Gerry Brownlee knew Southern Response hired private spies

Former Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee knew insurer Southern Response had hired a controversial private spy firm for a two-year period.

Brownlee defended the $177,350 bill for hiring Thompson & Clark when questioned by Labour MP Megan Woods in September 2016, and confirmed they were engaged in January 2014.

Questions asked of Brownlee by (Megan) Woods show he was aware of the investigator's contract and defended it because Southern Response staff had received threats.

He said: "I am not prepared to outline the full reasons for this expenditure beyond saying post the Ashburton MSD shooting incident, threats to staff were taken very seriously."

However, the Ashburton incident took place in September 2014, some nine months after Thompson & Clark were hired.

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Security firm spied on politicians, activists and earthquake victims

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes has laid a complaint with police about unlawful recordings of earthquake victims by spy firm Thompson & Clark.

It comes as an explosive report details a slew of damning revelations about how the controversial spy firm was used by government agencies.

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Southern Response spied on Canterbury earthquake victims

Simon Darby