David Benson-Pope

New Zealand Labour Party Dunedin South Clare Curran

David Benson-Pope
David Benson-Pope.jpg
4th Minister for the Environment
In office
19 October 2005 – 27 July 2007
Prime MinisterHelen Clark
Preceded byMarian Hobbs
Succeeded byDavid Parker (acting)
Trevor Mallard
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Dunedin South
In office
1999 – 2008
Preceded byDr Michael Cullen
Succeeded byClare Curran
Majority10,640 (30.27%)[1]
Personal details
Born1950 (age 69–70)
Political partyLabour

David Henry Benson-Pope (born 1950) is a New Zealand Labour Party politician who sat in the New Zealand Parliament from 1999 to 2008. He formerly served as a cabinet minister and in 2013 was elected to the Dunedin City Council.

Early career

Born in Dunedin and educated at King's High School, Benson-Pope received his tertiary education at the University of Otago and at the Christchurch College of Education. While studying education he was president of the Students' Association at the college, and National President of the Student Teachers' Association of New Zealand. He became involved in the teachers' unions working as a teacher and was first elected to the Dunedin City Council in October 1986. He remained a city councillor for five terms until 1999, when he successfully contested the Dunedin South electorate for the Labour Party.

Member of Parliament

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
1999–2002 46th Dunedin South 54 Labour
2002–2005 47th Dunedin South 36 Labour
2005–2008 48th Dunedin South 23 Labour

In 2002, Benson-Pope became his party's Senior Whip. He entered Cabinet in 2004, becoming Minister of Fisheries, Minister Responsible for the Law Commission, Associate Minister of Justice, Associate Minister for Education (schools) and Associate Minister for the Environment. He oversaw the drafting of the legislation for civil unions in New Zealand.

Despite briefly losing his ministerial positions leading up to the 2005 general election, Benson-Pope was appointed Minister of Social Development and Employment and Minister for the Environment in the third term of the Fifth Labour Government of New Zealand.

Allegations of misconduct as a teacher

Benson-Pope was temporarily stood down as a cabinet minister in 2005 after allegations from former students about the use of violence in the class room. The allegations included stuffing a tennis ball in 14-year-old's mouth, throwing tennis balls at students to keep them quiet, striking a pupil with the back of his hand making the pupil's nose bleed at a school camp, and caning a student hard enough to draw blood. Benson-Pope denied the allegations.[2]

Investigate magazine published, in February 2006, allegations that he entered the girls' dormitory to awaken students twice, and that he told them once that they were taking too long to shower after a "mud run." Benson-Pope denied any impropriety.[3]

2007 Environment Ministry allegations

Benson-Pope faced further controversy in 2007, which led to the resignation of his ministerial posts and the end of his Parliamentary career.

In 2007 he resigned the Ministerial posts and resumed the role of a backbencher representing the Dunedin South electorate. In 2008 he sought to recontest the Dunedin South seat on behalf of the Labour Party but was not chosen as the Labour Party representative for the seat.

In July 2007 it emerged that a political advisor in Benson-Pope's office (the Labour Party's Trade Union Affiliate Vice-President Steve Hurring) made phone calls which led to the sacking of the Ministry for the Environment's newly appointed Communications Manager. The issue revolved around her relationship with the chief press secretary to National's parliamentary leader John Key, despite the fact that she had "made a disclosure of her personal connections" during the appointment process. [4] [5] [6] [7] (Under New Zealand's State Sector Act, ministers and their staff may not become involved in employment matters within their ministries, with the law placing on CEOs of ministries a "duty to act independently of Ministers in matters relating to decisions on individual employees").[8]

After a week of intense pressure focusing not only on the allegation that his staff had acted improperly, but also that he himself had misled Parliament, the media and his Prime Minister about his knowledge and involvement, Benson-Pope offered his resignation from Cabinet at noon on Friday 27 July 2007. Subsequent investigations by the State Services Commissioners Hunn and Prebble make it clear that neither the Minister nor his staff acted in any way inappropriately.[9]

Prime Minister Helen Clark accepted the resignation, saying: "The way in which certain issues have been handled this week has led to a loss of credibility and on that basis I have accepted Mr Benson-Pope's offer to stand aside".[10] An editorial commented "Not for the first time, he and the Government have been embarrassed less for what he has done than for his inability to simply say what he has done." [11] Although Benson-Pope was later cleared of any wrongdoing in this case,[12] he remained a backbencher for the remainder of the parliamentary term.

Later career

In 2008, Benson-Pope was invited to join the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party by leader Julian Crawford, but he declined, saying, "Their judgement has obviously been impaired by their recreational habits".[13] Benson-Pope then sought the nomination of the Labour Party to contest the Dunedin South electorate in the 2008 general election but ultimately was not chosen by the party. His successor, Clare Curran, was duly elected.

Returning to Dunedin, Benson-Pope worked as a resource consent manager and sought election to the Dunedin City Council in the 2013 local body elections.[12] He stood as an independent candidate and was elected on 12 October 2013.[14] On 26 February 2015, Benson-Pope announced that he would contest the 2016 local body elections under the "Local Labour" ticket.[15]

During a live-streamed Zoom meeting of the city council held on 5 May 2020 Benson-Pope was seen in the camera of his computer cleaning his study with a feather duster whilst "pants-less". Members of the public, councillors and senior managers watched on as the meeting faced technological difficulties. Benson-Pope said he was not wearing pants but was wearing shorts after gardening earlier in the day and stated he was "delighted" that his cameo provided a welcome diversion but "It wasn't intentional."[16]

Personal life

Benson-Pope is married with twin children.[17]


  1. ^ At 2008 election
  2. ^ "Benson-Pope steps down as bully inquiry looms". Nzherald.co.nz. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  3. ^ Fisher, David (26 February 2006). "New questions for Benson-Pope". The New Zealand Herald.
  4. ^ "Briefing from State Services Commission received". Government of New Zealand. 20 July 2007. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007.
  5. ^ "Benson-Pope under fire". TV3. 28 July 2007.
  6. ^ Audrey, Young (21 July 2007). "Phone call that ended job". The New Zealand Herald.
  7. ^ "Trade Union Affiliates". Labour.org.nz. New Zealand Labour Party. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  8. ^ "State Sector Act 1988". Archived from the original on 17 October 2008.
  9. ^ D K Hunn (12 November 2007). "Investigation into the public service recruitment and employment of Ms Madeleine Setchell" (PDF).
  10. ^ "Benson-Pope resignation statements in full". The New Zealand Herald. 27 July 2007.
  11. ^ "Editorial: Inability to be 'free and frank' the last straw". The New Zealand Herald. 28 July 2007.
  12. ^ a b Morris, Chris (31 July 2013). "Benson-Pope eyes DCC seat". Odt.co.nz. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
  13. ^ Mackenzie, Dene (12 June 2008). "Party makes MP offer he can refuse". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 3 November 2011.
  14. ^ "Dunedin City Council : 2013 Triennial Elections" (PDF). Dunedin City Council. Retrieved 14 October 2013.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ Morris, Chris (26 February 2016). "Greater Dunedin disbands". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  16. ^ McNeilly, Hamish (5 May 2020). "No pants and a feather duster - welcome to Dunedin's revealing council meeting". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  17. ^ Mackenzie, Dene (26 September 2008). "Benson-Pope stands by Labour in valedictory speech". Odt.co.nz. Retrieved 14 October 2013.