top of page

Subscribe Form

Thanks for submitting!

Search

Thomas Cranmer: Sidestepping Conflicts - Wellington Style


The best sidestep in town used to be seen at the Cake Tin but the Beehive is now the venue to watch the most electrifying players in the capital sidestep conflicts with consummate ease and panache.



For many years the best sidestep in Wellington belonged to Christian Cullen. His electrifying change of direction and acceleration are the stuff of legend. Cullen is now long retired and his title has since passed to Doug Martin, the former Deputy State Services Commissioner and founder of Wellington-based consultancy firm, MartinJenkins.


Martin has a lower profile than Cullen ever had but his frequent changes of direction are no less exhilarating for his fans within government and bewildering to his opponents. Last November, the Herald reported that opposition parties had questioned Martin’s independence after he had been appointed as the independent chair of the government's working group to review Three Waters.


Christopher Luxon, at the time National’s spokesperson for local government, said:


It is concerning that the same firm that embedded a consultant in a senior DIA role working on the Three Waters programme has now supplied the independent working group chair. That deserves further questioning.


Act’s local government spokesman Simon Court said the appointment would not “deliver the kind of robust and independent critique of Three Waters that's sorely needed. Is MartinJenkins really going to criticise the work of MartinJenkins?”.


Then in May the Herald revealed that the government had spent $21 million on consultants and contractors for its Three Waters reform in the 20 months to the end of February. More than $2.5 million of that amount went to MartinJenkins.


In response to questions put to the government by the Herald, the Department of Internal Affairs confirmed that on top of the amount of $2.5 million, Martin was also directly paid an additional amount for chairing the working group.


When questioned about the apparent conflict of interest in his role as independent chair of a process intended to reconsider the work of his MartinJenkins colleagues, Martin declined to comment. Instead he referred the Herald to the DIA. A spokesperson for Minister Mahuta said “there is clearly no conflict of interest here. Doug Martin has neither had an ownership interest in, nor been director of MartinJenkins for some years”.


That explanation seems barely credible given that Martin still appears on the MartinJenkins website, complete with MJ contact details, and alongside the firm’s directors. Although best avoided, it is possible of course for two individuals (or teams) within the same organisation to work on different and potentially conflicting roles on one transaction provided that there are robust ethical walls in place that prevent the transfer of information between the two individuals or groups, and provided further that if an actual conflict arises (such as one team reviewing the other’s work) one of teams agrees to stand down.


However in the case of DIA and MartinJenkins, it appears that they cannot recognise the conflict, let alone manage it.


The rationale that there is “clearly no conflict” because Martin is no longer a director or shareholder of MartinJenkins is such a bizarre and arbitrary distinction that it can only make sense if you’re a fully paid-up member of Wellington’s governing class.


As if to demonstrate just how nimble his footwork is, when it was announced a few months ago that Martin had been hired by Wellington Water to conduct an independent inquiry into a fluoridation failure at its water treatment plants, the water utility confirmed to the Herald that the contract was in fact with MartinJenkins. One moment the independent chair able to objectively review the work of his “former firm” and the next, a MartinJenkins consultant. Chapeau!


As with all the greats, they inspire the next generation of players to imitate their strengths. And so it is with Doug Martin.


It’s no surprise therefore that when Minister Henare’s partner, Skye Kimura, set up communications agency Tatou NZ with Henare’s twin brother and other family members, she did not become a shareholder or director. Instead the agency is owned by Greg Partington’s Waitapu Group with Kimura being held out as the leader and CEO. The agency pitches for government contracts and even features Minister Henare in its promotional videos but as if by magic there appears to be no conflict with this arrangement.


The newest proponent of this style of business is former Cabinet Minister, Kris Faafoi. His new firm, Dialogue22, specialises in public and government relations, and is also owned by Waitapu Group. Faafoi is described as the leader and CEO of the new outfit, and like Martin and Kimura, is not a shareholder or director.


Will Faafoi take the view that when Dialogue22 is back in his old Beehive stomping ground lobbying former colleagues on behalf of commercial interests there will be no conflict to declare because, like Martin and Kimura, he is not a shareholder or director of the company he represents?


Unmanaged conflicts are not welcome at the best of times. Christopher Luxon can attest to that after last week’s revelations concerning one of his MPs. But the fact that questions relating to conflicts have been raised that go to the heart of the Three Waters reforms is particularly concerning. The reforms are controversial, wide-ranging and of national significance for our water resources. In the circumstances conflicts should be handled assiduously, and where there is doubt (or appearance risk), the government should err on the side of caution. It’s regrettable that it hasn’t on this occasion as it undermines reforms that are already precariously balanced.


Call me old fashioned but I prefer watching Cullen tearing the opposition to ribbons rather than Wellington insiders pulling questionable moves on an unsuspecting public. Ardern has shown herself to be singularly uninterested in this issue so there is no chance of anything being done before the election but perhaps a new government will see the sense in updating some of the laws of the game.


Thomas Cranmer is a pseudonym. You can read Cranmer's substack here

3,637 views75 comments

75 Comments


Just scabby sores full of puss, they need cleaning completely out.

Like

alanw
alanw
Oct 21, 2022

Strange. His LinkedIn entry says he is still a director of MartinJenkins.

Like

Al Bourne
Al Bourne
Oct 21, 2022

Watch this and shudder in your seat.

Once you have recovered circulate

https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=rm#inbox/FMfcgzGqRGVLCZtHNSDwWqZrkfSGSPdK?projector=1

Like
Al Bourne
Al Bourne
Oct 21, 2022
Replying to

Yes he is the kind of fireball we need.

Like

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. How many times does this have to be proven before people understand it? The political authority and power in this poor nation is strongly held and protected by a small minority of influential members and funders of the 3 main political parties who decide which political celebrites will be chosen and promoted for the voters to elect. These "cabals" have had too much power for far too long and the inevitable corruption has occurred. The result is incompetence, dishonesty, disregard for the "common" people and legalized theft of the money that is taken from the people or borrowed for them to somehow repay. I do not blame the people who have become corrupted. It is the people,…

Like
Replying to

Agree about both National and Labour and would include the Greens because they are out of touch with reality. The elite and influential people in the red and blue have become so accustomed to being the government that they take it for granted. They believe that there will be a few years of National, then a couple of Labour and back to the nats. Rinse and repeat. They assume that they will inevitably continue to control our government and have increasing authority and power over the people as though it is their "god given" right. Individuals, organizations and the systems they manage inevitably become corrupted by this entitlement to authority and power because those with the power begin to believe they are omnipotent.

Jacinda…

Like

Has my post been deleted bc it is no longer there? Or am I blind which I am prone to be at times? If so maybe there were one or more truths that moderators don't want to see the light of day. Never mind, truth is going to come out on all of this inversion.

Like
Replying to

Thanks for your message and support Raleigh, Ron and Janz. Over the target obviously. Appears as though some truths are too much, even for these guys. And I ain't even scratched the surface as many on here know. If the wires are correct, our localised cabal of crimminals already under control and playing out the pantomime to wake ppl up. Regrettably, a neutron bomb is required for most. But obviously BBH censour just like Jack and Fake Stream Media.

Like
bottom of page