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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

National Party MP Melissa Lee is a silly woman...

National Party MP Melissa Lee has been described as a silly woman and I would have to agree.

Both sides of Parliament have labelled as "silly" National MP Melissa Lee's comments that a new motorway could stop criminals from south Auckland committing crime in Mount Albert.

Lee, a list MP and National's candidate in the June 13 Mt Albert by-election, made the comment at a candidates' meeting on Wednesday night.

There was heated debate at the meeting on the New Zealand Transport Agency's $1.4 billion motorway proposal, announced on Tuesday, which will use a combination of above ground and underground sections to make up the 4.5km Auckland motorway extension between Waterview and Mt Roskill.

Lee told the meeting people drove to the electorate from South Auckland, and that the new motorway extension could divert some of that traffic and criminals from Mt Albert.

Prime Minister John Key has said her statement was "regrettable" and made in the heat of an election campaign.

"It was a silly thing to say but she has apologised and obviously regrets it."

Labour leader Phil Goff also said the comments were silly and questioned whether she still had the support of her leader.

"Ms Lee's idea that south Auckland people are criminals who should be funnelled through Mt Albert and directly into west Auckland is just ridiculous," Goff says.

Labour's MPs for South Auckland joined his condemnation.

"This sort of behaviour is completely unacceptable and John Key should move quickly to admonish his candidate in Mt Albert," Mangere MP Su'a William Sio says.

Manurewa MP George Hawkins, a former police minister, says Lee's comments showed she had no idea about the people of south Auckland or crime prevention.

"The reality is the people of south Auckland are hard workers trying to build better lives for them and their families and the bigoted and outdated attitudes of people like Melissa Lee do nothing to assist them in that goal," he says.

Lee has now toned down her comments.

"I didn't say all of south Auckland was doing this. I said the criminals who travel from one city to the next," she says.

"If south Auckland people (find) my comments offensive, I apologise. It wasn't about them. It was about criminals."

Lee claimed police had told her motorways helped channel criminals from the suburbs but police were not rushing to back her.

Auckland central police spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty told NZPA police would not comment on Lee's comments publicly.

"Criminals travel just like anyone else in the country. Where they choose to get on and off (motorways) is their choice."

The controversy is Lee's second major embarrassment for National this week; she is fending off allegations taxpayer money was used to make a video made by her company, Asia Vision Ltd, for the National Party.

Labour says the company received $1.2 million from New Zealand on Air last year, including money used in October for an election special.

NZ on Air chief executive Jane Wrightson says Lee's candidacy was known to NZ on Air and the conflict of interest had been managed.

"We are looking into the allegations, but we haven't decided on whether to hold an audit," Wrightson says.

Lee has gone off screen and an independent producer had been brought in.

"She had no editorial control."

Acknowledgements: NZPA

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