7 Feb 2017

Govt needs to take responsibility for Thiel deal - Labour

6:08 pm on 7 February 2017

The government must take responsibility for its business deal with Peter Thiel, which saw the billionaire make tens of millions of dollars in profit - while taxpayers got next to nothing, says the Labour Party.

American billionaire Peter Thiel.

Peter Thiel Photo: AFP

Mr Thiel's company, Valar Ventures, profited enormously by using an early buy-out clause in its contract with the government's venture investment fund - known as NZ-Vif.

The fund made almost nothing.

Together they had been investing in companies like the software accounting firm Xero.

Labour immigration spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway said Steven Joyce was the Economic Development minister at the time and needed to take responsibility.

"It's pretty clear that New Zealand has gained absolutely nothing out of these two deals with Peter Thiel. He's done very well out of them, but New Zealand has gained absolutely nothing. And I just think it shows you that we've got in Steven Joyce somebody who is cavalier with taxpayers' money. As Minister of Finance, that's not a good look".

Steven Joyce said he was not involved in the deal in any way.

"The ministers come in afterwards and we're asked to announce things from time to time, but it's right and proper that Ministers have no involvement, and I certainly didn't, in terms of who the NZ-Vif does its deals with."

Mr Joyce said if the public had questions about the lack of return to taxpayers from the deal while he was minister, they should not be directed to him.

"That would be a question for the architects of NZ-Vif who set it up and that's our friends in the Labour Party."

However New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said if Mr Joyce wasn't closely involved in the deal then "pigs can fly".

Mr Lees-Galloway also said it was an unacceptable answer from the minister in charge.

"Steven Joyce was the minister in charge of the NZ-Vif at the time that deal was made.

"He had been the minister for three years, I think people are sick and tired of Steven Joyce refusing to take responsibility for the decisions he makes," he said.

The Green Party said the government's terrible lack of business acumen had again been exposed with the deal.

Co-leader James Shaw said the National government had again been exposed as being out of its depth when it came to doing business.

"I think it's another shocking example of this government's terrible business acumen - I mean I've travelled all over the world and nowhere have I seen such an incompetent government when it comes to writing contracts.

"You add this to the Sky City deal, the Saudi sheep deal. They're just giving away public money for nothing."

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