Shane Jones avoids answering questions properly in Parliament

Shane Jones repeatedly avoid giving a full answer to questions in Parliament about when he first knew when “Mr Henry and N.Z. Future Forest Products Ltd had made an application to the Provincial Growth Fund”.

Chris Bishop: Was he aware informally between 8 April and 14 October that Mr Henry and N.Z. Future Forest Products Ltd had made an application to the Provincial Growth Fund?

Hon SHANE JONES: I repeat again, 14 October is a date of great significance. That is the date that I was formally notified of the application.

That leaves open the obvious assumption that Jones knew about the application before he recused himself on 14 October.

Chris Bishop: Why did David Henry email his office on 21 September about the project, and why didn’t he declare a conflict then?

Hon SHANE JONES: There is no conflict between myself and a Mr David Henry, an individual I might have met once or thrice. I have clearly stated that I have a longstanding relationship with Mr Brian Henry…

Brian Henry was a director of N.Z. Future Forest Products Ltd since the company was incorporated on 27 March this year. Winston Peters’ partner Janet Trotman became a director on 27 August.

It would be remarkable that Henry or Trotman would not have declared their connection to NZ First in the application, and that Jones didn’t know they were connected with the application.

 

 

7. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: On what date was N.Z. Future Forest Products Ltd’s application to the Provincial Growth Fund lodged, and when did he first become aware that N.Z. Future Forest Products Ltd had applied to the Provincial Growth Fund?

Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): I am advised the application was lodged on 8 April. I found out that the application was coming to Ministers for consideration on 14 October.

SPEAKER: No, I’m going to—

Chris Bishop: Point of order—

SPEAKER: No, I don’t want a point of order. I want the Minister to answer the second leg of the question.

Hon SHANE JONES: April 8 was the date that the company’s application was lodged. I became aware that the company had applied to the Provincial Growth Fund on 14 October.

SPEAKER: Thank you.

Chris Bishop: What is the conflict of interest that meant he recused himself from any decision making about the application to the Provincial Growth Fund?

Hon SHANE JONES: When I became a Minister, I identified a relationship I had with Mr Brian Henry, and, at that point, upon learning an application was wending its way through the process, because I had identified that association when I became a Minister, I recused myself.

Chris Bishop: Is he saying to the House that between 8 April, when the application was lodged, and 14 October, when he declared a conflict of interest in relation to decision making about the application, he was not aware an application had been made?

Hon SHANE JONES: I repeat again, I became aware of a formal application coming to Ministers on 14 October. I have asked my staff to go back and to test—

Hon Amy Adams: When did the Minister know it had been made?

Hon SHANE JONES: —whether or not there had been any briefings—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! Order! The member will resume his seat. This is a very important question. I want to hear the answer, and Amy Adams is—

Hon Amy Adams: He didn’t answer it.

SPEAKER: Amy Adams is interfering with me hearing the answer. She will not interject again during question time. Sorry, I’m going to go right back and I’m going to ask for the supplementary question to be asked again.

Chris Bishop: I’m possibly paraphrasing a little bit. Is he saying to the House that between 8 April, when the application was lodged, and 14 October, when he recused himself from any decision making about the application, he was unaware that an application had been made?

Hon SHANE JONES: I became aware of this formal application on 14 October. I have asked staff to ascertain in the wodge of papers that, time to time, wash up in my office, was there any reference at all to Mr Brian Henry in any application, and they have told me zero—that there was no reference whatsoever to that application from that individual.

Chris Bishop: Was he aware informally between 8 April and 14 October that Mr Henry and N.Z. Future Forest Products Ltd had made an application to the Provincial Growth Fund?

Hon SHANE JONES: I repeat again, 14 October is a date of great significance. That is the date that I was formally notified of the application. Now, I must say that the development of proposals and the gestation that proposals go through, I would not know at the level of the officials who is dealing, given that there are 2,500 proposals, and it’s akin to me being on the bridge—I’m not down in the boiler room.

Chris Bishop: Between 8 April and 14 October, was he aware that N.Z. Future Forest Products Ltd was in discussions with officials from the provincial development unit about a possible future application—a formal one—to the Provincial Growth Fund?

Hon SHANE JONES: As I’ve said, the life cycle of the Provincial Growth Fund application is that it’s akin to the life cycle of an insect. There is no shortage of people, throughout New Zealand, in particular provinces—because I am a crowd-pleaser in the provinces. I send all people interested in the Provincial Growth Fund to go and see the officials. The officials help them navigate the process. When an official decision is required, that’s when one exercises the judgment: are you in a position where you need to recuse yourself? So it is most important that the House focuses on the date of 14 October, when I was formally notified that an application was on its way to the Ministers.

Chris Bishop: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: I know what the point of order is. It was wonderful rhetoric but it did not address the question.

Hon SHANE JONES: Until 14 October, I was not formally notified of the existence of an application. I am advised, however, that officials have put in reports the name of the company they were dealing with. Unfortunately, I had no idea who that company was.

Chris Bishop: Was he aware of discussions taking place between N.Z. Future Forest Products Ltd and officials at the provincial development unit between 8 April, when the application was made, and 14 October, when he recused himself?

Hon SHANE JONES: As I said, I am not aware of the detail—the extent—of any discussions between Mr Brian Henry or a company I had never heard of and did not recognise until such time as a formal duty fell upon me to make a decision. At that point, I recused myself. Then it was turned down, which is how the process works.

Chris Bishop: Why did David Henry email his office on 21 September about the project, and why didn’t he declare a conflict then?

Hon SHANE JONES: There is no conflict between myself and a Mr David Henry, an individual I might have met once or thrice. I have clearly stated that I have a longstanding relationship with Mr Brian Henry, belonging to a family who has had 150 years of involvement in forestry. In fact, if any individual wants to contribute to the development of our forestry strategy and is looking for some support from the Government, they go through the formal process and they take their chances. In this case, they were unsuccessful.

Chris Bishop: Was he aware at any point between 8 April and 14 October that representatives from N.Z. Future Forest Products Ltd were in discussions about an existing application or possible future application to the Provincial Growth Fund?

Hon SHANE JONES: I repeat again, the point at which I became formally notified was 14 October. Now, the member has identified an email. I get so many of them; I have no recollection of it. Now, whether or not that individual or that company was talking to officials, as I said, that’s at the stage when the application is a larva stage, or the pupa stage—the time I wouldn’t be involved.

Hon Grant Robertson: Can the Minister confirm that N.Z. Future Forest Product Ltd’s application to the Provincial Growth Fund was declined?

Hon SHANE JONES: The application from the said company, I understand, was declined by fellow Ministers after I had recused myself. I would say that New Zealanders who may belong, or may have associations with politicians, are welcome to engage with the bureaucracy. It’s when a Cabinet Minister is required to exercise allocated authority—that’s when you recuse yourself, which, obviously, I have done, with considerable skill.