Don Nicolson

Zespri monopoly must be held to account

The recent Bay Of Plenty Times report, 'New Fraud Crisis for Zespri' shows why ACT has remained so staunch about the need to have a Ministerial inquiry launched into the behaviour of the state-sanctioned kiwifruit marketing monopoly Zespri, says ACT Primary Industries Spokesman Don Nicolson.

The article, which explores invoicing irregularities in Zespri’s Taiwan market, highlights serious problems within Zespri - problems which were initially brought to the Government's attention by ACT some 18 months ago.

"To date our concerns have fallen on deaf ears and ACT wonders why, when there has been such a consistent barrage of bad news regarding Zespri's activities," said Mr Nicolson.

"The Serious Fraud Office is looking into something they will not divulge at Zespri. This inquiry, along with attempts by other kiwifruit industry bodies to launch inquiries into their own activities, is no excuse for the Crown to abdicate its responsibility to fully audit Zespri's activities.

"Government-mandated bodies are audited by the Crown annually, so ACT wonders why Zespri, as a state-blessed monopoly, hasn't had any Crown scrutiny since it was given its special status 14 years ago.

"Safeguarding and protecting New Zealand’s reputation is of high priority to this government and is vital if primary industries are to double their export value by 2025 - supposedly an ambition of the current government.

"By not holding a state-endorsed export monopoly to account, we seem to have fallen at the first hurdle."

Minister must act on Zespri revelations

Revelations in today’s edition of The National Business Review that appear to show Zespri gave false evidence to Chinese courts about their import practices requires action from the Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, ACT Primary Industries Spokesman Don Nicolson said today.

“It is not good enough to leave these matters to a New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) inquiry as the Minister proposes to do” Mr Nicolson said.

“That is an inadequate response to what appears to have been occurring.

“NZKGI cannot represent the public interest they only represent grower interests.  They are not independent.  They share the same building as Zespri and staff share the same staffroom.

“There is a public interest in this matter because Zespri operates under a statutory monopoly.

“Growers are forced to do business with it. That is why the Minister is under a duty to act.

“This matter also has the potential to effect New Zealand’s reputation in a major market.

“The Government should not allow New Zealand’s reputation to be shredded by instalment.” Mr Nicolson said.

ENDS

SFO investigation raises serious questions about Zespri

News that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is investigating Zespri raises serious questions about the company’s operations and the Government’s refusal to look into it, ACT Primary Industries Spokesman Don Nicolson said today.

“The SFO is responsible for investigating serious and complex fraud.   While the purpose of the SFO’s investigation is unknown, that it is investigating at all is an indictment on the Minister for Primary Industries’ decision not to initiate his own inquiry," Mr Nicolson said.   

“It shows he is not taking our export markets as seriously as he should be.

“The Minister should not use the SFO investigation and the on-going New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) investigation as an excuse for further inaction.

“As a single-desk exporter, our entire kiwifruit industry rests on Zespri’s reputation.  If Zespri’s reputation is harmed all New Zealand Kiwifruit growers will be affected – sales will decrease, profits will be lost and jobs will go.

“As Zespri is a Government legislated monopoly, it falls on the Government to ensure it operates to a standard fitting of that privilege.

“ACT has been calling on the Government to initiate an independent inquiry into the monopoly since Zespri was convicted of smuggling in a Chinese court.  Better yet, ACT would like the Government to open Zespri up to competition so that growers are not at such high risk from one company’s actions.

“The SFO’s involvement shows that ACT was right to have cause for concern.    It is time that Nathan Guy showed more interest in one of New Zealand’s important export companies,” Mr Nicolson said.

ENDS  

 

Nathan Guy Must Stop Making Excuses And Do Something

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is looking for excuses to justify his inaction amid growing calls by kiwifruit growers that the industry needs an independent inquiry, ACT New Zealand Primary Industries Spokesman Don Nicolson said today.

“Initially the Minister said he wouldn’t initiate an inquiry because Zespri was before the Courts on a charge of smuggling.

“Now that Zespri has been found guilty, he is using the excuse that an internal inquiry is already taking place and there is no need for the Government to step in.

“But growers who have contacted ACT do not have any faith in the internal inquiry,” Mr Nicolson said.

“New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI), which is charged with conducting the inquiry, is the very organisation that commissioned the 2007 Grant Samuel Report into Zespri and then suppressed it because it was unfavourable.

“What has changed in NZKGI since then?

