answer”.

“He is on the record in Parliament saying that nobody on the New Zealand Transport Agency board asked to stay on the board, and he’s now being contradicted by multiple people and has serious questions to answer,” Bishop said.

I’m sure Bishop will be asking Twyford more questions in Parliament.

This – both the light rail proposal and NZTA – look very messy issues, with Twyford in the thick of the mess.

His competence as a Minister in charge of Kiwibuild was found wanting to the extent he lost his portfolio.

His competence as Minister in charge of the NZTA and the light rail proposal looks increasingly suspect. Apart from the dual messes he either can’t remember basic information related to his appointments to the NZTA board, or he misleads or lies to Parliament.

Twyford is currently ranked 4 in Labour’s lineup, and is still Minister for Economic Development and Urban Development and Transport (having lost Housing in reshuffle).