Selwyn MP at ease with background role

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 25/05/2013
Amy Adams and Gerry Brownlee
STACY SQUIRES/Fairfax NZ
DRESSED FOR THE PART: Selwyn MP Amy Adams and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee at the Hororata Highland Games. Adams says she does not mind being in a supporting role for Brownlee.

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Amy Adams is happy playing second fiddle to "front man" Gerry Brownlee as he orchestrates Canterbury's earthquake recovery.

The Selwyn MP was appointed Brownlee's deputy in December 2011 as his workload increased with a second major portfolio - transport - and by assuming direct responsibility for the problematic Earthquake Commission.

Adams has rarely fronted public briefings or the media on quake-related issues in the past 18 months despite Prime Minister John Key saying at the time she would be "spending a lot of time on the ground in Christchurch".

Labour earthquake recovery spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel questioned why the "capable" associate minister was not delegated more responsibility, while community advocate Leanne Curtis said "invisible" recovery leaders "lacked relevance".

Adams told The Press the earthquake recovery portfolio was unlike most in which areas of responsibility could be "carved off".

She was the "formal conduit" between the Government and the forum of community representatives appointed by Brownlee in 2011 and, dovetailing into her role as environment minister, had a leading hand in the region's draft Land Use Recovery Plan.

"We really run it that I work with Gerry but behind the scenes. He's clearly the face of it. It is his portfolio and he has to be across all of the details.

"In the meantime, I have some fairly big portfolios of my own. I don't have time to be at all the meetings and all the briefings for earthquake stuff that he's at."

Adams, who is also communications and information technology minister, was given the job ahead of Kate Wilkinson and Nicky Wagner, whose respective Waimakariri and Christchurch Central electorates were hit hard by the quakes.

She conceded her appointment had not greatly reduced Brownlee's workload.

"The buck still stops with Gerry as the front man and lead minister.

"I feed into, assist and provide a bit of a sounding board on some of those decisions but he is definitely the one doing the heavy lifting."

Whether she was visible enough was "for others to gauge".

CanCERN spokeswoman Curtis said Adams was rarely spotted outside the community forum but regular meetings have been arranged.

"By her own admission because she's in Selwyn, she doesn't necessarily see all that's happening with residents who are worst affected. She wants to see that. She has been open to that, so we are establishing that line of communication now."

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Her lack of visibility was the result of Brownlee's wide-ranging decision-making powers, Curtis said.

"There are lots of people around who are doing lots of work and could be delegated decision-making but that doesn't appear to be happening, so therefore these people are invisible.

"Gerry obviously has to be all over it but this recovery is meant to be a collaborative recovery," she said.

Brownlee defended Adams, who he said had "very significant portfolio responsibilities".

"For us, getting freshwater issues sorted for Canterbury is extremely important, so I don't think we're in any position where Amy's out of the spotlight. I think she's an incredibly capable person and doing an excellent job," he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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