PGF wouldn’t fund Green school

This looks like a continuation of the campaign scrap between NZ First and Greens, who appeared to be trying their hardest to mutually destruct.

It appears that Shane Jones has fed a story to Newshub (PGF applications mustn’t be confidential: Green School previously turned down for Provincial Growth Fund cash

Newshub can reveal the nearly $12 million of taxpayer money netted by the controversial Green School wasn’t the first time they’d tried to dip into the public purse.

The Green School – now one of New Zealand’s most well-known schools for all the wrong reasons.

And it scored millions of dollars of Government funding signed off by Green Party co-leader James Shaw in his capacity as Associate Finance Minister – a decision at odds with the Green Party’s policy to phase out funding for private schools.

Shaw has described it as “an error of judgment for which I apologise”.

It turns out Shaw’s error of judgment – demanding the green light for the Green School’s request for cash – wasn’t the school’s first rodeo.

“The Green School made an application to the Provincial Growth Fund. It was rapidly nixed,” says NZ First MP Shane Jones, who oversees the PGF as Regional Economic Development Minister.

A document obtained by Newshub under the Official Information Act shows the school had a crack at getting far less funding last year but failed.

It wanted just under $1m – that was declined. But when it applied for 12 times that – the funding was approved.

“James got his nose out of joint and fought for it to be restored through the shovel-ready money,” Jones says.

The application was refused partly because it wouldn’t create sustainable new jobs. The school’s now promising to create 200 jobs.

In the 2019 application – for a fraction of the funding – the school was promising in excess of 100 new jobs.

Documents say: “the applicant estimates that the project will bring in around [redacted] in economic benefit on annual basis and will create at least 100 jobs linked to the project.”

But officials in the Provincial Development Unit which determines PGF funding were sceptical.

“The success of the Bali operation may not be an appropriate indication of the likelihood of success for a venture based in Taranaki. There is insufficient market research to justify that it will be successful.”

It may be that after failing with the PGF application the Green School did more work on their market research, or on the presentation of their application.

Jones declared on Newshub Nation he was determined to kill off his Government sibling.

“I’m going to do everything in my power to ensure the Greens do not survive,” he said.

So this looks like a hit job by Jones. His problem is that he is performing poorly in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate, and polls suggest that NZ First is struggling to get near the 5% threshold, so NZ First are at real risk this election.

I think that this sort of minor party conflict is likely to drag both parties down.

Shaw publicly apologises but pressure continues over Green School handout

Yesterday James Shaw fronted up to media at midday and apologised and apologised for the $11.7 million funding of a private Green school in Taranaki, but the hits kept coming, possible from within the Government.

Later in the day from Newshub: Green co-leader James Shaw refused to sign-off on $3bn of infrastructure projects unless Green School was included

Newshub has obtained an email that went to Government ministers and the Treasury from Shaw’s office and it included a stark ultimatum.

That sounds like someone with access to Government emails has given it to Newshub.

“Minister Shaw won’t sign this briefing until the Green School in Taranaki is incorporated.”

The email said Shaw discussed the ultimatum with the Education Minister. 

“Minister Shaw has also discussed this one with Minister Hipkins.

“Sorry to be the spanner-in-the-works, but if we can get the project included, he’ll sign everything this afternoon,” the email said.

This could be a spanner in the works for Shaw trying to put this behind him and the green campaign.

Newshub asked Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson if she recognised that it may have jeopardised the Greens’ chances of returning to Parliament.

“It’s very clear, there’s no denying that already we were hovering around 5 percent,” she said.

But Shaw seems confident he will stay on.

“I don’t think this is a resignation level event,” he said.

Shaw said if he was making the same decision on the Green School funding he would not support it.

With a deep sigh, he said: “I feel terrible about the way that this has played out.” 

I’m sure he does feel terrible about it.

From the earlier apology media conference from The Spinoff:

James Shaw has apologised for his decision to support a controversial “Green School” in Taranaki, but hurled criticism at the previous National government for underfunding schools that need help.

“The decision to support this project was an error of judgement. If I was making the same decision again I would not support the project.”

“So again, I apologise. I apologise to parents, to teachers and unions. I apologise to Green Party members who… have felt demoralised by this decision. I apologise to the schools in Taranaki who quite rightfully want the best for their children. And I want you to know, all of you, that I have listened to your concerns,” Shaw said.

In response to a question from a reporter, Shaw said the New Plymouth mayor, Neil Holdom, introduced him to the couple who started the school. “Ironically, one of the things I said to them was ‘are you sure you want to come to the Crown because often government money is more trouble than it’s worth.’ They were clear at that point that the project would not proceed, and the mayor was quite keen for it to proceed.”

This is an ongoing problem for Shaw and the Greens but could also impact on the Government.

