Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: It’s time for the Auditor-General to investigate Mahuta contracts

Back in May, Point of Order drew attention to the work by journalists outside of the mainstream media who had been delving into public posts filled by members of Nanaia Mahuta’s family and payments made to companies with which family members are associated.

The Platform – for example – reported (HERE) on the questions raised after two payments come to light from Ministry for the Environment to companies owned by Mahuta family members for their roles in an expert group.  In another article (HERE) The Platform drew attention to co-governance roles filled by family members and the influence the family was wielding on the restructuring of New Zealand’s governance.  

Much of the information that had come to light at that time and subsequently has been winkled out and posted in tweets by the pseudonymous “Thomas Cranmer”.  

Partly by tapping into Thomas Cranmer, the New Zealand Herald has drawn its readers’ attention to the matter of the Mahuta appointments.  Other media – notably Stuff and RNZ – have been  curiously lacking in curiosity. 

DR BRYCE EDWARDS,  director of the Democracy Project, in a column posted in July mentioned  the mainstream media’s bemusing avoidance of the Mahuta matter.   Today he is revisiting the issue and makes the case for an inquiry by  the Auditor- General or the Public Service Commission.

Public Services Commissioner Peter Hughes has been tasked with running a ruler across the entire public service to ensure everything is above board – a request that came from Public Services Minister Chris Hipkins. Hipkins was asked to examine the issue by Mahuta following several news stories outlining concerns about potential conflicts of interests.”

Dr Bryce Edwards writes… 

Pressure is increasing on the Auditor-General to undertake an inquiry into numerous contracts, appointments and grants awarded to members of Cabinet Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s family by various government departments she has had official responsibility for.

Allegations and revelations are mounting up, meaning this issue can no longer be ignored. As economist and political commentator Eric Crampton wrote yesterday, if the allegations – especially those documented by Herald journalist Kate McNamara – bear up, then

“New Zealand is a fundamentally corrupt country. If it doesn’t, the air needs clearing”.     Continue reading “Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: It’s time for the Auditor-General to investigate Mahuta contracts”

Petition (that disappeared) was signed by Pakeha mums who fear race now comes first in Plunket’s baby-care priorities


Mothers are aggrieved by what some say is a racist policy instituted by New Zealand’s most cherished parenting organisation. Graham Adams argues it is just one example of growing dissatisfaction over preference granted on grounds of ethnicity.


In terms of the nation’s traditional iconography, it’s hard to decide whether Sir Edmund Hillary or Plunket nurses rate more highly in the popular imagination.

For many New Zealanders, Hillary represents the epitome of individualistic adventure while Plunket nurses looking after anxious mothers and vulnerable babies represent the best of community spirit.

Nevertheless, news came this week that Plunket is a “white supremacist” organisation, for which root-and-branch regeneration will be inadequate. (See Cate Broughton’s Plunket takes on its history, and future, to be ‘a better Treaty partner’, and a response to this by Linda Bryder: Plunket founder driven to reduce high infant mortality rate.)

This assault on Plunket’s reputation — let alone its very existence — will seem to many as outrageous as someone demanding Sir Ed’s image be taken off the $5 note because he was a white supremacist who denied Tenzing Norgay the chance of being the first person to stand on the summit of Mt Everest.

The case against Plunket — a charitable trust largely funded by taxpayers — rests mainly on views on race and eugenics held by its founder, Sir Truby King, who died 83 years ago in 1938. Continue reading “Petition (that disappeared) was signed by Pakeha mums who fear race now comes first in Plunket’s baby-care priorities”

The dangers of putting media on the government’s payroll

Accusations by Stuff journalist Andrea Vance that the Prime Minister leads an unusually secretive government don’t tell the whole story about its desire to control information, says Graham Adams.

He has taken a closer look at the guidelines for the new $55 million journalism fund in an article for the Democracy Project

He writes:

Despite widespread cynicism about the Government’s ability to fulfil its promises — whether it is KiwiBuild, light rail along Dominion Rd, or planting a billion trees —  journalist Andrea Vance still found enough fresh outrage last week to launch a blistering attack over a pledge Jacinda Ardern made in 2017 to lead “a more open and democratic society” that would “strengthen transparency around official information”.

In fact, Ardern’s lack of transparency was on show very early in her prime ministership. Shortly after the 2017 election, she refused to release notes from the coalition negotiations between Labour and NZ First — leading one journalist to opine:

“A month seems early for a new government to dash hopes of a fresh start yet Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s team seems determined to break the speed record when it comes to disregard for public transparency.”

From Vance’s standpoint as a journalist, little seems to have improved since then.

The damning conclusion she arrived at after citing delays in responses to Official Information Act requests and ministers’ refusals to be interviewed was:

“At every level, the government manipulates the flow of information.”

It’s not difficult to find other instances of the Government denying access to important information in addition to those Vance mentioned — not least its record of obfuscation over significant details of its Covid-19 management and vaccination programme.

Examples of the kind Vance offered of the government hiding or distorting important information are the most obvious form of political censorship. There is, however, another form of political censorship which can be even more insidious — that is, attempting to impose narratives which suit the government’s purposes and thereby crowd out competing views. Continue reading “The dangers of putting media on the government’s payroll”