Shane Jones admits failure to disclose meetings

The handing out of large amounts of money through the Provincial Growth Fund was always going to be scrutinised by the Opposition, especially with Shane Jones involved. And as Minister in charge Jones has had to admit ‘a slip-up’ in not disclosing 61 meetings, including some with people who have an interest in the Fund.

RNZ: Shane Jones fails to disclose 61 meetings

Shane Jones has had to correct 20 answers to questions from the National Party after he failed to disclose meetings he had earlier this year.

Some of those were with people who have an interest in the Provincial Growth Fund.

Mr Jones, the regional economic development minister, said he took full responsibility for the muck-up which he put down to a transcription error from his outlook diary.

One transcription error missed 61 meetings?

National MP Paul Goldsmith uses weekly written parliamentary questions to ask Mr Jones who he meets with and what for.

He said this slip-up by the minister seriously concerned him, because it was not one or two meetings he missed, but 61.

And, he said, a number of those meetings were to do with the $3 billion of public money Mr Jones had responsibility for.

“What’s made me nervous, is that we regularly ask who he meets with and you can understand that a minister would make the occasional mistake. But what we saw here was 61 meetings which he hadn’t initially declared, which he is now declaring.”

The forgotten meetings include a number with regional and sector representative groups, like Kiwifruit New Zealand and Whakatōhea Mussels.

There are dinners and site visits with local mayors, tourism groups and business representatives, as well as regular catch-ups with Mr Jones’ own ministerial colleagues.

There was also a meeting with the former New Zealand First MP Pita Paraone, who now has interests in an Iwi forestry project which has received a financial injection from Provincial Growth Fund.

It can’t have just been a transcription error, because a number of written questions have not been answered accurately.

Mr Jones said he has received approximately 3000 written questions from National since he became a minister, the majority of which had been answered accurately.

“This figure represents one percent, so in the bigger scheme of things it’s small fry. But the moment that the office uncovered that some of the meetings had been miscast, then we let [them] know.”

It isn’t small fry if the Minister isn’t meeting his responsibility to disclose meetings.

And Jones is likely to remain under scrutiny.

Also today from RNZ – ‘It’s murky’: Questions over use of Provincial Growth Fund

National wants answers as to why the Economic Development Minister is giving out cash to a private trust it says is set to make a killing off it.

A newsletter sent out by the Ngati Hine Forestry Trust, which has secured $6 million of Provincial Growth Fund money for a second round of pine planting on land in Northland, suggests trust benefactors are getting an exceptionally good deal which is “far superior to previous arrangements”.

It said the specifics of the deal were commercially sensitive, but “the financial returns to the beneficial owners to be received from this Forestry Right upon harvest will be substantial [sic].”

The newsletter also reveals the deal will require a third round of planting by the Crown.

“The Forestry Right with the Crown is for one rotation only and it includes the requirement for the Crown to plant a third rotation at its cost which will then be owned 100 percent by the Trust,” the newsletter said.

National’s economic development spokesperson Paul Goldmith said that proved serious financial gain for a private trust – which went directly against the core principles of the Provincial Growth Fund.

“We’ve been asking the minister and the ministry for the business cases, clarity about what is actually being purchased, what the performance indicators are before they get the money – and they’ve refused to give us that information so far.

“It’s murky, it’s been lacking in transparency and the basic principles of good governance.”

Mr Goldsmith also pointed out one of the trustees was former New Zealand First MP Pita Paraone, who he suggested lobbied the minister, Shane Jones, for the money.

But, Mr Paraone said he was appalled that the National Party had sunk so low as to accuse him of soliciting Crown cash.

“I was not part of the discussions as to whether or not Ngati Hine should lobby the minister and I don’t believe that they did,” he said.

“I had no part in the signing of the deal, or determining what the deal should be, other than to attend the actual planting of the first tree.”

Mr Paraone asked how far National was willing to take this argument.

Local governments and groups in the provinces are queueing up for government handouts for projects. This is understandable. Provincial areas have been run down and neglected by successive governments for several decades.

But there are risks of favouritism, money for mates, and poor investments, so scrutiny is important. And the Minister for Regional Economic Development should be aware that the need for transparency – including full disclosure – is important as the credibility of the fund and also the credibility of the Government is at stake.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern agreed the sheer volume of written questions from the opposition could impact accuracy of answers.

Why should it impact on accuracy? Good ministerial records should be kept, and accurate responses should be expected.

There is an issue with the volume of questions being asked, and  that may well impact in response times, but accuracy should be a standard expectation. So that’s an odd position for the Prime Minister to take.

1 News: Shane Jones says it’s a ‘happy coincidence’ his home region is getting the lion’s share of fund he’s in charge of

Northland is getting the most funding from the provincial growth fund that has $1 billion to spend.

A happy coincidence for those getting the money. Northland was badly in need of regional development, but funds handed out should be prudent decisions.

Perhaps it’s also a happy coincidence for the Shane Jones and NZ First re-election chances.

