Barry Soper: The minister, the 'threat' and the animal rescue group

Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Thursday, 7 March 2019, 5:59AM
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo / File
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo / File


It was a stern Prime Minister responding to an allegation that one of her ministers had threatened to withhold funding from a voluntary animal evacuation organisation if it didn't stop its criticism.

Jacinda Ardern said it was "absolutely not" the behaviour she'd expect of a minister and if evidence was provided she'd be open to seeing it.

The threat allegation centres on last month's fires in the Nelson district and it was made in a Parliamentary select committee by Steve Glassey, the founder of Animal Evac NZ.

Glassey's no slug when it comes to working in disaster areas.

He was involved in disaster response management after the Samoan tsunami, the typhoons in the Philippines and Laos and the Christchurch earthquakes.

His volunteers came from all over the country to assist in the Nelson fires but were initially stood down along with other specialist teams by Ministry for Primary Industries despite the fire raging out of control.

Meanwhile farmers were desperate and frustrated by what they saw as bureaucratic red tape.

They wanted to find out what was happening to their stock.

After initially being rejected Glassey and his team were invited back by MPI to do their stuff as things got worse.

As it is, his organisation wanted to work on the National Disaster Resilience Strategy to put in place a better system in the future.

MPI Minister Damien O'Connor had a word in his ear, in the presence of a volunteer, that he should be more positive about how the system was working and in the same breath is alleged to have talked about future funding.

As he was driving away, Glassey's insistent O'Connor leaned out a passenger window and told him that "you can't go riding us and then come to us for funding."

O'Connor was quite up front about his conversation with Glassey but seemed to dig himself deeper into the hole he was trying to extract himself from.

He told the animal rescuer it's really important to be positive "when we're trying to negotiate a better deal with him."

O'Connor says by Glassey going around criticising MPI staff at every opportunity, when everyone's doing their best, isn't a productive way to go forward.

Threat or no threat?

As the Prime Minister has often told us, read between the lines!

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