The new Minister supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Hon Nicky Wagner, has refused to release the contents of a document tabled at a 21 December 2016 meeting between Crown negotiators and Church Property Trustee representatives.
Entire pages of the document, embedded below, were redacted under the obligation of confidence and negotiation sections of the Official Information Act.
The Minister recently released various cabinet documents in relation to the Cathedral stalemate, including a 13 December 2016 cabinet paper presented by previous Minister Gerry Brownlee a week before the meeting. It recommended the approval of a $10 million payment toward the Cathedral reinstatement and a $15 million credit facility. In a Stuff article Minister Brownlee said that the offer was made in December, but diocesan chancellor Jeremy Johnson said no binding offer had been received.
Crown Law has provided figures under the Official Information Act on the money and time spent in relation to legal work completed in respect of Kim Dotcom and his associates which amounts to more than $5.8 million.
Crown Law writes that the United States Department of Justice is not reimbursing New Zealand for any of these expenses, even though the cases largely relate to charges that they wish to bring against Mr Dotcom and his associates.
Crown Law hours spent
are as at 8 February 2017;
include work on both domestic and mutual assistance (United States initiated extradition) legal proceedings;
exclude work completed to provide advice to other Government Departments, for example the Police or the GCSB who respectively picked up the bill for Crown Law’s advice to them; and
include most Crown Law legal staff time and some support staff time.
Using a conservative estimate of the value of the time spent ($140 per hour,1 which is the rate a Crown Law junior prosecutor would be billed out as – senior solicitors’ time is likely worth more, support staffs’ likely less), this comes to around NZD $3.6 million.
New Zealand has also covered the bill for work completed by external counsel on Crown Law’s behalf and expenses paid by Crown Law in relation to the Dotcom/Megaupload matters – another NZD $2.2 million.
This includes: $1.98 million on external barrister/solicitor fees, $171,800 on travel and accommodation, $23,151 on Court filing fees, $20,125 on photocopying, and $17,356 on professional fees including research material.
An excessive burden?
At least NZD $5.8 million has been spent on Kim Dotcom et al. by New Zealand so far, and it begs the question: was it worth it?
Should we have refused the United States’ mutual assistance request when it was made? Section 27(g)(i) of the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1992 allows New Zealand to refuse a request made by a foreign country if “in the opinion of the Attorney-General, the provision of assistance would impose an excessive burden on the resources of New Zealand”.
Kim Dotcom had hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets before the raid on his home and it’s not a shock that he has aggressively defended the cases brought against him.
If spending $5.8 million+ has not been an excessive burden on New Zealand, what amount would be?
At around 5:15pm today the Department of Internal Affairs released some of the information they hold on Peter Thiel’s application for New Zealand citizenship, emailed on mass to those who had made requests under the Official Information Act.
Peter Thiel has never lived in New Zealand and doesn’t plan to live in New Zealand. He’s a controversial figure. We looked past that because of a few New Zealand business investments, public speaking engagements, and a donation to the Canterbury earthquake relief fund.
Neil Strauss wrote a book in 2009 called Emergency about disaster preparedness. In one part he investigates the trend of the super rich applying for secondary citizenship in another country. They wanted to be prepared when “the shit hits the fan” by having a Plan B country to retreat to if there was some sort of disaster. Strauss said New Zealand would be a great country to have citizenship in but that our requirements are so strict. He settled for Saint Kitts and Nevis.
When you’re Peter Thiel and are worth US$2.7 billion, I guess you don’t need to settle.
Thiel has his Plan B, New Zealand, but don’t expect to see him around unless the world is falling apart.
Highlights and the full documents are embedded below:
PHARMAC currently funds the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for all girls under 20. The intention is that through ‘herd immunity’, males will be protected too. However, herd immunity does not help males who exclusively have sex with other males (and herd immunity doesn’t kick in for males at all until female vaccination rates are above a certain percentage).
The Ministry of Health’s Immunisation Handbook even recommends the HPV vaccine (and the Hepatitis A vaccine) for men who have sex with men (MSM). MSM are at higher risk for HPV infection, anal cancer and high-grade anal intraepithelial neoplasia. They are more likely to acquire HPV compared to other males. But they’d need to pay around $500 to buy the vaccine’s three doses themselves.
The application’s status is now ‘ranked’, which PHARMAC describes as “prioritised; PHARMAC has assessed the application and has ranked it against other funding options”. It has had this status since November 2013, well over two years.
It is preferable to vaccinate people at a younger age to reduce the chances of exposure to HPV strains prior to vaccination–the younger people are vaccinated, the stronger the immunogenicity. PHARMAC sitting on this means that for some people the vaccine will be less effective when it is eventually funded than if they received it today.
Below: PHARMAC’s response to an Official Information Act request on this topic. The funding of medicines is a numbers game so naturally all mentions of relevant dollar figures have been redacted by the agency.
In the interests of full disclosure, I filed a Human Rights Commission complaint about this issue last year.