The Fund seems to have been a means for NZ First to fund some of their policies without needing ton get specific budget allocations – like this: Shane Jones earmarks $2.2 million of Provincial Growth Fund for 250,000 native trees

Ardern should be wary of Jones and the Fund, and she should be demanding that everything is transparent and above board – if she is able to demand anything of NZ First. Otherwise (and perhaps inevitably) Jones is an embarrassment waiting to happen for her Government.

Goldsmith isn’t an attention seeking MP, but he is tenacious, and is a good person to be maintaining the scrutiny of the Jones Fund.

23 Comments

  1. PDB

     /  November 12, 2018

    Fortunate for if it had been 62 meetings he had failed to disclose we’d all be concerned as a country about how open and transparent this govt really is.

  2. robertguyton

     /  November 12, 2018

    Northland doubtless needs the help. Jones is a damn the torpedoes kind of politician and gets on with the job in a way many like. Just saying’.

    • Gerrit

       /  November 12, 2018

      Thank goodness someone is building the Puhoi to Warkworth SH1 4 motorway. Would not have happened under Labour / Greens. Thanks NZ First.

      Northland is being buidl to be a NZ First fortress with your taxes Robert. Labour / Greens wont get a look in.

    • Gezza

       /  November 12, 2018

      Jones is a damn the torpedoes kind of politician and gets on with the job in a way many like

      Jonesy might be a bit too clever by half. A Minister who seems it highly likely will cop a corruption hit from one of his own homing torpedoes sooner or later…

  3. Corky

     /  November 12, 2018

    If National had a different leader this would have been the issue that’d see them gain voting capital, regardless of the JLR affair.

    Once again it’s Labour shooting themselves in the foot with a toxic mix of Maori, socialism, possible nepotism and political incompetence. I knew Jonsey would stuff up. Just didn’t think it would be so soon after his shower head suggestion. Simple extrapolation.

  4. Gerrit

     /  November 12, 2018

    Another example where NZ First does what it likes and Ardern has to lump it along with the Labour / Green part of the coalition.

    Ardern really is the marionette and leaving Labour / Green to play second fiddle to NZ First.

    This coalition will last easy two years as Labour / Greens are totally useless in dealing with Peters and his cohorts.

    Waiting with interest to the Tracy Martin report at 11 today. Not what is in the report (a whitewash) but the reaction from Ardern. Will prove once and for all who wears the trousers in the coalition. Will the Labour / Greens SJW rise up against NZ First?

    • robertguyton

       /  November 12, 2018

      Anguishing over who’s “wearing the trousers” is an oddly chauvinist way to think about a co-alition, Gerrit. Does there have to be a “daddy” in your model of government? Do you miss Key still?

  5. Trevors_Elbow

     /  November 12, 2018

    Ahhhh the sweet smell of favour’s for friends in the morning….. smells like?

    National have two things they need to do over the next 2 years.

    1
    Get on the stump in the provinces with an alternate plan to NZF’s ‘buy up’, to shore up the National vote there and also to destroy NZF’s vote in the provinces. Winston is trying to become NZ’s version of the Australian National party – the party of the ‘bush’, as they say in Aussie. National must stop that at all costs OR accept they need to go into coalition with Winston First which is not an option while Winston is around….

    2
    Find a Coalition partner. Option a/ Resurrect the Maori Party. They need a coalition party and this option also undermines Labour in the growing Maori demographic. Balances the numbers back to a place where Naqtional could form a coalition Option b/ A Conservative Party focus on Pacific Island voters in South Auckland is an option as well, as that attacks Labour’s core vote and offers another coalition option.

    • High Flying Duck

       /  November 12, 2018

      The problem with point 2 is that a big reason the Maori Party fell over was due to hanging with National for so long.
      Also, being “conservative” is one of the biggest turnoffs for voters with Simon Bridges.
      While there is definitely a conservative constituency in NZ it is small and off-putting to the mainly liberal populace.
      National have some big issues to deal with to get back in.
      NZ First sans Winston would be one option, but a new clean slate no baggage version of ACT, sticking to liberal policies would be the best bet to offset the Nanny- state centrism National now espouses.

    • PartisanZ

       /  November 12, 2018

      1. They already have an “alternate plan” to Shane Jones’ PGF … with similar though far more expensive favouritism towards Northland … and have tried it in 2 general elections and one bye-election … National’s is called, quaintly, Roads of National Significance …

      It might better be termed corporate welfare directly for the truckers … Whereas Jonesy’s is corporate welfare for those supplying the lading for the trucks … whereby demand increases, truckers borrow more and buy more trucks anyway … to be driven on improved highways, though not four-laners up North … yet … although extra road freight may push Northland’s commerce to the point where four-lanes is actually justified financially …?

      Add some extra corporate welfare to entice suppliers to maybe use rail as well …?

