Paul Little at large
Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Register of pecuniary interests telling reading

David Seymour and James Shaw are renting.
David Seymour and James Shaw are renting.

The Register of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests of Members of Parliament: Summary of annual returns as at January 31 came out this week and I immediately put all other reading aside and curled up with this always eagerly anticipated page turner.

An aspirational tome, the register is guaranteed to inspire envy in anyone who looks closely at each of its 72 pages.

For a start, it's put together by "Sir Maarten Wevers, KNZM, Registrar of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests of Members of Parliament".

That's spread over six lines in the original but I've managed to squeeze it on to fewer in the interest of saving paper.

Who wouldn't yearn to have a name, honorific and job title as desirable as those of Sir Maarten? And who wouldn't desire his spectacular gift for passive aggression?

"The returns regime has continued to mature," notes Sir Maarten before going on to say, "I wish to note, however, that although most members submitted their returns to me by the deadline specified in the Standing Orders, two were received shortly after the due date. I have nevertheless decided to include the returns submitted by Hon Paula Bennett and Hon Chester Borrows, in the interest of completeness."

The size of the heart on the guy!

He didn't have to do that, especially when he had no way of knowing that Ches and Paula were probably on the road somewhere, being chased by a dildo.

The register is notable for being the one occasion every year where you're guaranteed to see the word pecuniary. It's an unlovely word - it suggests hands being rubbed together avariciously and orphans having their pennies ripped from their grasp by cold-hearted plutocrats.

So it's appropriate it's used when talking about what MPs own.

It must be difficult for them when it is time to list their holdings - too many and people will think you're an out-of-touch tosser; too few and they will think you're an incompetent tosser.

Speaking of the latter, two party leaders are among the 10 MPs who don't own a home: Green Party co-leader James Shaw (Gen X) and Act's David Seymour (millennial) have both, apparently, been frittering away their dough on so much smashed avo and so many lattes that they have to rent.

Some MPs' holdings are so modest they would make your heart melt.

No surprises there. One thing we've always known about Act and the Greens is that neither has a clue about how money works.

Other MPs are doing much better and, unlike many of the people they hope will vote for them, are managing to get onto the property market.

Amy Adams, for instance, minister for social housing and minister for Housing New Zealand, knows her stuff. She owns three residential properties, two commercial properties, two pieces of "bare land" and one farm. All that mowing.

The register also lists gifts received. Far and away the most conspicuous gewgaw went to Gerry Brownlee (four residential properties and a section) who listed "two bottles of Mautai [sic] whiskey [from the] Deputy Chief of the Chinese People's Liberation Army General Staff".

It makes Andrew Little's two "tickets to Womad" look like two tickets to Womad.

Although it's done in the interests of transparency, the register raises more questions than it answers.

Why, for instance did Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi get a "ticket to cricket match ASB Bank". That's "ticket" - singular. He didn't even get to take a friend.

It's not all expensive liquor and owning whole subdivisions. Some MPs' holdings are so modest they would make your heart melt. Like Richard Prosser with his house and his two super accounts - one "not yet active" - and that's it.

Not so much as a ticket for one to the cricket.

- Herald on Sunday

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