27 Oct 2013

Speaker rejects claim of misleading Parliament

7:06 am on 27 October 2013

Parliament's Speaker has dismissed a privileges complaint from the Labour Party that the Conservation Minister misled the House over when he knew about a draft submission on the proposed Ruataniwha Dam in Hawke's Bay.

The site of the proposed Ruataniwha Dam.

The site of the proposed Ruataniwha Dam. Photo: RNZ

In a letter, Speaker David Carter said the allegation that Nick Smith mislead the house was very serious, and proof of a very high order was needed.

Having considered the complaint, Mr Carter says he has found no question of privilege was involved.

The complaint was lodged by Labour Party MP Ruth Dyson, who claimed Dr Smith first knew about the draft by the Department of Conservation in July this year.

Dr Smith has repeatedly told Parliament he was unaware of the draft submission until it was reported by Radio New Zealand News in September.

Nick Smith.

Nick Smith. Photo: RNZ

He says Labour owes him an apology for claiming he interfered in DoC's decision-making over its submission on the dam. Dr Smith says there were differences of opinions within the department, but he played no role in it.

"Labour and the Greens have repeatedly made the accusation that I politically interfered in a decision by the department into what they submitted on the Tukituki (river). The Speaker has now dismissed their claim - if they were honourable, they'd do the right thing and say, 'Look, sorry we got it wrong' and people would be able to move on."

Dr Smith says the claims have been a political exercise to derail the board of inquiry process into the Ruataniwha dam.

Parties won't apologise

The Labour and Green parties said on Friday they would not apologise to the Conservation Minister.

Ruth Dyson says the Ruataniwha dam process has been dodgy from the outset, and Nick Smith will not be getting an apology from Labour anytime soon.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman says Dr Smith continues to play fast and loose with the facts.

"The Conservation Minister met with the department, after which the department radically changed their submission. So we had questions about that, we asked those questions.

"There's never been a satisfactory answer to any of those questions as to why suddenly the Department of Conservation changed its mind."

Dr Norman says the Ruataniwha dam project should be made to start over.