Friday, August 18, 2017

Kate Wilkinson's crony appointment

Last month, Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith appointed former National MP Kate Wilkinson to the board of Landcare Research. Naturally, I sent away the usual OIA request. And naturally, it exposed the appointment as the usual crony stitch-up.

Here's how it happened. Back in February, Treasury sent the usual reminder to the Minister that he needed to make a number of appointments to CRI boards, including Landcare Research. The positions were duly advertised, and in May Treasury came back with a short-list of eight candidates for follow-up interviews. Kate Wilkison was not on that list, because she had not applied for the job. Four of the candidates were interviewed, and the Ministry made their recommendations. Then this happened:

The panel determined that Ngarimu Blair and John Rodwell are the preferred candidates for the Board. The panel's assessment of the interviewed candidates is outlined below. Following the completion of interviews you decided to appoint Hon Kate Wilkinson as an additional director to the Board.
[Emphasis added]

Yes, Goldsmith was so impressed by the qualifications of his former colleague (who hadn't even applied or been interviewed) that he decided to create a special position for her, at a cost of $24,000 a year. He then lied to Cabinet about it, claiming that Blair rather than Wilkinson was the additional director.

And that's how public sector board appointments in New Zealand work under National. They're not made on merit, but on politics, dished out as a spoil of office. Just like in the USA.