There is a select group of ministers who know what it is like to walk at the top of a political cliff and have the Opposition pushing you closer to the edge every day.

It can be an all-consuming experience, exhausting not only the minister's energy but the Prime Minister's as well as he or she is required to stay on top of any developments.

Koro Wetere experienced it at the hands of Winston Peters in the 1980s over the Maori loans affair, one of the few sagas to take the gloss off the first term of the Lange Government.

Peters himself experienced it many years later during an inquiry into the undisclosed donation by Owen Glenn for legal fees, which contributed to Peters' failure at the 2008 election.


David Benson Pope experienced it at the hands of Judith Collins over his teaching days.

Judith Collins experienced it over dinners in China and Oravida.

Shane Jones has been through it twice, over blue movies and approving citizenship for Bill Liu.

Murray McCully experienced it at the hands of David Parker over the Saudi sheep deal.

When things get really bad a fog can sit over the whole Government for weeks. Sometimes it results in a political scalp, sometimes it just damages the individual.

Rarely does it enhance the reputation of the minister involved. But in the case of the exemption for Te Arai development to the foreign-buyers ban, that is what has happened to David Parker.

The only other occasion in which a political reputation was clearly enhanced in the face of a ministerial crisis also involved David Parker, in 2006.

He shocked everyone including his own Prime Minister when he resigned as Attorney-General the day allegations were published in Investigate magazine over some historic filing of returns to the Companies Office.


At the time, it seemed completely disproportionate response . It was like a Transport Minister resigning over allegations of an unpaid parking ticket.

The Opposition had not been baying for his blood day after day - Parker never gave them chance.

Parker was reinstated to cabinet a few weeks later when evidence turned up at the Companies Office disproving the allegations. He returned a more honorable minister than when he resigned.

In the 10 days since the select committee recommended the controversial 15-year exemption for Te Arai development at Mangawhai, events have moved more slowly, but no less honourably.

And most of the stunning relevant revelations exonerating Parker occurred in House itself as National has put the heat on Parker.

The only other occasion in which a political reputation was clearly enhanced in the face of a ministerial crisis also involved David Parker.

Part of that is down to the marked improvement in the relationship between Speaker Trevor Mallard and National since the last recess.

Mallard always had a vision about what Question Time should be and how it should flow but was his own worst enemy through frequent displays of exasperation and impatience, which only fueled National's frustrations.

Everyone has chilled and this week was an exemplar of the House at its best: Opposition, Government and Speaker.

National had legitimate questions for Parker about the background to an exemption for one development at Mangawhai involving settlement funding of two iwi - and Parker more than answered them, which he did so at length, and with reasoned and passionate argument.

What has emerged is that although the Treasury advised against any exemption for any development, it was done after Parker took a paper to cabinet and sought its approval.

It was done on the grounds of not wanting to create a contemporary Treaty of Waitangi breach through reducing the value of returns on a major investment by iwi using redress given to it by historic breaches.

The issue of general exemption for treaty investments was considered but rejected.

The potential reduction in value was not through the bill threatening the development, because it doesn't, but by reducing the pool of potential wealthy buyers for the top-end residential sites.

Parker refused to listen to any private pleadings of any developer during the course of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill banning foreign buyers from buying New Zealand houses.

He made it clear they should make to the committee.

When select committee members and cabinet colleague Shane Jones (at the behest of John Key) raised the potential injustice, Parker did the proper thing and took it to cabinet.

Disarmingly, Parker did not defend every aspect of what has occurred.

He conceded in the House it was fair enough that National question whether he and select committee should have looked into details about the level of the iwi involvement in the development before recommending the exemption.

The fact that the Speaker has ruled out the exemption being place within the bill on procedural grounds means the Government has more time to get those details before deciding on any other form of protection for the development, and it must.

It should be a requirement on the developers and iwi to supply details of ownership and beneficial relationships for any special statutory exemption.

There are still grounds on which to justify an exemption if it is the biggest asset derived from both treaty settlements. That would be unquestioned if the iwi were, say, 100 per cent beneficiaries of the development compared with say 1 per cent.

Where the iwi sits on the spectrum in this instance may have a bearing on the type of protection the Government offers.

Some independent assessment is warranted, as is some further advice on what precedent it creates for protection of other treaty settlements.

Perhaps the distance of events from the initial treaty settlement date should be a factor too– Te Uri o Hau's settlement act was one of the earlier ones, passed in 2002 by the Fifth Labour Government after negotiations under the previous National Government.

National's opposition to the exemption was on the basis of its opposition to the entire foreign-buyer ban bill (although it could equally be argued that it should therefore support any exemption from such an objectionable bill).

It will also be alert to the fact that this exemption, defunct or not, may be seen as special treatment for Maori. "One law for all" was heard coming from one National interjector this week as questions persisted.

National is no longer gunning for Parker but this controversy is by no means over.