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Peters Confirms Meurant's Resignation Received

Rt Hon Winston Peters today confirmed that he had received the resignation of Ross Meurant.

Over recent years I have been engaged part time as a researcher to Rt Hon Winston Peters on trade and primary industries. With a Master’s degree in Public Policy and experience as Under Secretary for Agriculture and Forestry and Chairman of the Primary Industries Select Committee, I was well qualified for the role.

During the period I have been engaged by Mr Peters I have also been involved in a range of business activities ranging from equestrian related business to a shareholding director in a technology company and to investment abroad. In this latter activity Peter Simunovich and I have had a formal business relationship since 2001. None of our business activities are in New Zealand. I have no interest or involvement in any fishing operation in New Zealand whatsoever.

During this same period I also had a business relationship with Neil Penwarden of Barine Developments in that we were well advanced in a comprehensive pilot study involving third parties, to take advantage of heavily subsidised aquaculture in French Caledonia.

In the latter part of 2002 the Scampi Inquiry got under way. I researched material given to me by Mr Peters. I was personally acquainted with the two principal antagonists – Peter Simunovich and Neil Penwarden, having dined at both their homes. I have respect for these men and irrespective of the contemporary polarisation of their views, still regard both as friends. Mr Peters knew I was acquainted with both men but had no knowledge of my commercial involvement with either.

During the inquiry I continued my business activities off shore. Due to commercial obligations it was not possible to put aside these business interests.
In the capacity of my role as researcher to Mr Peters I had discussions with a wide range of people in the Fishing Industry but was scrupulous in maintaining a separation of my personal business interests from the inquiry. At no stage did I compromise my integrity or the standard of research I undertook for Mr Peters by the personal relationships I had with both Mr Penwarden and Mr Simunovich. An earlier financial gift by Mr Penwarden to me to assist with the costs of major surgery to my former partner did not influence me in any way to display favouritism in my analysis of the documentation made available to me.

Mr Peters, as always, made his own decisions about what he presented and said at the Select Committee and each Member of that Committee had the option of rejecting or endorsing the contribution made by Mr Peters.

I am now concerned that my involvement with Peter Simunovich and Neil Penwarden may be perceived as a conflict of interests and be detrimental to Mr Peters. Mr Peters should not be unfairly tainted by this perception and accordingly I tender my resignation effective immediately.

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