12 Feb 2019

Tokelau Finance Minister admits trip to see helicopter

10:20 am on 12 February 2019

Tokelau's Finance Minister has admitted to making a "joyride" trip to view a helicopter which was controversially bought without approval and later sold.

18072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Wellington High Court.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Siopili Perez, who is also a faipule, or leader, in Tokelau, made the comments on Monday during a landmark sitting of the territory's High Court in Wellington.

Two former Tokelauan public servants, Jovilisi Suveinakama and Heto Puka, are suing the government after they were dismissed in 2017 for buying two helicopters for Tokelau, which cost $US2.4 million.

Mr Perez told the court the government never approved their purchases.

But under questioning by John Goddard, the plaintiffs' lawyer, he said he visited one of the helicopters in Auckland before it was bought.

Siopili Perez: "But it's true, I was given a joyride."

John Goddard: "And on one of the helicopters there was the Tokelau flag?"

SP: "I do not recall, I do not recall a flag there."

Earlier, John Goddard had told the court the plaintiffs' dismissals were unlawful because they were not agreed to by Tokelau's General Fono, or parliament.

The plaintiffs are seeking costs from Tokelau's government.

Dozens of New Zealand's Tokelauan community are attending the hearing, as is New Zealand's Administrator to Tokelau, Ross Ardern.

The hearing continues.

Correction: A previous headline for this story implied that Mr Perez had taken a "joy ride" in one of the helicopters, but this is not correct - he was given a "joyride" to visit one of the helicopters