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Jenny Shipley hits back over CERA accusation

Wednesday 13 Feb 2013 11:41 a.m.

Ex-prime minister Jenny Shipley (PHOTOSPORT)

Ex-prime minister Jenny Shipley (PHOTOSPORT)

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Former prime minister Dame Jenny Shipley is rejecting suggestions she faced a conflict of interest over her role as a director of collapsed construction firm Mainzeal while sitting on the CERA Review Panel.

Dame Jenny and other independent directors resigned from the Mainzeal board last week, a day before the company was placed in receivership.

However, she remains in her review position at the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA).

Mainzeal was a major service supplier to CERA, prompting questions in Parliament from NZ First leader Winston Peters about a conflict of interest for Dame Jenny - under whom he served as deputy prime minister.

In a statement on Tuesday, Dame Jenny said she "absolutely rejects" Mr Peters' allegations, saying there was "no potential for conflicts of interest whatsoever".

"The CERA Review Panel, of which I am a member, reviews proposed variations to rules, regulations and the law in relation to the Christchurch emergency powers and has no connection at all with the commercial letting of contracts," Dame Jenny said.

"For the record, I have never claimed any fees or expenses for my CERA Panel work because I felt that sharing my experience in this way was something I could contribute to Christchurch post-earthquake."

That's despite her being entitled to a $1000-a-day fee, after Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee sought cabinet approval in 2011 for panel members to be paid significantly more than the usual rate of $270 to $415 a day.

On Tuesday, Mr Brownlee told Parliament that CERA has two contracts with Mainzeal - one worth $8.9 million for the demolition of Christchurch's Clarendon Towers, and the other worth $2.1m on the QEII complex.

He said Mr Peters should explain to Parliament "why he thinks someone who is reviewing changes to law is somehow conflicted because they are the director of a construction company".

Prime Minister John Key also faced questions about Dame Jenny's continued position as chair of state-owned Genesis Energy, and said he sees no reason why Mainzeal's collapse should force her to step down.


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