Prime Minister John Key is dismissing questions about Building and Construction Minister's directorship of an air conditioning company.
Maurice Williamson is under pressure from Labour to stand down as Building and Construction Minister because he is a director of Holyoake Industries, a company associated with collapsed construction group Mainzeal.
The National MP for Pakuranga has been a director of Holyoake Industries since 2003, and the company has since worked with Mainzeal, which collapsed into receivership last week, on projects including the Supreme Court.
Today Key said Williamson's position had been the same since he became the minister in 2009.
"Ministers all the time have potential conflicts of interest," Key said.
"They deal with it exactly that way - he's been dealing with that for four years."
Key said all ministers had to seek clearance from him about positions that might create conflicts.
"There's no indication at all either that he's either mismanaged that position, [or] done anything wrong," the prime minister said.
Williamson said in a brief statement last night that he had told officials he would not take part in talks relating to air conditioning.
Asked how it was possible to divorce air conditioning from any other part of the construction industry, Key said Williamson's position was no different to other ministers'.
"How does the Minister of Finance divorce the fact that he happens to be a taxpayer and actually determines tax policy?" he said.
Williamson barely broke his stride to talk to reporters on his way to the National Party caucus meeting this morning, but dismissed the issue.
"I have declared everything, always have done," Williamson said.
"I've not made any decision that conflicts me and if any time it ever came up I would exempt myself. It's just not a story."
LABOUR ON OFFENCE
Labour Party deputy leader Grant Robertson said it was inappropriate for Williamson to hold the building portfolio while he was potentially making decisions concerning Mainzeal.
"He [Williamson] is the director of a company which has had a long and deep relationship with Mainzeal," Robertson said.
"Our concern is that if he is making decisions about the future of Mainzeal, that may well have an effect on Holyoake Industries."
Robertson acknowledged that Williamson had declared the directorship and that it was an issue of perception, however he believed the perceived conflict existed even before the Mainzeal collapse.
"Is it appropriate for the Minister of Buildings and Construction to have as another job being director of a company that is involved in major and complex air conditioning projects, big building contracts, including government building contracts?" Robertson asked.
In a statement Williamson said he had instructed officials that he would "not receive papers on and would withdraw from discussions about heating and ventilation" because of his association with Holyoake Industries.
"I will continue to deal with issues related to Mainzeal, where that does not conflict with my declared personal interest."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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