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Bulldozer Smith Blunders Yet Again

Labour MP for Whanganui Jill Pettis has called on Dr Nick Smith to apologise for misleading the media and the public over his actions on the Ruapehu lahar threat when he was Minister of Conservation in 1999.

Dr Smith has claimed that he did not make a decision on the lahar issue because the final report on the lahar risk was not provided to the Government until June 2000 long after he had surrendered his ministerial warrant. (Wanganui Chronicle 20 June 2001).

Mrs Pettis said that Dr Smith was suffering from a very bad dose of political amnesia.

"I can understand why he wants to divert public scrutiny from his indecisiveness on this matter when he was Minister of Conservation but the record is clear. Nick Smith received a comprehensive briefing from the Department of Conservation along with the final Assessment of Environmental Effects in the first week of August 1999."

"At that time the general election was four months away and he had ample time to make decisions on the actions he wanted taken in response to the lahar threat."

"The Environmental Assessment was published in April 1999 but not publicly released by Nick Smith when he was Minister. It had to wait until Sandra Lee took office and released the report along with her decisions on how DoC was to respond to the lahar threat in May 2000."

Mrs Pettis said that if Nick Smith had wanted to advance the bulldozing of the crater rim of Ruapehu he could have made decisions to this effect in the second half of 1999 when he was still a minister.

"Instead he kept the reports secret and sat on his hands. He preferred to kick for touch, seemingly hoping that the impending election defeat of the National administration would get him out of the hot seat."

Mrs Pettis said that the report on the lahar that was produced in June 2000 was an independent review of the Environmental Assessment commissioned by Sandra Lee in May 2000.

"Dr Smith is being extremely disingenuous, to be polite, in now claiming he couldn't make a decision on the lahar threat when he was Minister because he was waiting for a report that he hadn't asked for and nor had anyone else at the time."

"Nick Smith is trying hard in opposition to give the impression he is bold and decisive but instead he is becoming notorious for his monumental blunders. As a minister it is clear he was weak and indecisive."

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