Shane Jones concedes insufficient jobs created by Provincial Growth Fund, ‘repurposing’ funds

The billion dollar a year Provincial Growth Fund was promoted by Minister of Regional Development Shane Jones as a way of creating jobs in regions where unemployment was high, but Jones now concedes that the scheme described by some as pork barrel politics and others a NZ First re-election slush fund has failed to deliver enough jobs.

Jones now concedes the PGF hasn’t created enough jobs, suggests “Provincial Growth Fund money is not going out the door through conventional projects” and is now looking at ‘repurposing’ PGF funds to try to save job losses rather than create new jobs.

When the PGF was launched in February 2018: Provincial Growth Fund open for business

The new $1 billion per annum Provincial Growth Fund has been officially launched in Gisborne today by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.

“As of today, the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) is open for business and has the potential to make a real difference to the people of provincial New Zealand,” Mr Jones says.

“We are being bold and we are being ambitious because this Government is committed to ending the years of neglect.”

“The first of many projects the PGF will support will create more than 700 direct jobs, and 80 indirect jobs – an impressive start to what will be an exciting three years for our provinces.”

5 February 2019 (Stuff) – Shane Jones wants Provincial Growth Fund to get ‘nephs off the couch’

“The flash words that we assemble in our Cabinet papers have actually today put a pair of gumboots on,” Jones said.

“Prince Shane” Jones was here, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Employment Minister Willie Jackson, to revive his promise to get the “nephs off the couch”.

These “nephs” are more commonly known in policy circles as NEETs – young people not in employment, education, or training – and they have been a bugbear of governments for decades.

“We are not going to rely exclusively on our Filipino Catholic immigrants. We are going to do the bloody work ourselves,” he told the crowd to applause.

But by now questions were being asked about the number of jobs being created. Jones himself is a fan of using flash words, but his job creation claims were starting to look like little more than piss and wind.

Newsroom 18 April 2019: How an OIA laid bare the pork barrel shambles that is Shane Jones’ provincial growth fund

On 5 February, MBIE’s head of the Provincial Development Unit, Robert Pigou, was reported claiming that the Provincial Growth Fund “was on track to create 10,000 jobs” – in contrast to National’s claims that the fund had created only a handful of jobs to that point.

I assumed that MBIE had run an economic forecasting exercise to estimate the effects of their various initiatives, and I wanted to know whether their assumptions had stacked up. So I made a simple request:

“Please provide the workings underlying the job creation claims, along with any correspondence with Treasury relating to that modelling.”

On 26 February, Treasury advised me they had no information to provide as they had not provided any advice to MBIE.

…on 22 March, MBIE informed me that “the Ministry is due to publicly release a spreadsheet detailing the 10,000 jobs figure at www.growingregions.govt.nz, as such this part of the request has been withheld”.

On 8 April, the Ombudsman’s office pointed me to a release on MBIE’s website providing the figures.

Here is what MBIE did to produce the 10,000 jobs figure.

They took the number of jobs that every Provincial Growth Fund applicant promised in their grant application. They added those numbers. Then they added one job for every feasibility study the Provincial Growth Fund was undertaking – that’s because you have to hire somebody to do a feasibility study.

That’s it.

Newshub 13 June 2019 – Shane Jones dodges questions over jobs created under Provincial Growth Fund

A spokesperson from Jones’s office said on Thursday 900 jobs had been created to date, including 52.5 under the ‘One Billion Trees’ programme. But the spokesperson didn’t have the number of new full-time, long-term job statistics on hand.

Jones, the Regional Economic Minister, has insisted that more jobs will be created as the PGF continues throughout the year and as projects under the fund are rolled out.

Goldsmith said at select committee Jones’s office had revealed in February a total of 215 jobs had been created out of 36.5 percent of PGF projects, and only six of those jobs were counted as full-time, long-term jobs – the rest were short-term, fixed-term or contractor roles.

The document obtained by Newshub showed 137 of the 215 jobs were part-time of less than 30 hours a week, while 23 were listed as full-time. It said it wasn’t recorded whether the remaining 55 were full-time or part-time.

Newshub 7 December 2019 – Revealed: Provincial Growth Fund costing $484k per full-time job

It’s been more than two years of the coalition Government and the $3 billion PGF has created just 616 full-time jobs.

The Opposition says it’s spraying cash, costing hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for each job created.

But the minister in charge – Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones – insists it’s about more than just jobs.

An answer to a written question from National Regional Development spokesperson Chris Bishop reveals 1922 people are employed by PGF projects – and of that, just 616 are full-time jobs.

So far, $297.4 million has been spent so far on PGF projects. That’s $484,000 per full-time job, excluding those part-time jobs.

Jones insists infrastructure projects like roads and rail will take years to build, however in the long-term they’ll create jobs and further investment and increase confidence in the regions.

