Street launches fresh attack

BILL MOORE
Last updated 13:00 04/12/2013

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Nelson-based Labour list MP Maryan Street has launched a fresh attack on National's Nelson MP Nick Smith after he rejected two men she nominated to become Justices of the Peace.

Ms Street says half a dozen Labour constituency MPs assured her yesterday that they had routinely approved JP nominations from list MPs in their electorates, and were "outraged" to learn that Dr Smith had turned down her two.

But Dr Smith said his own caucus colleagues had not always endorsed nominations from list MPs and he was happy for his record to be scrutinised.

Ms Street went public last week after Dr Smith knocked back her nominations of trade union official Neville Donaldson and the chief executive of Nelson's Public Health Organisation, Andrew Swanson-Dobbs.

JP nominations are only accepted from the member of Parliament for the electorate where the nominee lives, or from a list member with the endorsement of the electorate member.

Yesterday Ms Street said she had canvassed a group of Labour electorate members at a caucus committee meeting to find that all but one had approved nominations from list members.

"They say it's a convention, it's not politicised. Even if they don't feel enthusiastic about the person, they just approve nominations that other [list] MPs have made.

"Everyone goes through a police check and that sort of thing, and they understand that another MP might know the person better."

Having a nomination turned down was "unheard of".

"My colleagues are all of the view that Nick has politicised this issue, not me."

As well as noting that there were eight JPs living within 500 metres of Mr Swanson-Dobbs' home and several living near Mr Donaldson, Dr Smith had said that his advice from the JP association was that chief executives and managers were less desirable as JPs because their jobs made them far less accessible to the public.

Ms Street said she'd seen the Tasman District Council's chief executive manning a mobile JP service in the Richmond Mall last weekend.

Because Dr Smith's rejection of her nominations "seems to be completely atypical MP behaviour" she was lodging an official information request with the Justice Department to find out about the JP nominations he had approved in the past few years, she said.

"I don't mind if they have political affiliations but what if two of them live next door to each other or in the same suburb or they're CEOs? I think he's making up reasons to turn these people down.

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"There's an issue here and Nick's the one who is behaving badly in this."

West Coast-Tasman MP, Labour's Damien O'Connor, said today he had endorsed around five JP nominations from National list MP Chris Auchinvole.

"Most MPs are fully aware of the responsibility of nominating the person and of the person themselves being able to become a JP."

He had discussed the geographical spread of JPs with the association but hadn't turned down any of Mr Auchinvole's nominations, he said.

Mr Swanson-Dobbs confirmed that he wasn't a member of a political party and said he tried to be apolitical in his work. He had been approached by a number of organisations about becoming a JP and had asked Ms Street to support him during a meeting when she was Labour's health spokesperson.

"From there it's all in the public arena."

He too had seen the TDC chief executive manning the mobile JP service at the weekend, he said.

Dr Smith said he had a consistent policy of consulting with the politically neutral JP association which had recommended against the two nominations.

"Simply because Maryan Street

nominates a person for JP does not mean that I should automatically approve it, any more than from the other organisations in Nelson that nominate people for this role."

He had endorsed a nomination from Labour's Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene in May, he said.

"Any scrutiny of my nominations for JP will show that I've gone about it in a totally apolitical community-minded way," Dr Smith said.

"I would urge Ms Street not to drag community volunteers into a political debate about their appointment."

- Nelson

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