Two brief thoughts on this imbroglio presently embroiling New Zealand First up in Rodney.
The first is that Simon Bridges is engaging in a fulsome rewrite of reality when he claims that MPs (and potentially Ministers of the Crown) threatening to withhold funding for projects for political gain is “not the way we do things”, particularly in the New Zealand National Party.
After all, it was only a few months ago that National’s then-Associate Housing Minister, Alfred Ngaro, was publicly stating through the media that National would deny funding to organizations which criticized it – in particular, singling out Willie Jackson and the Manukau Urban Maori Authority as targets for losing funding and a charter school application thanks to their trenchant criticism of the then-Government over housing policy and other areas.
Ngaro also directly claimed that he’d paid Jackson a personal visit to outline this rather brusque diktat that “bagging” National for alleged political gain or otherwise would lead to funding and approval for programmes championed by the critical figures and foundations in question being “off the table”; although Jackson disputes this.
I mention those last details because they sound eerily familiar to what is alleged to have occurred up at the Orewa Surf Club over the weekend between newly minted NZ First MP Jenny Marcroft and former National Defence Minister slash present local Rodney Electorate MP Mark Mitchell.
In specia, Marcroft is supposed to have asked for a meeting with Mitchell, turned up, and bluntly laid out that Mitchell was to cease his support for a particular river restoration project if he wanted it to see funding from the Government.
She reportedly stated she was there at the instruction of an unnamed Minister of the Crown.
This is allegedly supposed to have occurred due to Mitchell’s previous attacks on current Defence Minister (and present NZ First MP) Ron Mark. However, while that might be what Marcroft *claimed* was the underlying causation for her somewhat dubious actions, for various reasons partially related to internal NZ First politics [e.g. what Marcroft’s patron appeared to say about that incident when it turned up in the media], I’m not buying it.
An obvious line of suspicion would be to ponder the role of Shane Jones in all of this. After all, the Provincial Growth Fund falls squarely under his Ministerial Portfolios, and Marcroft is supposed to have directly sought an assurance from Mitchell that Jones would not be questioned in Parliament about any decision to award cash to the Mahurangi River project, particularly by National’s Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith [and given Goldsmith’s record in other areas, I would have been stunningly surprised if he could even locate the Mahurangi River on a map, let alone single it out in Parliamentary Question Time unbidden].
However, Jones has stated that he is not the Minister being referred to by Marcroft – and for what it’s worth, even though I have previously levelled quite some criticisms against him, I actually do believe him on this score.
Besides which, for all his faults, Jones tends to possess a certain degree of political cunning and a much more subtle selection of political underlings [‘tools’] with which to execute his will. I doubt he would have been stupid enough to engineer something as crystal-china-sledgehammer-
Instead, I cannot help but suspect that the age-old question – Cui Bono? [‘Who Benefits?’] – proposes a rather immediate answer here as to precisely *which* Minister of the Crown may be overtly responsible for what appears to have occurred.
The Mahurangi River lies in Rodney, and more specifically, runs directly through the town of Warkworth.
There is a particular MP, recently elevated to the ranks of Cabinet as a Minister, who lives in Warkworth and who has previously unsuccessfully contested the Rodney Electorate on quite a number of occasions.
This particular Minister has also had a bit of a history of using Marcroft as a mouthpiece – including, in an instance in which I was personally involved in (as the target), when it comes to perhaps morally dubious undertakings.
It is understandable why Marcroft would be employed in such a manner by this Minister – according to my information, they went to school together way back when.
It is also understandable why said Minister would wish to claw back any advantage possible from incumbent MP Mark Mitchell over the next two and a half years before they contest the Rodney Electorate again.
And that apparently includes endeavouring to deny Mitchell the ability to positively associate himself with a river restoration project.
Although personally, considering it has taken now some nine long years to get *any* National Party MP to even *acknowledge* there’s a problem with at least one of our more significant rivers, I probably would just have let him get on with it instead were I in the relevant decision-making position.
Still, all of this brought to mind a quotation occasionally attributed to Sun Tzu [although also cited by Umberto Eco as being of Indian origin]:
“If you wait by the river long enough, you will see the body of your enemy floating by”.
Unlikely, perhaps, in this case (as the river in question appears to be in need of some restoration work); but nevertheless, my penchant for purviewing political pop-corn aside, it might be good if the Minister in question would just get on with the job they’re nominally there for – rather than attempting to re-enact select scenes from House of Cards every two to six months with an approximately 50-50 win rate.