Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact|
Over the next few days, I'll be documenting a sorry little saga that has left
me completely and utterly exhausted -- mentally, physically and financially. In fact,
I really don't know how I'm going to pay the power bill or the rent this week.
And, while I'm not quite suicidal (yet:-), I must admit that I might have to think
twice before jumping out of the path
of any oncoming bus that threatens to run me down.
With 24 sleeps left to Christmas, I know there'll be no presents under my
tree this year - in fact there won't even be a tree.
This whole thing has however, taught me a very valuable lesson: do not openly criticise the
government or piss off any of its employees unless you're prepared to face the consequences
-- and boy, if you do both, those consquences can be extreme!
As I document the events that have transpired over the past year or so,
you'll be able to draw your own conclusions as to the sensibility of
government's (in)actions, the motives behind them and the desirability
of the outcome they produced.
You'll also discover that, seemingly unconcerned with the best interests of
the country, they have been more than happy to scuttle a deal that was set to
deliver significant overseas investment, many new jobs, a new hi-tech
manufacturing facility, give NZ another small but important foothold in the
global knowledge economy, and generate millions of dollars in export
The Aardvark PC-Based Digital
Entertainment Centre Project
Yes, at last, this feature
has been updated again! (31 Mar 2003)
In order to be fair, I must admit that I feel quite bitter about the whole
thing right now (having your hopes, dreams, and years of bloody hard work completely
destroyed by a bunch of bureaucrats will do that to you every time) so my objectivity may be slightly
sub-optimal. However, having said that, I will attempt to present the facts
without bias or
As I type this, it is clear that the government never had any intention of providing
the miniscule amount of help (non-financial help I might add) that I needed
to prevent the actions of one of its departments from destroying an otherwise
That's right - I wasn't asking for a grant, for cheap land, a cash
hand-out, subsidised workers, a low-interest loan, or indeed for any of the
other forms of help that the government so often dishes out to far more
tenuous propositions. The problem I faced could have been sorted out months
ago with a simple inter-office memo.
In fact, when I say that I was asking for government help - I was actually
asking that the actions taken by a government department that threatened to kill this
deal might simply be reversed. In effect I didn't so much want them to help
seal the deal (which was already signed) as to stop trying to scuttle
But now, as I key these words onto the screen, it's 15 minutes after midnight
and the date has just rolled over to December 1, meaning the hard-won deal I signed on
a trip to the USA earlier this year has become null and void - effectively
negating many months of hard work and many thousands of dollars in costs and
effort on my part.
All, I believe, because of the vendetta of a government department, lack of a
little ministerial intervention to call them to heel, and a total
disregard for the best interests of taxpayers.
Now if I had rolled up to government requesting help with a "long-shot" proposition and the
"possibility" that it might result in jobs, exports and all the other
benefits then I could understand their reticence to lend a hand.
However, what I had was a signed and sealed agreement for the
licensing of my X-Jet engine technology. A deal that included overseas
investment and significant, guaranteed export earnings. And here's an
interesting twist: when the X-Jet technology was little more than a risky
and untested idea, the government was keen to offer me $36,000 of taxpayers' money
(which I declined to uplift) by way of a technology grant. Yet when I bring them a signed
and sealed multi-million dollar contract for the sale of the very same technology
(with significant benefits to NZ and taxpayers) - they can't be
bothered lifting a finger to stop one of their agencies from sinking the deal.
Were they simply miffed that I would dare to refuse their grant money or something?
Yes, I have a signed "Heads of Agreement" which commits a very well-financed
US-based company to provide investment capital to set up an NZ manufacturing
plant, pay an annual and per-unit licensing fee and purchase manufactured
sub-assemblies for export -- this was a win-win deal that stood to provide
benefits for all concerned. The agreement was conditional only on me providing
a small amount of additional test information, something I would have no
problem in doing -- until another government agency bent on carrying out
its own little vendetta stepped in to shut me down that is.
So why did a government department, appear to deliberately wreck the deal -
and why did Anderton and his officials do nothing to rectify the situation
and protect *everybody's* best interests?
Why was government prepared to pour $36,000 of taxpayers money into my technology
when it was just a "possibly clever idea" with absolutely no guarantee of
success, yet refused to provide even the slightest assistance once that same
technology was developed to the point where it was about to provide some very
real returns for everyone (me, the taxpayer, NZ's ranking in the hi-tech economy, etc)?
