Report by Tom Frewen
Although Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully publicly announced the appointment of his friend, Sky TV lobbyist Tony O’Brien, to the Antarctic New Zealand management board on Wednesday, he kept quiet about appointing another media friend, former Dominion editor Richard Long, as chairman of the New Zealand-France Friendship Fund in February.
Created in 1991 during an official visit by prime minister Michel Rocard, the fund finances projects that promote “close and friendly relations between the citizens of France and New Zealand”. The latest annual report shows the fund approved projects worth $195,000 and paid out $11,000 in operating expenses in 2011.
Projects are evaluated at a joint meeting in Paris in June. Mr Long, who does not speak French, is expected to travel to the French capital to attend his first meeting as chairman next year.
After resigning as the editor of Wellington’s morning daily shortly after it was merged with the Evening Post in 2002, Mr Long joined PR firm Busby Ramshaw Grice for a brief period before becoming the media minder for then National party leader, Bill English, staying on to play the same role when Don Brash replaced English.
His involvement in National’s 2005 election campaign, working closely with party strategist Murray McCully, is fully documented in Nicky Hager’s book, The Hollow Men.
A request under the Official Information Act to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for background information about Mr Long’s appointment has been referred upwards to the minister’s office.