Len Brown and the Chuang Reference

Len Brown

Ernst & Young’s independent review of the conduct of Auckland Mayor Len Brown during his two year relationship with Bevan Chuang found that the reference Brown gave Chuang for her job application with the Auckland Art Gallery in 2011 was the only employment related reference that he’d given throughout the review period (1 November 2010 to 21 October 2013).

It certainly looks like Brown gave his mistress preferential treatment in terms of the reference, but unfortunately the report doesn’t go far enough on this issue. The problem is that Chuang received a criminal conviction for unlawfully accessing a computer while working at the Auckland Museum back in 2008.

In October this year the NZ Herald reported that Chuang didn’t declare her conviction when applying for the role at the Art Gallery, and when they discovered her conviction four months into her employment she was promptly fired. On that evidence it appears that she was never a suitable candidate for the role.

And this is one area where the Ernst & Young report is sorely lacking, the report failed to ask:

  • When did Len Brown become aware that Bevan Chuang had a criminal conviction?
  • Did the Auckland Art Gallery have a policy on carrying out criminal record checks on prospective employees?
  • Was a criminal record check carried out for Bevan Chuang’s employment with the Art Gallery?
  • Was a criminal record check carried out for Bevan Chuang’s subsequent placements with the Council run Howick Local Board and the New Lynn Night Market?

Interestingly the Ernst & Young report says they looked into all of Chuang’s job applications with the Auckland Council and that other than with the Art Gallery, they found that Brown had no involvement with any other applications.

I have a copy of a CV authored by Chuang on 19 December 2011 (directly after she was fired from the Art Gallery) with Len Brown listed as the first of five references, followed no less by (at the time) the Director of the Auckland Art Gallery.

Chuang_CV_Author Chuang_CV_References

Brown may not have had a direct involvement in any further applications, but if Chuang was using that CV for her applications then he was having an indirect one.

The Bevan Chuang Timeline

Further details of the lurid Len Brown / Bevan Chuang sex scandal have pretty much continued daily since the story broke last Tuesday. While some affected parties have “revealed all” (namely Chuang and Whale Oil’s Cameron Slater) in an attempt to be shown in a good light, others have gone to ground in a hope it’ll all blow over. It’s made for a week of shocking and sentential headlines as Auckland’s political underworld has bubbled up to mix with those at the top.

If you’ve over the scandal and want the world to get back to business as usual, then read no further. If, on the other hand you want to get a feel of how it all played out then read on.

First, lets check out some of the key players:

On the Left

Bevan Chuang, Len Brown, Raymond Huo
Continue reading

A Baker’s Dozen of dud MP’s

Dud Muffins

A couple of weeks ago Whale Oil ran a general debate on whether MP’s should face a maximum of four terms and an age limit of 65. It’s pretty obvious that such rules have little merit.

For starters a four term limit is too short. If enacted it would see the end of 34 sitting MP’s including party leaders John Key and David Cunliffe. Also, I’m a believer in discriminating on merit first and foremost, if an MP’s over 65 and is still capable of performing effectively then why would it be fair to turf them out?

But the debate did get me thinking about ways to define what constitutes a dud MP. Instead of looking at MP’s performance in the house (which Trans Tasman already covers) or their press releases and questions (which Kiwi Blog has covered), I’ve looked at how Party’s have utilised their MPs against how many terms they’ve served.

