The NZ Superannuation Fund (NZS) has knocked back a request from former National government minister, Gerry Brownlee, to verify details of an alleged meeting with recently-departed chief, Adrian Orr.
Brownlee was reportedly “incensed” over comments attributed to Orr in a May 15 media report claiming a Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) official mistook the NZS head for a KiwiSaver scheme representative prior to a meeting with the-then minister.
On May 16 Brownlee lodged an Official Information Act (OIA) request with NZS asking for the date on which “former CEO Adrian Orr attend[ed] a meeting with CERA in Christchurch at which he was asked what KiwiSaver Fund he represented”.
As well as the date, the Brownlee OIA requests the names of all other people present and “all written material, advice and communications” regarding the alleged meeting.
“Your request is refused on the basis that the [NZS] Guardians does not hold any information or records noting the KiwiSaver comments that were reportedly made to former NZ Super Fund CEO Adrian Orr,” the NZS reply says. “We are therefore unable to identify the meeting concerned.”
However, the NZS did respond to Brownlee’s final request for a copy of “all communications” between CERA and the NZS over January 2012 to April 2016 with a cache of materials.
The 13 pages of emails and letters between the two organisations – also supplied to a ‘private individual’ making a similar OIA request on the same day as Brownlee – show the NZS was considering ways to assist with the post 2011 quake Christchurch rebuild including direct investment opportunities and in an advisory capacity.
In a June 2011 email, Orr says: “We are happy to assist with in reason as a sanity check on investment ideas. We would be interested in investment opportunities subject to them meeting our criteria (hurdle rate) and other portfolio constraints.”
Orr, who took up the Reserve Bank of NZ governor role in March this year, told media in May that the NZS offers to help in Christchurch ended in frustration.
A March 2011 internal NZS email from a redacted sender notes the fund was struggling to put its case to government: “Over the past 12 months we communicated our investment mantra to various Ministers and Ministry’s including, amongst others, Treasury and MED – although I suspect they continue to think of us simply as a pool of capital rather than an active investor.”
Brownlee told media this May that Orr was in a “dangerous position” following the KiwiSaver comments. Whether the OIA request is prelude to legal action remains to be seen.
But if so, he wouldn’t be the only politician chasing public servants through the courts.
Soon-to-be Acting Prime Minister, Winston Peters, is currently pursuing legal action against certain public servants as well as former National ministers Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley regarding leaked details of an overpayment of his NZ Superannuation pension last year.