The leaked email “said Shaw discussed the ultimatum with the Education Minister”. That was confirmed in Question Time yesterday, but the email wasn’t disclosed.

7. NICOLA WILLIS (National) to the Minister of Education: Was he or the Ministry of Education consulted about any aspect of the application by Green School New Zealand for funding prior to its announcement; if so, did he raise concerns about providing Government funding for this project?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): I had a conversation about the application with James Shaw towards the end of July and I gave him feedback that from an educational portfolio perspective the school would not be a priority for investment.

Nicola Willis: Was he aware of Treasury advice that “… it would be inappropriate to announce or provide government funding for a project that does not yet have the necessary education approvals”, and has the Green School met the legal requirements for registration?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: No, I wouldn’t have seen that advice because I was not one of the Ministers involved in approving the project.

Nicola Willis: Has the Green School qualified for legal registration as a private school, including meeting all requirements around suitable tuition standards and staffing standards?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I’m not aware of that. Of course, private schools have an application process that they have to go through. As Minister I don’t make that decision. That decision’s made by the Ministry of Education.

Willis followed that up with questions to Shaw:

8. NICOLA WILLIS (National) to the Associate Minister of Finance: Does he stand by the entirety of his press statement on 26 August confirming $11.7 million in funding for Green School New Zealand, and on what evidence did he base each of the claims made in that statement?

Hon JAMES SHAW (Associate Minister of Finance): Yes, I stand by my statement based on reports provided to me by the Infrastructure Industry Reference Group (IRG). That being said, understanding the depth of feeling in the community about this funding, were I to make this decision again, I would come to a different conclusion.

Nicola Willis: Is a contract in place for the Government’s deal with the green school, and has he taken any legal advice about his options for unwinding his mistake?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, Ministers cannot get involved in the contracting between the Crown and the various projects.

Nicola Willis: Did the Minister get involved in making clear his expectation that the green school should achieve legal registration as a school prior to receiving taxpayer money; and, if not, why not?

Hon JAMES SHAW: I don’t believe I did.

Nicola Willis: Did he meet with anyone involved in the green school prior to or during the application process for shovel-ready funding; and, if so, who?

Hon JAMES SHAW: On 18 May, the Mayor of New Plymouth, Neil Holdom, came to see me in my office and introduced me to the people who’ve started the green school. He was quite keen that we support the project.

Nicola Willis: Does he agree with Minister Hipkins that the Green Party had advocated “quite strongly” for the green school; and, if so, why did he reject the Minister’s advice that the funding should not go ahead?

Hon JAMES SHAW: It wasn’t the Green Party; it was me because it was a ministerial decision and not one that was shared with caucus, because, of course, as a budget confidential decision, Ministers are unable to share that outside of their offices. So I would say it’s not accurate to say that the Green Party advocated for it, but I did personally.

So Shaw says he didn’t share the decision with the Green caucus, he did it alone. Perhaps he will now be asked if he shared with the caucus his ultimatum to not support the whole $3 billion unless the Green School funding was included.

Nicola Willis: Did any Ministers other than Minister Hipkins raise questions or concerns with him about the conditions for this taxpayer funding to the green school; and, if so, what steps did he take to address those concerns?

Hon JAMES SHAW: I’m not aware of specific points that were raised. There was a very iterative process over a number of months of the whole IRG process, and many projects came and went during the course of that time.

The funding process may also get more scrutiny. Shaw has criticised the process – last week he said A number of ‘shovel ready’ funding decisions “made in haste” and “not high quality”.

Stuff: James Shaw fesses up, but put all future Covid projects at risk

James Shaw’s apology for the Green School fiasco was full, frank and a lot more than what you usually get from a minister that has made a mistake.

He owned it, and took personal responsibility. When asked, he also said that it was “an error of judgement on my part”, but “not a resignation level event”.

However, the most interesting part of his remarks revolved around the internal pressures he clearly felt when assessing Projects for the Government’s Covid shovel-ready fund. This goes back to earlier in the year when the Government released its $12 billion “New Zealand upgrade” package of infrastructure spending on rail, cycleways, but mostly roads. Although the Greens were privately irked about the direction of travel of the package, which was driven by Finance Minister Grant Robertson, they publicly celebrated the small wins that they had.

At the Green Party Annual General Meeting, held over Zoom in July, it is understood that the Green Party leadership faced a lot of questions about why there were more green projects in that New Zealand Upgrade package.

And so yesterday, Shaw effectively said yesterday that he felt the pressure after the New Zealand upgrade to ensure that the Greens influence the $3 billion worth of Covid infrastructure projects as much as they could.

He also said, perhaps ominously for Labour, that there were “many ironies and stories I may tell about this one day”.