Most Ineffectual MP’s by Terms served and Roles Appointed

RankNamePartyHighest RoleTermsAgeSexElectorateRole RankCurrent RolesTotal RolesRetiring
1Ross RobertsonLabour PartySpokesperson964MaleManukau East4427Confirmed
2Shane ArdernNational PartySpokesperson653MaleTaranaki-King Country4219Confirmed
3Eric RoyNational PartySpokesperson665MaleInvercargill4216Confirmed
4Paul HutchisonNational PartySpokesperson566MaleHunua4216Confirmed
5Lindsay TischNational PartySpokesperson565MaleWaikato4319Speculation
6Moana MackeyLabour PartySpokesperson439FemaleList4625-
7Colin KingNational PartyCommittee Deputy-Chair363MaleKaikoura1325Speculation
8Nicky WagnerNational PartyCommittee Chair360FemaleChristchurch Central1027-
9Chris AuchinvoleNational PartyCommittee Chair368MaleList1026Confirmed
10Jacqui DeanNational PartyCommittee Chair356FemaleWaitaki1026-
11David BennettNational PartyCommittee Chair342MaleHamilton East1025Speculation
12Katrina ShanksNational PartyCommittee Chair344FemaleList1037Confirmed
13John HayesNational PartyCommittee Chair365MaleWairarapa1034Speculation

What stands out from this ranking is the number of National Party members on the list, they have some real dead wood and are in desperate need of a prune.

The good news is that Ross Robertson, who I’ve ranked as New Zealand’s most ineffectual MP, has announced that he’ll retire at the end of this term. There’s also speculation that Colin King, Chris Auchinvole and David Bennett may also retire at the end of this term.

I’d wholeheartedly encourage all MP’s on this list to retire at the end of this term.

Continue reading

Local Government Debt Ranking for 2012

Local Government Debt 2012Last year I put together a Local Government debt ranking (based on the 2011 financial year) which attempted to compare Councils on what they’re borrowing, how fast they’re paying it back, and how much impact any borrowings are having on the Council.

With Local Government election campaigns in full swing, I thought it was a good time to revisit the rankings with updated data from the 2012 financial year.

Using the same methodology as last year, I’ve compared all of New Zealand’s Local Bodies equally ranked on three factors: Debt ratio (total Liabilities over Assets) (where lowest is best), Financial Costs as a proportion of total Operating Costs (where lowest best), and Financial Costs as a proportion of Loans (where highest best).

Since I’ve now got two years of data I can also rank the biggest movers, both up and down. But let’s start with the top ten worst Councils in terms of debt ranking.

Debt Ranking – Top ten worst Councils:

4+5TaupoBay of PlentyDistrict
6n/cTaurangaBay of PlentyCity
9+10Kapiti CoastWellingtonDistrict
10-2RotoruaBay of PlentyDistrict

What’s noteworthy about this year’s top 10 is both the two new entrants which have rocketed up the charts (Timaru District and Kapiti Coast District), along with the drop-outs (Kaipara District and Dunedin City).

It’s interesting that the two drop-outs have had substantial media scrutiny over the last twelve months in terms of debt, as they both struggle to come to terms with their burdensome debt commitments. The obvious question, why aren’t these two high profile Council’s still in the top 10?
Continue reading

PrimePort’s a sweet deal for Tauranga

Here’s my submission on the Timaru District Council’s proposed changes to PrimePort Timaru Ltd’s Ownership:



  • This submission supports the proposed restructure of the PrimePort ownership
  • The proposal sets a good balance between port control and efficiencies
  • Purchase of the investment properties is a prudent move
  • There are potential concerns around the lease of the container operations
  • The changes in governance should be beneficial for the future of the port


The proposal for the Timaru District Council to partially sell its stake in PrimePort brings both relief and sadness. Relief in that there’s finally a plan on the table to jump-start the port back into to life, and sadness in that the proposal put forward is an admission the current governance model was a complete failure, in terms of operating a successful and efficient port.

In recent years the port had continually disappointed, going through several rounds of layoffs and redundancy pay-outs following the loss of container trade.

Forming a partnership with another port should enable cooperation and efficiencies, opening up new opportunities for Timaru and also adding much needed expertise at the governance level. The Port of Tauranga is a large, successful port and it already has experience in operating a joint venture with its 50 percent stake in Northport.

Continue reading

Timaru’s full-time Mayor?