“NZKGI has no credibility when it comes to conducting an independent inquiry into Zespri.  The report won’t be worth the paper it is written on.

“The Minister’s continued position of doing nothing is unacceptable.  By failing to take action, the Minister appears to be sanctioning Zespri's poor business behaviour that threatens our reputation.
 
“Kiwifruit is big business for New Zealand and our reputation relies on Zespri acting as a good corporate citizen.  If its reputation is damaged our entire industry will suffer.

“The Government forces all growers to export through Zespri.  It is therefore the Government’s responsibility to ensure that Zespri’s operations are above board.   Initiating an independent inquiry is the only way the Government can do this,” Mr Nicolson said.

ENDS

 

Minister Must Act On Issues In China

ACT New Zealand Primary Industries Spokesman Don Nicolson today congratulated the Minister for Primary Industries for fixing the problem with his Ministry’s customs certificates in China and called on him to take a similar personal interest into the alleged wrong doing by Zespri.

“The Minister has assured us that the export meat problem has been fixed and the certification problem will not affect other food exporters,” Mr Nicolson said. 

“He was right to put it on the officials responsible for food safety in the Ministry - they did a poor job for New Zealand.  

“A shipment of apples was also held up for eleven days in Russia because of documentation problems and the Ministry’s Deputy Director General had absolutely no idea. 

“But the Minister is still turning a blind eye to the Zespri issue. Why is he prepared to fix one issue and ignore the other?

“All Nathan Guy needs to do is ask Zespri whether they benefited from under-declaring the value of kiwifruit shipped to China, which was then sold at a higher market price.

“The allegation is that some, or all, of this money found its way back to Zespri.   The Minister could get to the bottom of this issue but he refuses to do so.

“The law forces kiwifruit growers to export through Zespri if they want to go beyond Australia. 

“Growers have the right to know whether Zespri has been a party to any wrong-doing in China,” Mr Nicolson said.

ENDS 
 

Nathan Guy Cannot Keep His Head In The Sand On Zespri Allegations

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy can no longer keep his head in the sand over Zespri’s role in the customs fraud allegations  in China after damning internal documents were revealed today by the Sunday Star Times, ACT Primary Industries Spokesman Don Nicolson said today.

The documents show that Zespri was worried New Zealand customs would discover what it was doing and alert its China counterparts.  The documents also revealed that staff in the company’s shipping department were so worried about being personally liable for filling out incorrect documentation they sought assurances that they would be protected. 

“ACT calls on the Minister, again, to launch a full scale independent inquiry into these matters,” Mr Nicolson said. 

“ACT has questioned Zespri's role in the customs fraud case right from the start as Zespri’s claim that they had no knowledge of the dodgy dealings in China did not ring true. 

“Now there is evidence that Zespri was aware that its invoicing system was likely illegal.  The Government must act. 

“Zespri's actions impact on the whole Kiwifruit industry and all New Zealand growers are being caught up in this scandal.   It is Government regulation that forces all growers to export through Zespri whether they want to or not.   ACT does not agree with this. 

“Zespri seems to have abandoned its responsibility as a Government mandated export monopoly to represent New Zealand in an appropriate manner.   

“Failure to launch an inquiry would be seen as endorsing Zespri’s bad behaviour.  Minister Guy must take action immediately,” Mr Nicolson said.

The Sunday Start Times article can be found here

ENDS

 

 

Labour’s Limit On Share Fund Size Intrudes On Shareholders’ Rights

ACT New Zealand will not support Labour MP Damien O’Connor’s Dairy Industry Restructuring Amendment Bill (No2), ACT New Zealand Primary Industries Spokesman Don Nicolson said today.

The Bill would limit the proportion of Fonterra co-operative shares that can be held in its shareholders fund to 20 per cent of Fonterra’s share total.

“Legislating tighter limits on the size of the fund is an unnecessary intrusion into the rights and interests of shareholders to determine the destiny of their own company,” Mr Nicolson said.

“Fonterra has sufficient constitutional safeguards and mechanisms for representation and communication to allow shareholders to determine the size of the  fund.   Shareholders are more than capable of doing this without interference from Government.

“ACT believes the Government’s regulatory involvement with Fonterra should be limited to ensuring that the supply and sale of milk and milk products within New Zealand are open to competition.
 
“Fonterra is the world’s largest exporter of dairy produce and New Zealand’s largest company.  It competes in an ever-changing world and needs to be able to respond to changing circumstances and continue to evolve as a company for the benefit of its shareholders.