      Labour-led NZFirst’s ‘scheme’ is the better of the two approaches for Northland and probably most other provinces … and much more appealing to a broader cross-section of the population … and to Maori …

      2. Coalition Partner? Forget it. Not a shit show …

      • Gezza

         /  November 12, 2018

        Yep. Good comment. I like that.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  November 12, 2018

          No, it’s b.s. as usual. Northland needs proper arterial routes. Labour/NZF will give it welfare and mates perks. Greens will criticize Key’s cycleways.

          • Gezza

             /  November 12, 2018

            Just a start Al. By the time Chippy has beaten the teachers into submission there’ll be more money for development of regional enterprises. Just a shame they had to give the portfolio to Jonesy.

            • Gezza

               /  November 12, 2018

              PS: If it was anybody else other Jones, there’d be more other region,s like the Naki, getting a look in. Jonesy’s too busy buying off his uncs and their mates.

      • High Flying Duck

         /  November 12, 2018

        I’ve never seen providing decent first world roading being described as “welfare for truckers” before. Very innovative, if factually wrong.
        Roading provides opportunity for all businesses – big and small to invest in the North. It is also better for tourism, which is the biggest earner up there if I’m not mistaken.
        RONS have been successfully implemented in other parts of the country and have provided faster, safer travel.
        But why offer something that benefits businesses of all sizes as well as private individuals, when you can cherry pick your mates eh?
        I’m sure the Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust are thankful the roads were put on hold so they could get $6m in Govt money for their private benefit “the financial returns to the beneficial owners to be received from this Forestry Right upon harvest will be substantial [sic].”

      • Trevors_Elbow

         /  November 12, 2018

        Maybe you’re right maybe the country is irredeemable Socialist….. which means long term we are screwed…

        Well until the next fiscal crisis generated by an offshore driven major economic downturn… then its 2008 all over again with stupid, locked in socialist structure spending generating massive structural deficits for the next conservative government to sort out… hopefully there is another Key/English tandem out there to sort out Labor’s mess this time…

        Socialism always works til you run out of other peoples money Parti… happens over and over, but the siren cal of ‘free stuff’ funded by ‘rich pricks’ is just to good for mad lefties and stupid people to resist…

        • PartisanZ

           /  November 12, 2018

          HFD & Trevor, from a thorough and informative document I saw recently but can’t find now, it appeared to me that RONS was originally formulated based on volumes of freight and commerce – including tourism – travelling along certain regional highway routes in NZ.

          These were graphically illustrated by the relative thickness of red lines joining Auckland and Hamilton – Hamilton to Tauranga – Hamilton to Wellington via SH1 … and Auckland to Warkworth … compared to a much thinner red line from Warkworth to Whangarei …

          The volume of commerce justified and warranted each of the original RONS routes, which DID NOT include Warkworth-to-Wellsford and certainly not Wellsford-to-Whangarei …

          Northland’s contribution to GDP simply does not warrant it, although improvement in both safety, road quality & continuity is warranted. Labour-led are providing this. Safety is being achieved with reflective median poles at a tiny fraction of the cost of ‘post-and-cable’ seen on the backside of the Brynderwyns costing mega-dollars …

          As a blatant election bribe, extended first to Wellsford for the bye-election, which Peters won, then to Whangarei to get Matt King narrowly elected by a majority of only 1300, National’s “Four Lanes to Whangarei” is so deceiptful as to be entirely irresponsible electioneering and governance IMHO, giving Northlanders false hopes of a highway they would never have delivered on … while district and rural roads continue being neglected and especially unsafe due to LOGGING TRUCKS …

          RONS, Roads of National Significance has become RONZ … Roads of New Zealand
          Better and safer for EVERYONE …

          • High Flying Duck

             /  November 13, 2018

            It was, and is a bit broader than you read Parti, and far from being a blatant bribe for the Northland electorate, it was part of a national strategy.

            Wellsford is fast becoming a part of Auckland (in fact it officially is). Improving access and travel times at least that far is a bare minimum rather than wasteful government over-reach.

            A high quality minimum 4 lane arterial roading spine down the country is good long term planning. Shane Jones is a scatter gun opportunist who is being shown on a far too often basis to be unable to invest our taxpayer funds in prudent and worthwhile projects.

            In this he is not alone – the $1B slushfund is only worse than the equally dire cherry picking scheme that is Callaghan Fund / Stephen Joyce due to its size and overly broad remit.

            The objectives for the Northland RONS project are:

            ********************
            – to enhance inter regional and national economic growth and productivity
            – to improve movement of freight and people between Auckland and Northland
            – to improve the connectivity between the growth areas in the northern Rodney
            area
            – to improve the reliability of the transport network through a more robust and
            safer road between Auckland and Northland.
            Other benefits include reducing congestion during peak periods, and improving economic development and tourism opportunities in Northland.
            *********************

            The economic impact comes once the road is built – better access and shorter travel times between the North and major markets to the south is an incentive for growth rather than a reaction to it.

  1. Shane Jones admits failure to disclose meetings — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition