'Tea tape' release forces PM to change cell number

John Key. Photo / Getty Images
John Key. Photo / Getty Images

Disappointment looms for A-listers and crank callers alike as Prime Minister John Key changes his cellphone number after it became public on the internet through the unauthorised publication of the so-called "teapot tapes."

Key gave the ACT candidate John Banks his cellphone number during the ill-fated pre-election media stunt at an Epsom café in support of the National Party's embattled coalition partner which became a defining issue of the campaign.

Answering journalists' questions after his major speech on the economy, Key distanced himself from any action either to track down or prosecute whoever posted the tape to YouTube, or to have it removed.

However, a previous experience of having his cellphone number become widely available meant he would have to change a number that is a prized asset by would-be influencers of all stripes, and a magnet for disaffected citizens looking for a way to get a message to the top.

Key offered an apology of sorts for his comment on the tape that New Zealand First party supporters were "dying off", noting that "older New Zealanders at some stage pass away" and were "typically" Winston Peters's main supporters.

"I would always phrase that in a better way in a public statement," said Key. "I would have said it better. I apologise for that."

Key also confirmed that the Crafar farms decision was more likely tomorrow than later today, and reprised arguments that only 1 percent of New Zealand farmland was in foreign owners' hands.

Key said he took the view that "some overseas purchases put some competitive tension in the market and that's OK" since it raised the price its New Zealanders could obtain on the open market.

He also claimed that the Ministers assessing the Overseas Investment Office recommendation on the Shanghai Pengxin bid for the Crafar farms had very little room to decline it if the application met the letter of the law governing foreign farmland purchases.

To turn down a recommendation would be to invite review by the courts, which Ministers would seek to avoid, he said.

A consortium of New Zealand bidders, led by merchant banker Michael Fay, has already sought a judicial review of the recommendation, even before Associate Finance Minister Jonathan Coleman and Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson announce their decision.

- BusinessDesk

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