State Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall has denied allegations from the Opposition that the former chairman of financially troubled Solid Energy approved a big pay rise for chief executive Don Elder as one of his last acts in the job.

Mr Ryall said Dr Elder's contract had been updated for employment law changes on August 31 last year, and there had been no changes to pay or entitlements he would receive as part of those updates.

"This has been confirmed by Mr Mark Ford, the current chair, and Mr John Palmer, the former chair," Mr Ryall said in Parliament.

Labour's Clayton Cosgrove made the claim about the pay rise under Parliamentary privilege yesterday.


Mr Palmer, who is now in his final few months as Air New Zealand chairman, has remained silent on Solid Energy's problems since they were revealed last week.

He announced his resignation last June and officially stepped down on August 31 - the day he fronted the company's announcement of a $40 million loss. His departure came 16 months ahead of schedule.

Dr Elder resigned at the beginning of this month, two weeks before the Government revealed Solid Energy was $389 million in debt and was trying to stitch together a restructuring plan.