Cosgrove hits back at Fisheries 'smear'

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 08/07/2012
Clayton Cosgrove
Labour's local government spokesman Clayton Cosgrove.

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Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove has denied accepting donations in exchange for drafting legislation, calling the accusations a smear campaign.

Cosgrove's relationship with fishing company Independent Fisheries came under fire on TV3's The Nation yesterday.

He was asked if there was a conflict of interest in accepting money from the company, which could have benefited from a private member's bill he was working on.

In April, the Star-Times challenged Cosgrove for accepting $17,500 from Independent Fisheries but overlooking the labour abuses aboard foreign charter vessels. He said he fought for workers' rights, "always have, always will, a life member of the Labour Party since I was 14. I don't have to justify my credentials to anybody".

In 2009, the former Waimakariri MP drafted a bill to ease restrictions on residential developments in the Christchurch International Airport and Cranford Basin areas, including land owned by Independent Fisheries.

The company is among a group of property developers and landowners who have joined a High Court bid to overturn a decision by Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, who rezoned some of the land under his emergency earthquake powers.

The changes, made last year, meant some some landowners in the area could develop their sites while others, including Independent Fisheries, still could not.

Cosgrove accepted $17,500 in campaign donations from the firm, including $2500 in the year he drafted the bill. However, he denied the money was in exchange for proposing legislation favouring Independent Fisheries.

Independent Fisheries chief executive Mike Dormer said it did not make payments to Cosgrove in connection with the bill. The company had also backed the National Party financially, he said.

Cosgrove said there was no conflict of interest because the donation came with no preconditions.

"I would never accept a donation that came with a precondition," he said.

The private member's bill, which was never passed, would have also helped "about 100 mums, dads, property owners and small firms" in the area.

"I was a local MP and I was advocating for these people's property rights."

Cosgrove had no involvement with the High Court case, but said questions about the donations were a "smear campaign".

"National has their fingers all over this and it's an attempt to smear my reputation and also to smear the reputation of Mike Dormer [from Independent Fisheries] who is a hard-working, honest and respected businessman."

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The developers involved in the High Court bid, including supermarket giant Progressive and the Clearwater resort, own land in the affected area that they want to subdivide for housing.

They accuse Brownlee of erring in law, acting for improper purposes, acting unreasonably, and not following the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority's (Cera) consultation guidelines.

The challengers want the court to direct future decisions on the airport land.

In an affidavit, Brownlee said there had been "considerable public pressure" to redraw the housing line and free up sections for the city's red-zoners.

Christchurch Airport, the Christchurch, Waimakariri and Selwyn councils, Environment Canterbury and major subdivision owners, including Ngai Tahu and supermarket chain Foodstuffs, have supported Brownlee's position.

The hearing finished last week but a decision is yet to be made.

- Sunday Star Times

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