Stephen Town finds the time to resign — but where is the explanation?

Having found time in his busy schedule, missing civil servant Stephen Town has hung up his boots and resigned from his $13,000-a-week garden leave ‘job’ — which is cushy, even for Wellington.

“We are delighted that our efforts to find Stephen Town have proved fruitful, but there is one glaring thing missing: an explanation from the Te Pūkenga Board, or Minister Chris Hipkins, as to what was going on,” Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says.

“There are rumours that Mr Town was paid out an additional six figure amount, apparently in exchange for ‘confidentiality’.  If true, that is a middle finger to openness and transparency taxpayers are entitled to expect from someone paid ten times the average wage to take ‘special leave’.”

“If it is true that Chris Hipkins is hanging up on journalists who ask questions about this matter, then more questions ought to be asked, and as always the humble Taxpayers’ Union will be asking them.”

The Taxpayers’ Union calls on Minister Chris Hipkins to instruct the Board of Te Pūkenga to waive the contractual obligation on Stephen Town not to speak publicly about the circumstances surrounding his garden leave and today’s resignation.

The Union has confirmation that Mr Town “cannot” speak on these matters and condemns the Government’s use of public funds to hush up a public servant to try to prevent matters from becoming public.

This is the action of a Government that wants to conceal what is going on, not a transparent and open one. It is a test of Mr Hipkin’s character: will he instruct the Board to waive the obligation on Mr Town?

“We apologise to Mr Town for any suggestion he is choosing not to be accountable to the public, or otherwise guilty of a conspiracy to prevent public accountability. We accept that he is unable, rather than unwilling to comment.”