Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Smith holds firm on ACC claimants

Nick Smith says he's been able to spend more time with his family and doing constituency work since he quit as a Cabinet minister. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Nick Smith says he's been able to spend more time with his family and doing constituency work since he quit as a Cabinet minister. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Nick Smith, tipped to return to the Cabinet after resigning early this year as a result of the Bronwyn Pullar scandal, stands by the hard line on long-term ACC claimants which Ms Pullar says prompted her to go to the media over a huge privacy breach.

Dr Smith resigned his local government, climate change and environment portfolios in March after the Herald reported he had written a letter in support of his friend and former National Party insider Ms Pullar's ACC claim months earlier when he was ACC Minister.

Ms Pullar has subsequently said her main motivation for going to the media about a privacy breach by the corporation was because ACC was unfairly forcing long-term claimants off compensation to save money.

Dr Smith, who is expected to return to the Cabinet in a reshuffle prompted by Speaker Lockwood Smith's appointment as High Commissioner to Britain later this year, told the Herald the "culture of disentitlement" he is alleged to have introduced while minister "is a bit of a myth".

ACC required a careful balance between the rights of claimants and ensuring they got the right care and rehabilitation and the cost of levies on families and businesses.

"I absolutely stand by the decision for ACC to set targets around the number of long-term claimants. What I reject is any notion that those targets were set on the basis of arbitrary financial numbers."

He also takes exception to Ms Pullar's portrayal in the media.

"At the time I resigned in March the media coverage and view of Bronwyn Pullar was incredibly negative, that she was a manipulative and almost evil person who was abusing her National Party links to try and get an advantage that others couldn't.

"Ironically, since then as more has been told of her story there's a substantive body in both the public and media who are very sympathetic to her position. Some people have described Bronwyn Pullar as the villain, some as the hero, I actually think both those views are wrong.

"She is an unfortunate person who had a nasty accident who was a high-income earner whose battle with ACC has become the complete focus of her life."

Since his resignation, Dr Smith said he had been able to spend more time with his family and also doing constituency work.

He had also been able to spend more time seeking expert advice in policy areas of interest which are likely to be part of the Government's legislative focus in coming months including water, climate change, land use planning and earthquake standards.

That work would be useful "whether I be a backbencher or a rehabilitated minister".

"I'm hopeful I might again be given that opportunity at some stage but equally so that is a call totally for the Prime Minister."

- NZ Herald

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