Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Long way to go for a cuppa

Collins gets lesson in geography of Shanghai after saying, 'I had no idea where I was'.

Judith Collins.
Judith Collins.

Justice Minister Judith Collins' "cup of tea on the way to the airport" at her friend Stone Shi's company in Shanghai involved a 30km detour in the opposite direction, it was revealed yesterday.

Ms Collins remains under pressure over claims of a conflict of interest over her visit to Oravida's Shanghai offices and a dinner with Mr Shi and a senior Chinese border control official while on a taxpayer-funded visit to China last year in her capacity as Justice Minister.

When first asked about the visit to the offices of the company on whose board her husband David Wong-Tung serves, Ms Collins said it was to "have a cup of tea on the way to the airport".

But her claim the visit was for a casual cup of tea rang false after a formal invitation from the company two weeks before was released under the Official Information Act.

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Yesterday the cup of tea was looking even less casual after Labour MP Grant Robertson asked whether she was aware "that Oravida's headquarters are 30km in the opposite direction from where her hotel and business meetings were held and not on the way to Pudong airport at all?"

Ms Collins said she had never been to Shanghai before except for the airport transit lounge.

"So I had no idea where I was."

Mr Robertson later told the Herald the 80km trip to Oravida and then back across Shanghai to the airport was "just further evidence of the fact that it was a pre-planned visit and it was designed to promote the company that her husband is a director of".

Ms Collins faced questions from New Zealand First leader Winston Peters about who paid for the Beijing dinner with Mr Shi and the border control official.

Ms Collins walked away from similar questions from reporters earlier in the day.

Mr Peters also pressed her on whether she could stand by her claim that Oravida's business was not discussed at the dinner when neither she nor her senior adviser could speak or understand Mandarin. But Ms Collins countered Mr Peters' cross examination, saying that it was a very short dinner, "and the language being spoken was English, or forms thereof".

Speaking to reporters in Beijing last night Mr Key said the matter "had a fair hearing last week".

However, Labour leader David Cunliffe said Ms Collins was "on the run".

"Ministers who are on the run can't stay running forever and there's much more to come out on the Collins story. Labour is aware of other matters which will be brought to the public attention in due course."

Milk run

* Justice Minister Judith Collins' "cup of tea on the way to the airport''.

* Shanghai Pudong airport was about 20km east from her last official engagement.

* Rather than going directly to the airport, Ms Collins travelled 30km west to visit Oravida's Shanghai offices.

* The trip from Oravida to the airport took her 50km back across town.

- NZ Herald

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