11 Dec 2018

Twyford: KiwiBuild boss' absence an unwelcome distraction

3:25 pm on 11 December 2018

The Housing Minister says the employment dispute involving the head of the KiwiBuild unit is an unwelcome distraction, but won't impact on the rollout of the flagship policy.

Stephen Barclay, head of the KiwiBuild unit

Stephen Barclay has not been at his desk at KiwiBuild for 'the last few weeks". Photo: RNZ / Patrick O'Meara

Today Phil Twyford confirmed Stephen Barclay had not been at work for the "last few weeks", but would not discuss any other details.

He said he had been advised by officials not to ask any further questions so as minister he would be protected.

"I was first briefed on October the 31st that there were matters that the chief executive of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development was looking into.

"I was told at that point that it would be better if I wasn't briefed on any of the details about that and I took that advice and am holding to that."

No-one else is talking about exactly what is happening with the head of KiwiBuild, now housed within the ministry.

The government's house building programme was ticking along regardless, said Mr Twyford, but this was an unwelcome distraction.

"Do I wish this kind of employment dispute hadn't happened and caused the kind of distraction? Yeah, I wish it hadn't happened."

As minister, Mr Twyford insisted he had no part in managing public servants, saying he was only advised by them.

National's leader Simon Bridges said the minister should be more transparent.

"You find examples littered throughout the recent past where ministers have chosen to speak on some of these things, at other times they didn't, so I think that's all very convenient, frankly too convenient."