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A Victim Of A “Bullying” Government Speaks Out

Former Timberlands manager Kit Richards says the government has treated him “like a school yard bully” by putting pressure on Timberlands to have his current contract terminated. This afternoon he was yet to hear officially about his sacking. Chris Holm Reports.

Mr Richards resigned as Timberlands planning manager in January after the Government discovered he had sent e-mails to pro-logging groups suggesting they “put the heat on” Prime Minister Helen Clark and Timberlands Minister Pete Hodgson's plans to halt a beech logging scheme on the West Coast.

But last week it was revealed that days after his resignation Mr Richards was re-employed by Timberlands as a part-time consultant for the board.

Government reacted by strongly criticising the arrangement with Mr Hodgson calling the re-employment of Mr Richards “untenable”.

Last night after a meeting with the Minister, Timberland’s Chairman Warren Young announced that under “all the circumstances” the company believed it was appropriate to end all further contractual arrangements with Mr Richards

Mr Richards told Scoop he believed his re-employment by Timberlands had been blown out of proportion by the Government and was essentially a “non issue.”

“An inordinate of time is being spent- that defies any sort of rational analysis – to use the machinery of the state to try and beat-up on me”, he said.

He said he had only worked four paid days in Timberlands after his resignation in January. The other two days he spent cleaning out his office.

“The Government have leaped in thinking they had another major scandal, and they have ended up behaving like bullies..” Mr Richards said.

In Parliament Mr Hodgson said the government had received no “credible advice” that the work Mr Hodgson was doing could not be done by anyone else.

He also said it was inappropriate for a State Owned Enterprise to re-employ someone who was actively opposing Government policy regarding the company.

Mr Richards said the reasons for his re-employment by Timberlands were to smooth the transition for his replacement. He said he was not involved in areas where his personal views would allow him to come into conflict with the Government policy.

Mr Richards admitted others could also do his job. But he believed his experience in the company made him the best choice for the position, which was capped at 4 days a month.

He said he also felt singled out in the way he had been treated by the Government compared with its treatment of other public servants.

The opposition has accused the Government with hypocrisy in its dealings with Mr Richard’s consultancy, contrasting his treatment to that of former Police Commissioner Peter Doone, who after having been forced to retire early over an incident at a late night police check-point, was re- employed by the Government as a consultant for over $200,000 a year.

Mr Richards said while he would not comment specifically on the Government’s handling of Peter Doone in comparison to his treatment, “other than to say I think people can see the differences between the two.”

Mr Richards believed the court action against the government underway in the High Court taken by West Coast Timber could end up proving that he had done nothing wrong in sending the e- mail.

“I’ve heard numerous times just in the last couple of days [that my e- mails were] acting against the company’s statement of corporate intent.

“Of-course the statement of corporate intent, has not changed - by order of a court of New Zealand.”

“There is no way I was acting contrary to the interests company, it would be argued in every sense that anything that I was doing was to promote the option of beech forest management.”

At midday Mr Richards said he had still not been contacted by Timberlands officially over his dismissal.

“I’ve just had the press-releases from Timberlands, to be fair, they’re probably flat out with the court-action,” he said.

Mr Richards said he would be delighted to give evidence in any court proceedings taken against the government in relation to the end of beech logging on the West Coast.

© Scoop Media

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