Massey environmental hero Mike Joy – the man who bagged our 100% Pure brand to the world – must think I’m a major threat to the environmental cause.
I’m guessing that from the fact he took the trouble to write to the Taranaki Daily News editor today to accuse me of a conflict of interest in standing for the Taranaki Regional Council.
When the letter was emailed to me by the paper for a response, I neglected to ask who it was from (the name was not included); if I’d known, I would have added a bit more to my reply.
Such as the fact Mike and I both lived on the Kapiti Coast last year and I met him for a coffee at Paekakariki to show him one of the water book chapters to get some feedback.
His earlier comments about me being well off-beam (in an interview in the Daily News) were misdirected, I believe, because the view I expressed about there being no dirty dairying in Taranaki was meant to make it clear I was comparing today with 40 years ago, when things were appallingly bad.
After reading the chapter on the Waingongoro River, he came back to me with glowing praise, saying when the book is published he will be using it with his students at Massey.
So the renewed attack seems somewhat disingenuous.
Here is what he wrote:
I have become increasingly concerned about conflicts of interest in local body politics. Recently Jim Tucker announced he was standing for Taranaki Regional Council.
Mr Tucker has been writing a book about Taranaki Regional Council and their protection of the waterways under a sponsorship deal between Puke Ariki and Taranaki Regional Council.
At the time he announced he was writing the book he made the mistake of not checking facts, and overstating the quality of waterways, I hope he has learned something in the meantime.
Taranaki Regional Council pays $150,000 to Puke Ariki every year, so one way or another Mr Tucker is working for TRC. I wonder how much he gets paid? As candidates for council elections must declare conflicts of interest I have to wonder is Mr Tucker standing for TRC on behalf of the public or on behalf of TRC?
In all my public statements about standing for TRC, including my campaign blog, I have been at pains to point out the obvious – that I’m standing for the council to make full use of the knowledge gained from spending a couple of years researching a book on Taranaki’s waterways (while also doing a fulltime job running the Whitireia Media Training Centre in Wellington).
I was approached by Puke Ariki to do the book, presumably partly on the basis of my having investigated water pollution in Taranaki 40 years ago. I am being paid for the work, but at a rate that works out about half the minimum per-word payment accepted by freelance journalists.
The rules say any contractor standing for office must earn less that $25,000 a year from a council: aside from the fact I am contracted by New Plymouth District Council (not TRC), I can assure you my remuneration is well within that limit.
So what’s the issue? Would you rather the book wasn’t done at all (other writers have attempted it, but not succeeded)? I believe I am well-informed to provide a balanced view on the environment as a result of my experience as a journalist, one who values his hard-won reputation.
As for criticising the quality of my views, wouldn’t it be a better idea to wait until the book is published before you decide?