22 May 2019

Ministers miss deadline to release diaries

9:19 am on 22 May 2019

Five ministers, including Greens co-leader James Shaw, have missed the deadline to release their diaries and meet their commitment to more transparency in government.

Green Party co-leader and Climate Change Minister James Shaw.

Green Party co-leader and Climate Change Minister James Shaw. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The deadline to release details on ministerial meetings passed last night, having already been extended from April due to the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

The push for more transparency was promised in the Labour-Greens coalition agreement and Mr Shaw got the ball rolling in March last year as the first to release the details of his meetings that month.

At the time he said wanted to "shine a light" on the inner workings of government, but he has now missed the deadline to release the details of all the ministerial meetings in his diary, going back to the start of this government.

In a statement to RNZ, Mr Shaw said: "Regrettably we missed the deadline due to resourcing constraints. We had a key staff member leave and the role hasn't yet been filled. My office is working hard to complete the historical backlog and should have it ready in the next week or so"

The ministers to miss yesterday's deadline were:

  • Infrastructure and Regional Development Minister Shane Jones
  • Economic Development and Trade Minister David Parker
  • Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods
  • Community and Volunteer Sector and Youth Minister Peeni Henare

Spokespeople for Henare and Woods said they failed to release the diary data because of human error and will be loading it today. Jones' spokesman admitted they had missed the deadline but said it would be up "sometime today".

Parker is overseas and RNZ could not reach a spokesperson for comment.

So far 85 percent of the data has been released, covering 31,138 diary entries. The three dominant topics of conversation for this government have been the economy, education and justice. Nearly four times as many meeting have been held to discuss the economy than poverty and welfare, according to keyword data searches by RNZ.

The government announced in December its ministers would proactively release their diaries to help "build trust and confidence in government". Education Minister Chris Hipkins said: "There is a public interest in the meetings held by Ministers and proactively releasing the summary information promotes accountability."

The meetings cover only ministerial matters, not personal, party political or constituency meetings.

RNZ will reveal more from the diaries through the day.