Shaw’s comment yesterday revealed what has been apparent for some time: that the COvid fund, in common with NZ First’s baby the Provincial Growth Fund, has always has the potential to get politically favoured projects over the line. The very nature of the fund’s goal – to get money out the door and into projects as quickly as possible – lends itself to projects of dubious value being approved. There is a reason why Governments take time to approve dungeons to build infrastructure.

Perhaps that was why when Shaw was asked whether or not, given that this Green School was approved while he was keeping an eye on 40-50 other projects, other dodgy projects could get up James Shaw simply looked worn out and replied, “Look, I couldn’t, I couldn’t say”.

Media are having more to say about all this.

Newsroom: Shaw’s sorrow crystal clear as Greens face heat over private school

Between lion’s gate abundance ceremonies and crystal planting, the Green School in Taranaki has enough unconventional extracurricular activities to last a lifetime.

But should they be looking for an additional option, James Shaw offered up an impeccable lesson in ritual self-flagellation on Tuesday afternoon.

Speaking about his decision to grant $11.7 million in Covid-19 infrastructure funding to the private school for an expansion, the Greens co-leader all but begged for voters’ forgiveness over “an error of judgment for which I apologise”.

It was difficult to watch and presumably even more difficult to deliver, but clearly Shaw and his caucus felt the highly public display of contrition was necessary after days of bad publicity with the election looming ever closer.

On the one hand, it feels as if the issue has stayed in the news cycle longer than it probably merits due to the strange period we find ourselves in, with Parliament barely going through the motions as politicians wait for the election campaign to pick up full steam.

But with the Greens precariously close to the five percent threshold, even a minor drop in support could prove fatal.

Nor is the issue likely to disappear off the radar entirely; Government ministers have said it is too late to withdraw the funding from the school, although Shaw has mooted the idea of turning it into a repayable loan.

Winston Peters is also joining the political flogging: James Shaw may get some reprieve if Green School funding treated as ‘loan’

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and Shaw have had increasingly fractious public exchanges in recent months, and this week was no different.

Peters says this is a “mistake of bad fiscals, bad understanding of the marketplace, and worse still of a very, very uncertain applicant”.

It was Shaw’s “number one priority” to get the funding through, says Peters, and this is a case “where the blame stops with the person who’s now saying he’s sorry that he did that”.

And he put the decision down to Shaw’s lack of political experience: “You cannot go on making mistakes in this business … we’ve stopped things that were a silly idea and promoted things that are good idea.”

Many will see the irony in Peters criticising someone else for funding pet projects, but the difference is that Peters and Shane Jones have had far more money at their disposal to dish out, and Peters doesn’t apologise for anything.

major concern of Treasury in opposing the funding was it did not yet have the full education approvals needed for a private school.

Advice obtained by RNZ from around July said without full private school registration, it would be “inappropriate” to give Green School government money, but even then it opposed the grant.

Green School has provisional registration, says the advice, but it would it be still be some time before it was a fully registered private school, as Treasury says the “Education Review Office (ERO) is planning to visit the school in 2021, so if they are successful in receiving full registration this is unlikely until mid-2021”.

Grant Robertson kicks Shaw while he’s down:

Finance Minister Grant Robertson told the House 1900 applications were initially received and Crown Infrastructure Partners shortlisted that down to just over 800.

“Ministers were then responsible for refining that down further to the around 150 projects that have been put in place … Minister Shaw is on record for his strong advocacy of the particular project in question here.”

Robertson says he does not see a backlash for Labour or New Zealand First as a result of the decision-making.

“I think everybody in the situation is clear that it was Minister Shaw’s strong advocacy that saw the Green School (succeed), and he himself has acknowledged that.”

And it continues.

The Green School embarrassment is likely to come up in Parliament again today.

More Green School problems

James Shaw had to try to limit the damage done last week with the announcement he had approved Government funding of a private Green school last week that was contrary to Green party policy – see Greens under fire for $11m private school funding.

This looks like continuing. Newshub: Couple who called COVID-19 ‘manufactured natural disaster’ held ‘DNA activation’ event at Green School

Newshub can reveal the Green School which received nearly $12 million in Government funding hosted a ‘sacred ceremony’ run by a school parent who believes COVID-19 is a manufactured natural disaster.

The self-described ‘new age architect’ also planned a $15,000 tour of New Zealand that included planting crystals with the school’s students.

Christof and Alaya Melchizedek were excited to be selling the tour that would stop at the privately-owned Green School in Taranaki for the “main solstice piece” – a two-day activity with the children.

“We’re going to be laying down a crystal bed. Everyone will be bringing crystals from all around the world. We are going to be unifying them and bringing in this 5th dimensional consciousness,” Christof Melchizedek explained in a video.

In a long Facebook post on Sunday, Melchizedek described COVID-19 as a “manufactured natural disaster”, a “UN 2030 vision” including “vaccinated nanochip technology” and “looming possibility of vaccination agendas” – all baseless claims circulated by conspiracy theorists.