“Excessive and unnecessary government involvement will only hinder its ability to do this,” Mr Nicolson said.
 
ENDS

 

行动党提出对ZESPRI进行紧急调查

 

  昨晚,在新西兰电视台 “One News” 曝光了ZESPRI国际公司的欺诈性商业行为后,新西兰行动党第一产业发言人Don Nicolson提出应该对该猕猴桃垄断出口商进行紧急调查。

  指控称ZESPRI十分了解他们中国进口商的’潜规则’,并配合他们骗取中国政府的报关发票用以逃税。

  “猕猴桃种植者有权利知道这些指控背后的真相,政府迫使他们通过这家公司销售自己的产品。”

  “只有独立调查才能还原全面而准确的事实真相。”

  “行动党近日对政府继续支持ZESPRI 的法定特权地位表示质疑,ZESPRI的特权阻碍了种植者选择客户和销售地的自由。行动党相信政府参与商业和公民生活的行为越少越好。自己选择出口目的地和客户是猕猴桃种植者的权利。”

  “昨晚对ZESPRI曝光的同时也给我们提出了严肃的问题,政府是否继续支持其垄断地位是当前种植者最关心的问题。

  “行动党将上诉第一产业部长并推动调查“Nicolson 先生说。

ACT Calls For Urgent Inquiry Into ZESPRI Allegations

ACT New Zealand Primary Industries Spokesman Don Nicolson called for an urgent inquiry into monopoly kiwifruit exporter ZESPRI International’s operations after allegations of dodgy business practices were exposed on TVNZ’s ‘One News’ last night. 

It is alleged that ZESPRI had full knowledge of the actions of their importer in China and was complicit in their actions to defraud the Chinese Government by under declaring the Customs invoices and therefore under paying the correct duties.

“These are serious allegations and kiwifruit growers have the right to know the truth since they are being forced by the Government to sell their products through this company,” Mr Nicolson said. 

“An independent inquiry is the only way to get a full and accurate picture.

"ACT recently questioned the Government’s continued support of ZESPRI International’s legislated and privileged status which prevents growers who value competition and freedom from exporting to destinations and customers of their choice.   ACT believes ‘less is best’ when it comes to government involvement in business and in the lives of citizens.  It should be a kiwifruit grower’s right to make to make their own export decisions. 

 “Last night’s revelations raise serious questions about ZESPRI’s operations and whether the government’s continued support of its monopoly status is really in the best interest of growers.

 “ACT will be writing to the Minister of Primary Industries to push for an inquiry,” Mr Nicolson said.

TVNZ: Zespri accused of ‘hoodwinking’ Chinese Govt
 http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/zespri-accused-hoodwinking-chinese-govt-video-5435811

Straight Furrow: ‘Zespri’s jailed ‘scapegoat’ appeals ruling http://straightfurrow.realviewtechnologies.com/?label=Digital+Edition#folio=1

ACT: More Questions Raised About Zespri’s operations
http://www.act.org.nz/posts/more-questions-raised-about-zespris-operations
 

More Questions Raised About Zespri's Operations

Zespri’s apparent bad administration in China raises serious questions about their operations and reinforces the call that kiwifruit growers should be free to sell their products to customers and exporters of their choice, ACT New Zealand Primary Industry Spokesman Don Nicolson said today.

Zespri Management Consulting Corporation and one of its employees have recently been found guilty in a Shanghai Court of false customs declaration.

“If this is what has been allowed to happen in China, what confidence can growers have that this isn’t happening in Zespri’s other markets?” Mr Nicolson said.

“In November 2011, Zespri was fined in Korea for anti-competitive behaviour in the Korean market.  Just this weekend the New Zealand Herald revealed that Zespri has a serious employment issue with their highest paid offshore executive. Now rural newspaper, Straight Furrow, has revealed Zespri may be involved in transfer pricing.

“The full cost of management and governance oversight is borne entirely by growers, therefore growers need confidence that Zespri’s processes are rock solid. With all these issues coming to light, growers will be wondering, how much worse is it going to get?

“Ultimately, ACT would like to amend the Kiwifruit Industry Restructuring Act 1999 so that growers can sell their products to the customers and countries of their choice.  But in the interim, the government as authors of Zespri’s enabling legislation must launch an inquiry into this developing fiasco,” Mr Nicolson said.  

ENDS

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