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Heatley's train ride garners more scrutiny

Published: 6:58PM Wednesday March 31, 2010 Source: ONE News

Phil Heatley is back in Cabinet and back under scrutiny for using a VIP driver to follow him in a car while on a train trip to go whale-watching with his family.

Heatley drove his VIP car in a trip which included visits to Picton, Blenheim and then to Waikawa, north of Picton, for a conference.

After the conference, he and his family travelled by train from Waikawa to Kaikoura for a whale-watching trip.

A driver met Heatley in Waikawa and drove his VIP car to meet them in Kaikoura, then another driver was sent to Kaikoura to provide return transport for the driver.

The cost of these drivers has been put at $240.

The Fisheries Minister and his family were invited to go whale-watching by a fisheries company director.

He considered it official ministerial business, even though whales are not usually part of the fisheries portfolio.

Prime Minister John Key says it was not against the rules.

"It fits within the rules, but you know, Mr Heatley, who has been restored to Cabinet is under no illusions, like the rest of my Ministers are. We expect high standards from them, we expect them to spend tax payers' money wisely and we expect them to be cautious.

"I think we'll put the issue behind us and move forward," says Key.

Usually media get an opportunity to talk to MPs in parliament at 2.00pm as they walk into the debating chamber, but Heatley was a no-show on Wednesday. He is also not returning media calls. Instead, he has issued a statement saying he is trying to move on.

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