Audrey Young

Political editor Audrey Young blogs from Parliament

Audrey Young: Haden's shine has gone - McCully

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The heat is on Andy Haden following his comments on racial quotas in rugby. Photo / Sarah Ivey
The heat is on Andy Haden following his comments on racial quotas in rugby. Photo / Sarah Ivey

It's a brilliant day at Waitangi and while hundreds of National Party northern delegates have been debating the emissions trading scheme in a darkened hall they have renamed "the Holyoake Room," thousands of Kiwis have been streaming past the venue on a fun run from Paihia.

Sports Minister Murray McCully is nowhere to be seen either on the fun run or in the hall and I suspect he has headed south to Auckland already to meet Andy Haden over the offence his comments about racism in rugby have caused.

I talked to McCully last night about Haden and what Rugby World Cup ambassadors do. He obviously holds him in high regard but it will be John Key and not Murray McCully who will be the final arbiter on whether Haden is pushed or not.

And I also suspect it's not so much what Haden said or how he said it, but how he has handled it since that will be more important to Key.

The apology will go a long way, but to dig in over the ambassadorship rather than acknowledging it's a position that requires the Government to have confidence in him will have done him no favours.

McCully said the purpose of the ambassadors was to create goodwill and success next year - particularly to build trade and investment opportunities for New Zealand - "and we clearly don't want to have ill-will around those ambassadorships."

They were not just honorary positions, and according to McCully, they work hard even though they are not paid anything.

"These are people with special identities in the sporting world and to a significant extent the business world, which they are using for New Zealand's advantage."

"I appointed Andy Haden because he has a huge network of contacts in the business and sporting world. He has done a fantastic job for us linking those sporting and business leaders with our business and investment programmes. He has only been in the role for a little while but has done a terrific job for us.

"That's the sad thing about this debate - that here's a guy who contributes a good deal. In many ways the appointment of Andy as an ambassador was recognition of a contribution he was already making and continues to make to New Zealand sport and business.

"It's sad that we have this debate when he is making a very valuable contribution. It sort of takes the shine off it."

Haden was named as a Rugby World Cup ambassador about six weeks ago, along with Sean Fitzpatrick, John Kirwan, David Kirk, Jonah Lomu, and Andrew Mehrtens.

McCully will want the issue sorted as soon as possible.

He is due to host a meeting of Foreign Ministers and leaders in Auckland tomorrow about Fiji in order to finalise a report to Pacific Island Forum leaders in Vanuatu about progress there.

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