|Benson Pope in December 2006, next to Ruth Dyson|
|4th Minister for the Environment|
19 October 2005 – 27 July 2007
|Prime Minister||Helen Clark|
|Preceded by||Marian Hobbs|
|Succeeded by||David Parker (acting)
|Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Dunedin South
1999 – 2008
|Preceded by||Dr Michael Cullen|
|Succeeded by||Clare Curran|
|Born||1950 (age 63–64)|
David Henry Benson-Pope (born 1950) is a New Zealand Labour Party politician who sat in the Parliament of New Zealand from 1999 to 2008. He formerly served as a cabinet minister and in 2013 was elected to the Dunedin City Council.
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
|Parliament of New Zealand|
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
In May 2005, Benson-Pope stood down from cabinet after allegations that he had physically abused students while teaching at Bayfield High School in the 1980s. The allegations included charges he stuffed a tennis ball in a student's mouth and taped his hands to a desk, threw tennis balls at students' heads, caned a student until he bled, and smacked a student in the face with the back of his hand on a school camp, making his nose bleed. Benson-Pope strongly denied the accusations, but Helen Clark temporarily relieved him of his portfolios. When the Speaker Margaret Wilson decided that the privileges committee had no case to address, Benson-Pope regained all his former portfolios apart from Associate Minister of Education.
In November 2005, the media reported that no prosecution would take place, despite police finding there was a prima facie case that he had assaulted students.
Investigate magazine published, in February 2006, further allegations of improper behaviour during Benson-Pope's teaching days. It said he forced students to stand outside for lengthy periods in their nightwear for misbehaviour during a school camp in the 1980s. An update on the magazine's website also claimed that Benson-Pope had entered the female dormitory and showers in 1997 while 14-year-old girls were undressed. Benson-Pope dismissed the allegations as nonsense. 
Parents complained about these and other incidents, and the school headmaster at the time says he discussed the complaints with Benson-Pope. Benson-Pope issued a public statement on 28 February 2006 saying that although a discussion had taken place, he had not seen a written complaint until the day before. He apologised in Parliament to his former students, while maintaining he had done nothing inappropriate. 
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.     (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").
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.
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". 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."  Although Benson-Pope was later cleared of any wrong-doing in this case, he remained a backbencher for the remainder of the parliamentary term.
Benson-Pope 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.
Benson-Pope is married with twin children.
|Minister for the Environment
(after David Parker as Acting Minister)
|New Zealand Parliament|
Dr Michael Cullen
|Member of Parliament for Dunedin South
- At 2008 election
- Fisher, David (2006-02-26). "New questions for Benson-Pope". The New Zealand Herald.
- "Benson-Pope releases statement". Newstalk ZB. 2006-02-28.
- "Briefing from State Services Commission received". New Zealand Government. 2007-07-20.
- "Benson-Pope under fire". TV3. 2007-07-28.
- Audrey, Young (2007-07-21). "Phone call that ended job". The New Zealand Herald.
- "Trade Union Affiliates". New Zealand Labour Party.
- Relevant legislation
- "Benson-Pope resignation statements in full". The New Zealand Herald. 2007-07-27.
- "Editorial: Inability to be 'free and frank' the last straw". The New Zealand Herald. 2007-07-28.
- Morris, Chris (31 July 2013). "Benson-Pope eyes DCC seat". Retrieved 14 October 2013.
- "Dunedin City Council : 2013 Triennial Elections". Dunedin City Council. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
- Mackenzie, Dene (26 September 2008). "Benson-Pope stands by Labour in valedictory speech". Retrieved 14 October 2013.
- A determination relating to an appeal by Mr D Benson-Pope and three other persons against the decisions of the Dunedin City Council following a review of its membership and the basis of.... Wellington, [N.Z.]: Local Government Commission. 1995
- Benson-Pope, David (2004). Review of sustainability measures and other management controls for the 2004–05 fishing year: adaptive management programme. Wellington, [N.Z.]: Ministry of Fisheries
- Benson-Pope, David (2004). Setting of sustainability measures for green-lipped mussel stocks to be introduced into the quota management system on 1 October 2004. Wellington, [N.Z.]: Ministry of Fisheries
- Benson-Pope, David (2004). Setting of sustainability measures for stocks to be introduced into the quota management system on 1 October 2004. Wellington, [N.Z.]: Ministry of Fisheries