The post was deleted after questions from Newshub.

The crystal planting activity appears to have been thwarted by the lockdown, but the couple hosted a fundraising event at the school – a “lion’s gate abundance and manifestation ceremony” including “bio-energy field cleaning” and “DNA activation”.

Once again Shaw, the man behind the cash for the Green School, was ducking for cover – refusing to be interviewed and scrambling for a solution.

The school told Newshub the funding could be provided partly as a loan and this could be Shaw’s way out.

I don’t think there is any way out of this for Shaw, the damage has already been done no matter what partial ‘solutions’ they might come up with now.

The way things are going for the Greens, National and NZ First we may end up with Labour in Government on their own with Act the main Opposition party.

Greens under fire for $11m private school funding

A curious change has been noticed to a Green farm rule:

Private schools shall never be funded. unless it’s a Green school


A Beehive announcement by Green leader James Shaw: Taranaki school construction project to create jobs

Green School New Zealand will be supported with $11.7 million from the $3 billion set aside by the Government for infrastructure in the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

“This project will create hundreds of quality jobs, meaning more people can continue to provide for their families whilst we weather the economic storm of the pandemic crisis. These jobs will provide a good day’s pay, doing meaningful work, building a better future for Taranaki.

“Securing over 200 jobs will help direct more money into the parts of the economy where most people earn their livelihood. These are the parts of the economy that are sustained when public investment is directed at getting people into work and earning money that they then spend in their local communities,” James Shaw said.

The ‘shovel-ready’ project will enable Green School to expand its student roll from 120 students to 250. It is estimated that a roll of 250 students will contribute $43 million each year for the local economy.

RNZ: Anger at funding for Taranaki Green School

The Educational Institute says teachers are fuming at Green Party co-leader James Shaw’s announcement of an 11.7 million dollar funding package for in a private school in Taranaki.

Shaw says the ‘shovel ready’ project at the Green School in Oakura is part of the Covid-19 economic response and will secure 200 jobs.

The union’s national secretary, Paul Goulter told our Taranaki Whanganui reporter Robin Martin the investment flies in the face of Green Party policy.

Prominent in the Green Party Education Policy:

  • Public funding for private schools should be phased out and transferred to public schools.
  • Public-private partnerships should not be used for building or running schools.

No funding of private schools has been longstanding Green policy.

Ex Green MP Sue Bradford:

Ex Green candidate John Hart:

Ex Green MP Catherine Delahunty:

Green candidate Ricardo Mendez:

Ex Green Party candidate Jack McDonald:

RNZ: Critics pile on Green private school funding boost

Education Minister Chris Hipkins is distancing himself from an $11.7 million boost for a Taranaki private school after the National Party panned the taxpayer funding as “rank hypocrisy”.

The move has attracted ire from numerous quarters, including the oppositionschool principals, unions, and from within the Greens’ own ranks.

Responding to reporters at Parliament, Hipkins ducked responsibility, stressing that the money did not come out of the education funding pool.

“It wasn’t considered through the usual education capital spend route. It was considered as a shovel-ready project.”

Hipkins deferred questions to the Ministers responsible and noted that the Green Party had advocated “quite strongly” for the funding.

“It was one of their wins, if you like, out of the shovel-ready project area,” he said. “It’s not necessarily a project that I would’ve prioritised.”

Stuff: Green members demand ‘please explain’ for $11.7m private school funding 

James Shaw calls meeting with Green members to explain private school funding decision

Green party co-leader James Shaw has been asked by party members to explain why his name appeared on a press release announcing $11.7 million of public funding for a private school.

“It’s not perfect but if you’re trying to achieve a number of objectives it achieves a number of those: it creates a number of jobs in the region, it supports the green building industry, and it’s in Taranaki, the region we’re trying to move on from oil and gas,” Shaw said.

Last night, Policy and Party co-conveners – the part of the Green Party that looks after the wider membership – requested “information and clarification” from the caucus over how the project got approval

Wiremu Winitana, one of the party’s co-convenors, told an online forum that the co-leaders, Shaw and Marama Davidson had been asked to explain and clarify the situation.

“We are inclined to agree… that this is against our policy,” Winitana said.

Shaw will front a Zoom with co-leader Marama Davidson Friday night to explain the decision to members.

An email to members said that the party understood they were feeling “frustrated or disappointed,” by the decision to grant the school funding.

That email would appear to have gone to party members only and not to the wider contact list.

The funding decision probably can’t be changed, so all Shaw can do is try to keep explaining. He has done a poor job of that so far.

Coming up to an election campaign this is poor timing for this sort of fundamental policy hypocrisy. Greens have been polling close to the 5% MMP threshold and are risk of being dumped from Parliament, especially with this sort of policy embarrassment.