The best thing going for the Maori Council was hiring the grandson of a National Cabinet Minister

Dunno what to make of the contretemps over Felix Geiringer’s pay for batting for the Maori Council at its much-ballyhooed Waitangi Tribunal case.

But a day or so ago, the Maori Council (as reported here) was accusing the Ministry of Justice of being racist and trying to sabotage its water and geothermal rights case.

On Thursday morning the inquiry, which was due to start with the council delivering its closing submission, was overshadowed by the council’s barrister, Felix Geiringer, complaining about his pay rate.

Outside the hearing, council co-chair Maanu Paul said the Ministry of Justice’s Legal Service broke the agreement to pay Mr Geiringer the full lawyer’s hourly rate.

He says it wants Mr Geiringer to accept the same wages as a junior lawyer, while Crown lawyers receive $400 an hour.

Mr Paul says he believes the ministry is trying to undermine the council’s case.

If indeed this was a ploy to undermine the council’s case, it damned near worked, because Geiringer said he had seriously considered not showing up to deliver his closing submissions.

He says he has an agreement with Legal Services that he is to be paid $149 an hour and he is working with them to resolve the situation.

That seems a modest fee, compared with the $400 an hour for the Crown lawyers mentioned by Maanu Paul.

But are the Crown lawyers getting paid as much as that (and can we claim our money back if they lose)?

More important, was this racism?

Or simply a bureaucratic stuff-up?

Whatever it is, taxpayers should brace to pick up the tab.

In a statement (reported here), the ministry said that to date more than $850,000 had been approved for the hearing.

The ministry said that a lead lawyer receives between $120 to $149 an hour, not including GST.

It said to ensure legal aid payments are made correctly, lawyers are required to file accurate documents.

The ministry said the Maori Council lawyers have failed to complete and accurately file paperwork, which it said has caused delays in some legal aid payments being made.

Of course, if the Maori Council lawyers had stuffed up this paper work, we would be entitled to wonder if they were worth top dollar. Or worth paying at all, come to think of it.

Not unexpectedly, accordingly (and as we learn from the Radio NZ report) –

Mr Geiringer disagrees, saying all the paperwork he has been asked to submit has been faultless.

He says he has met all the requirements for the paperwork, which have involved hundreds of pages of material and hours of work.

He says he has an agreement with Legal Services that he is to be paid $149 an hour and he is working with them to resolve the situation.

Actually, Felix is a feller with fascinating National Party connections.

He is the son of the late Dr Erich Geiringer, something of a radical crusader, and Dr Carol Shand, which makes him the grandson of the late Tom Shand, a former National Cabinet Minister.

In his youth – as a student at Otago University – he had a run-in with Alf’s old mate, Bill Birch.

Someone with recollections of the encounter (here) says –

What I remember from 1991 was one Felix Geiringer getting himself wedged under the then-Finance Minister Bill Birch’s limousine as he made a slow speed escape from campus after telling students we were about to get a serious cut to our allowances.

Dunno if it’s the same Felix Geiringer who acted for some London landlords a few years ago, but Alf is led to believe his CV does include a stint in that city.

Thus it may well have been his advocacy that resulted in the eviction of a woman who at that time was fighting another legal battle or half her husband’s £400 million fortune.

Michelle Young, 45, must move out of her townhouse in Regent’s Park within six weeks or face being forcibly removed by bailiffs.

She had argued that being evicted from the property would cause her and her two daughters ‘exceptional hardship’.

But lawyer Felix Geiringer, representing her landlords, turned on the former model, telling her that if she wanted the court to believe her divorce fight had left her penniless, she should start claiming benefits and find a council house.

Mr Geiringer told Mrs Young it was time for her to face the reality of her situation.

‘The fact that she continues to wish to live in an £8,666-a-month house, to school her children in an expensive school, to come to court dressed in very fine clothes – the fact that she makes these choices does not bring her within the realm of exceptional hardship,’ he said.

‘Nobody in this country needs to be homeless. If she’s being evicted then the local council has an obligation to provide her with housing. She has access to benefits, her children can be schooled for free. The fact is that she is not seeking benefits that are available to her.’

He has been less eloquent on his blog at Pundit (here).

Indeed, he has been mute.

Alf quite likes him when he is mute and was disconcerted to hear what he had to say about taniwha and all that tosh.

The only satisfaction the good people of Eketahuna North can get out of the case, having learned that they are picking up the tab for both parties as taxpayers, is knowing that, either way, they will have put their money on the winner.

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2 Responses to The best thing going for the Maori Council was hiring the grandson of a National Cabinet Minister

  1. slopnz says:

    Actually it was then Minister of Education Lockwood Smith’s car that Felix ‘threw’ himself under!

    • Alf Grumble says:

      Alf finds it hard to believe his good mate Lockwood could have provoked such an action, but is happy to put the record straight.

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