Spin doctor goes from Newmont to manage mining for Govt

The former public relations manager at Newmont Gold, Sefton Darby, is going to start a new job as national manager for minerals at New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals – an arm of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

In my opinion this is a considerable conflict of interest. While working for Newmont Mr Darby has had a leading role in promoting their activities both in Waihi and across the Thames-Coromandel region. He has been a loyal advocate for this giant multinational.

His new job with the Government will be to regulate New Zealand’s mineral sector including permit allocation and finding ways to grow the sector. This will work perfectly for Newmont Gold who are attempting to expand their exploration and mining activities and currently have applications for permits in process and before the courts. It will also work perfectly for the Government who are determined to expand mining in New Zealand seemingly no matter what the opposition.

Mr Darby says he will avoid any conflict of interest by not “making any decisions on behalf of Government on anything related to Golden Link, full stop”. “Golden Link” is Newmont’s planned expansion into the residential area of Waihi. But what about other Newmont prospects, for as long as he is employed by Government?

He says he would not participate in any decisions regarding Newmont for the first year, but that is not very reassuring. Mining projects take years to develop.

The Government could have chosen someone in the role that worked in regulation, but no, they chose the PR person from a giant foreign-owned mining company. The Government isn’t looking out for New Zealanders with this choice.

8 Comments Posted

  1. So here is something you will learn when you get into government; You, as a Minister of the Crown don’t get to appoint mid level bureaucrats! It’s not your job.
    Your departmental CEO and his leadership team handle that stuff. That’s what they are paid to do.
    Last time I checked, state CEOs don’t sit in parliament. They are not the government. They are the public service.

    The trouble is by the nature of your comments – using terms like “In my opinion it is a conflict of interest” and “he has been a loyal advocate for this giant multinational” – you can’t claim it is “nothing personal”.

    You are unequivocally tarring Sef’s professional credibility with no basis in fact in a public forum. Further, you have failed to acknowledge or correct factual errors in your original posting which I brought to light, and which you could have ascertained with minimal research. Instead, you choose to prevaricate rather than offer a simple correction or retraction.

    While it is the sort of muckraking insinuation/dogwhistle I would expect to see from the likes of Clare Curran or Cameron Slater, is not what I expect from an MP who’s party – my party – I like to think represents a degree of fairness and intellectual honesty.

    I don’t see malign intent in what you have written, Catherine. I just think you made a mistake in being careless with your fact checking and phrasing. It takes a degree of character to admit when you’ve been wrong about someone, particularly when you’ve done so publicly.

    I can only hope you reflect on this exchange and learn something from it.

  2. This is nothing personal but I am not sure how transparent Govt is being appointing the External Affairs Manager of Newmont to run the Govt minerals programme.

  3. This is a dissapointing response. A simple check of LinkedIn or a google search would have revealed this information, Catherine.

    Furthermore, I’m not sure I see any particular irony in this situation.
    Are you implying either that Sefton’s appointment was not transparent, or that he will be incapable of making transparent, unbiased assessments within his new role?

    Either way you’re effectively defaming him in a public forum by making a baseless inference – suggesting his appointment was based on corruption or that, by virtue of a single previous role in the private sector, any decision he makes in his new public position is inherently compromised.

    Unless you have any facts to back up your position, I think an open apology should be tendered to Mr Darby for this slur on his character and professional ethics, particularly if there is a chance you might have a working relationship with him in the future.

  4. I didn’t know Sefton had a background in transparency but I find this ironic in the circumstances

  5. Disclaimer: I know Sefton so am not unbiased.

    Catherine – I think before you jump to conclusions you should look at his record pre Newmont.

    Sefton’s career has not been in PR.

    Prior to communications gig he spend time with the British government developing and applying the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

    He followed that up with a lot of transparency and anti-corruption policy assessment and consultancy across the developing world wrt extractive industry governance.

    He is also (I think) still a NZ Director of Transparency International.

  6. That is a huge conflict of interest. Can’t somebody like the GG or the courts rule that out? This ought to be a prominent parliamentary question if possible.

  7. What is new?
    This is scandalous but this is precisely how this country has been run since Rogernomics started rogering our country. This one of many examples of how foreign and corporations insert their people to run our tax funded democracy. God save New Zealand.
    Please continue rubbing the sleep out of the eyes of your neighbours.

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