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More on Scampi 2

More backgrounder so you can understand the Scampi Scandal and why the secret tape was suppressed.

This is the valedictory speech of Ian Ewen-Street.

Richard, in case you hadn’t noticed, Sue is young, beautiful and highly intelligent, whereas I’m…. well, I’m not. Even my kindest friends would describe me as middle-aged, overweight and bald. Richard, that’s not a scandal, it’s a bloody miracle!

But I knew I’d chosen the right woman a few days later when we were walking through the Bowen House tunnel and came across Richard Prebble, so I stopped to introduce them. It’s not often you see him stumped for words, but he uttered not a syllable when Sue greeted him with the words “Hello Richard, thank you for making me famous!” and he was still recovering and backing off towards the travellator when Sue called out – “but watch out for my father, he still wants to kill you!” That’s my girl!!

Yes, the scampi scandal! I can joke about it now, but it was undoubtedly a difficult time for me. But a great lesson in life’s rich tapestry. A great experience in finding out who one’s friends are – or even more pertinently, who one’s friends aren’t!

My sincere thanks to all the members of the Primary Production Committee – especially David Carter, Doug Woolerton, Clayton Cosgrove, Gerry Eckhoff, Dover Samuels, Phil Heatley, Janet Mackey and Harry Duynhoven – I know I became the subject of some wonderful jokes for you, but I am also aware that your friendship and support kept me sane through that time. Thank you!

Working in the PPSC was a real highlight for me. I enjoyed the work, I enjoyed your company – including the support staff of Bob Bunch, Mary Hay and Steven Mitchell – and I shall miss you all.

But I also have to say that I am convinced that you got parts of the scampi inquiry badly wrong. I believe you shot the messenger and allowed the real culprits to get away with perpetrating one of the biggest frauds and one of the gravest injustices in NZ history.

I struggle with the suggestion from some people that there was no evidence of any wrong-doing. There was. Affidavits are sworn evidence. They have convicted murderers in the past. I agree that someone may argue that it may not be possible to string together a long sequence of events and say that they prove a certain outcome, but if you treat each piece of evidence as a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, there are more than enough pieces to see the overall picture of premeditated offending. And please don’t forget the evidence of the people who made submissions to the PPSC, but had their evidence returned because they alleged criminal behaviour and that was outside the terms of reference for the inquiry. How can you weigh up evidence if you send it back to the submitter, especially if you then claim there is no evidence?

If the next government wants to follow up on the scampi issue and restore my faith in the political system, I suggest that a good place to start their enquiries would be Helen Cull QC, the lawyer who convened the State Services Commission inquiry which ran in parallel with the PPSC inquiry. She got it right. She knows pretty much what happened, but her final report does not reflect this because her terms of reference were limited to investigating the role of the Ministry of Fisheries. I believe she should be asked to publish her real findings and the people guilty of raping and pillaging the scampi fishery brought to account.

I think the incoming government should also heed the words of former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer when he described the criticism of the Ministry of Fisheries by both the PPSC and the State Services Commission as the most scathing criticism of a government department in NZ history. But what has happened as a consequence? Did anyone get sacked? Pensioned off? Slapped on the wrist with a wet bus ticket? No, nothing. The then CEO of the Ministry put out a press release saying that the Ministry had been vindicated. They had not. He should have been falling on his sword, but instead he continued the fantasy within the Ministry that somehow they are beyond the law, that they can ignore the rulings of the High Court and the Court of Appeal with impunity. And that they can ignore Parliament.

I believe the Ministry should also be made aware of their responsibilities under the Fisheries Act (and international treaties) to address the social and economic well-being of coastal communities. It is simply unacceptable that small fishers in such fisheries as cockles, whelks, geoducs, paddle-crabs, pilchards and others can be put out of business and their lives destroyed by the whim of ministry officials. The RMA is a tool in the toolbox of the management of fisheries, it is not an end in itself. And it most certainly should not be there for the purpose of hugely enriching a small number of fishers at the expense of others and the ecological sustainability of the fishery.

It is my opinion that this is a Ministry which needs a thorough shake-up in the upper echelons of the bureaucracy and imbued with the realization that they are public servants. They are paid to serve the public interest and they are there to manage the ecological sustainability of the fisheries of this country.