As reported in the Timaru Herald, the two Timaru District Mayoral candidates Steve Earnshaw and Damon Odey are at loggerheads, both claiming that they’ll be Timaru’s “full-time Mayor”. The daft phrase, coined by Earnshaw, couldn’t be further from the truth because both candidates have already indicated that they intend to continue with their other pursuits if they win the Mayoralty.

Correction: The nutty phrase was actually coined by Damon Odey, “in response to Mr Earnshaw’s earlier indications that he would keep practising as a surgeon”.

Steve Earnshaw vs Damon Odey

Regardless, in arguing his point, Earnshaw states on his web site:

I have had the highest attendance rate at council meetings, workshops and councillor cafes, and I have achieved many of my goals for council this past three years.

And in the Herald, Odey retorted with:

As far as I can remember, I’ve missed only one council meeting, and I’ve chaired all of the community development committee meetings since my appointment. Steve seems to be using these negative lines against me.

Fortunately, one of my policies from the 2010 Mayoral campaign was acted on and now all meeting minutes are available online, so it’s reasonably straight forward to determine who’s telling the truth. I’ve compiled a list of Elected Members and the meeting apologies they made throughout the Council term:
Continue reading

Why I’m not Standing

I would have loved to stand for Council this year, but being a new dad and busy at work I couldn’t find a way to make it happen. So is this the end, is it time to take the plates off the car and give up on pursuing a political career? Hell no! The plates stay on, the aspiration’s still there and I will be back…


United Future’s Horrible Month

This month has been an absolute disaster for United Future, firstly with it’s leader Peter Dunne having to offer up a resignation of his Ministerial portfolios over an embarrassing lack of judgement, and then with the Party voluntarily de-registering and failing to re-register, losing it’s $185,000 annual funding in the process.

In both instances, the Party has been sorely let down by it’s leadership. Prime Minister John Key has exercised accountability with Peter Dunne in terms of his embarrassing actions, but to date the Party has offered up no excuses let alone accountability over what is an equally embarrassing calamity.

So how did it all go wrong for the Party. First let’s look at the rules that are in place for Party registration.
Continue reading

Wheedle’s back, but something’s missing

No doubt you’ve seen the cheesy ads on prime-time television, with everyone dressed in orange, promoting the free online auction site Wheedle. I wrote about the history and demise of Wheedle’s first version last year, now they’re finally back with version 2.

Version 1 was pulled last October only days after it’s official launch, with multiple security vulnerabilities and technical problems exposed. At the time Wheedle’s Managing Director Carl Rees told the National Business Review (NBR) that he hoped to have the problems ironed out and the site back up by Christmas, or at the worst early in the New Year. Instead it took them six whole months to get Wheedle back online.

With a redesigned interface the site at least looks fresh, and the security problems that dogged it’s initial release appear to have been addressed (although there’s still been a handful of technical problems). They also have a big advertising campaign, free listings until mid-May and weekly smart phone giveaways for users that join and validate their accounts. But for a site that purports to be a Trade Me beater, something’s missing.

Continue reading

EQCLookup does what EQCTruths and the EQC Couldn’t

It seems a simple enough task; to give earthquake affected Christchurch residents an update on the status of their EQC claims. It’s a task that EQC themselves hadn’t been able to handle to date. Then when the anonymous blogger EQCTruths thought he’d give it a go instead, it ended in an epic fail with sensitive and confidential information included in the spreadsheet that he helped release.

Firstly Some Background

Following its dissemination, both EQC boss Ian Simpson and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee have talked to the media around the significance of the information included in the spreadsheet.

For each claim, the spreadsheet contains the street address, the EQC assessor and their estimated repair cost, the appointed contractor and their repair quote, along with several fields for covering the status of the claim.

Simpson talked to Campbell Live on Monday night. In the interview he admitted that EQC hadn’t been good enough at getting information to people and he made a commitment to contact all of his customers over the next three months. Interestingly he suggested that for customers who’ve had their repairs completed, he was happy for them to see what EQC’s repair estimate was for their property.

Continue reading