Certainly I can see no way that it's a decision that was made on fiscal grounds.
Why would the government throw away new jobs, overseas investment, export earnings
and the not-insignificant taxes that would be collected from such a venture?
One thing's for sure, scuttling the deal would not save the taxpayer one red
cent -- in fact, even putting aside the issue of lost earnings,
the loss of this deal will actually cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.
Money that could surely be better spent on health, welfare and education or
reinvested into fostering NZ's knowledge economy.
All I can think of is that it's a result of the regular criticism I've
leveled at the government and various ministers in recent times.
Indeed, Jim Anderton has been one of the most critiqued ministers in this
column. That's the same Jim Anderton who, as the Minister for Economic
Development, you'd think would be most keen to ensure that such a deal would
not be wrecked by the actions of another government agency.
So did Jim lend a hand? Well, during the six months of me chasing the issue with
him, emails were exchanged and I even spoke to a couple of his officials on
the phone -- but nothing was resolved. Then, the week before last, I was told that Jim would be deciding what
to do on the weekend (that's last weekend) and that I'd be advised the
Despite emailed requests last week for some kind of follow-up - I received
So it seems that Jim simply wasn't interested in saving this deal. Bugger
the knowledge economy, bugger the taxpayer's best interests, bugger Bruce
No, his assistance would not have cost the taxpayer one red cent - a quick
meeting with another government department and a suitable directive to the
same could have sorted this thing out in a few minutes or so.
And now it's all too late.
I'd really like Jim to explain to the public, at a time when the government
sees fit to give a Maori spiritual healer and clairvoyant over $90K,
largely to pay off his tax bill (which should have already been paid with money
previously given to him by the government anyway), why this deal was allowed
to fail for lack of a memo or two and a directive to a government department?
Could it be that I've criticised the government (and Jim Anderton in
particular) once too often and they saw the chance for a bit of personal
payback - at the taxpayer's expense?
After all, until they were caught out, the government were engaged in
handing out taxpayer dollars to those groups who were prepared to lobby on
the government's behalf and support them - so why would they not be equally
prepared to punish and penalise (at the taxpayer's expense) those who chose to criticise them?
Or is it something to do with the fact that I'm (quite legally) building a
cruise missile in my garage and documenting it on the Net - an activity that
clearly irks officials in the USA. Maybe they see that driving me broke might be a
clever way to scuttle that project and earn back some of the brownie points
lost when Helen Clark insulted George Bush
earlier this year?
Mind you, they do say that one should never attribute to malice, that which
can be explained by incompetence -- and we've all seen many examples of the
government's lack of competence when it comes to issues relating to the knowledge
Whatever the real reason, this saga sends a very sage warning to
all those who might consider embarking on the risky venture of starting
a knowledge-based business here in New Zealand. Not only will you have
to battle the tyrany of DSL monopolies, a lack of venture capital, and
an administration that apparently believes The Arts, spiritual healing/clairvoyance
and political correctness are far more
important than any hi-tech knowledge-based enterprise -- but you may find
yourself in the same position as me -- being ankle-tapped by government just
as you're about to cross the finishing line, if doing so fulfills some other political
There must have been some pretty damned important reason to deny the people
of this country the benefits that were set to flow from the deal I'd bought
to the table. This is even more the case when you realise that NZ has just
experienced its biggest balance of trade deficit
(Sept 2003) since statistics began
(1960) - so generating new export earnings should be a very high priority
So that's the situation - over the next few days I'll provide more detail and
explain exactly how the government scuttled this deal, what they refused to
do to rectify the situation. What's more, I'll be revealing some very
disturbing facts (including threats made against me by a government employee)
and naming names within
the department that was ultimately responsible for the actions that scuttled the deal.
Perhaps those responsible will learn that when you screw a person so hard that they have
nothing to lose, you actually empower them to divulge many details they might
have previously thought twice about disclosing for fear of vexatious libel
suits or other actions. After all, those who are left with nothing have nothing to lose.
I'll also tell you what I'm now going to do with the X-Jet technology and
That's if those who might be most embarrassed by this don't find some
jumped-up excuse to shut me down or otherwise prevent me from publishing
Hmmm.. I wonder how much I could sell advertising space for on *this* week's editions
of Aardvark? :-)
The Next Instalment: "We'll get you" said the woman from the IRD
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