Six-hundred is an important figure but over the life of the fund and when the long-term projects are stood up it’ll be many thousands more than that,” he says.

This week (Stuff 7 April 2020) – Shane Jones concedes Provincial Growth Fund hasn’t created enough jobs, promises a fix

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has conceded the Provincial Growth Fund should have created more jobs after an attack by a union boss.

“We’ve disappointed a lot of rural communities that thought the dough would flow much quicker into their communities,” Jones said.

“There are no nephs there are no shovels,” he said of the Waipapa roundabout in Northland. 

“A large focus must go less on capital and on about generating actual jobs,” Jones said. 

But it could be too late for that, in this Parliamentary term at least. The Covid-19 impact on the economy and businesses is likely to see a bit surge in unemployment.

There Government is already looking at ‘repurposing’ PGF funds: Work to repurpose PGF funds begins

The Provincial Development Unit is working through applications and projects to see where Provincial Growth Fund money can be repurposed for initiatives deemed more critical to fighting the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says.

“We need to be throwing everything we have at our disposal at keeping Kiwi businesses going, workers in jobs and regional economies afloat and viable. If Provincial Growth Fund money is not going out the door through conventional projects then it needs to be repurposed for other initiatives,” Shane Jones said.

That sounds like Jones is conceding that ‘conventional projects’ have largely been a failure and the PGF funds should be used now to reduce job losses rather than create new jobs.

 

 

 

Shane Jones diverts to copious meat eating as further questions raised about company links

This story seems to keep coming up, with more suggestions that Shane Jones must have known more than he has admitted about a NZ First linked company’s application for Provincial Growth Fund money.

I wonder if this is and attempt at diversion: NZ First MP and Minister Shane Jones takes aim at ‘eco-bible-bashing’ climate-change activists

Outspoken NZ First MP and Minister Shane Jones has launched a scathing attack on climate-change activists who want Kiwis to eat less meat, blasting their form of “eco bible bashing”.

He has compared them to “medieval torture chamber workers” and has vowed to rally against this sort of “absolutism” as Election 2020 draws closer.

His comments come after the Government, of which he is a Minister, announced school children would be taught about climate change in class.

Suggesting people eat less meat (which for most is good for your health) is nothing like ‘absolutism’, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

“I won’t be desisting from eating copious qualities of kaimoana [seafood] or meat – that’s how I grew up”…

…is a surprising stance (if he’s actually serious) from someone who looks to have an obesity problem.

A heart attack from clogged up arteries would be a sort of absolutism if fatal.

Back to more questions about his absolutism denials unravelling some more: NZ First-linked company in government loan bid says it met with Shane Jones

A forestry company with close links to New Zealand First says it gave a presentation to Shane Jones about a project it was seeking a $15 million government loan for – months before Jones says he first heard of it.

When NZ Future Forest Products (NZFFP) applied for Provincial Growth Fund money on 8 April, 2019, the company was asked whether the project had been “previously discussed” with the government.

The application form shows NZFFP ticked the ‘yes’ box and said it had made a “presentation to the Minister” about its forestry and wood processing plans “including descriptions of the applicant”.

Jones, a New Zealand First MP who is forestry minister and the minister responsible for the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund, has consistently claimed he first heard about the NZFFP bid on 14 October last year.

NZFFP’s directors include Brian Henry, lawyer to New Zealand First Party leader Winston Peters, judicial officer of the party and one of two trustees of the New Zealand First Foundation, and NZ First leader Winston Peters’ partner Jan Trotman, who joined the company in August 2019.

Jones refused to be interviewed over the latest revelation but in a statement said the presentation never happened. “There was no presentation as described by the applicants,” he said.

The statement said Jones “did not have any Ministerial meetings to discuss the application”.

After being asked if he had any meetings at all with any NZFFP representatives in 2019, he responded in a statement “no”. He went on to say he was “not involved in PGF-related conversations with the Henrys under the guise of NZFFP”.

But in an interview with RNZ, David Henry, who is Brian Henry’s son and the NZFFP director who signed the application form, said the presentation was a 15-minute meeting he and Jones had in Wellington.

“We had a discussion with Shane. I think it was about a 15-minute chat. Whether you want to call it a briefing or a presentation – it was a short discussion generally about the New Zealand wood supply chain and what we personally believed.”

Take from that what you like.

I think that Jones has become as political slippery as Winston Peters.

 

Peters denials on conflict of interest questioned

Winston Peters in a standup with media on Monday regarding questions over a company with connections to people with close connections to NZ First (lawyer Brian Henry and Peters’ partner Jan Trotman) (1 News):

What in earth would the Auditor general investigate? Because an application was made and it failed.

If it came to the question of whether there was a conflict of interest, well in the case of one person who wasn’t even then a director, but became an executive director  after the failure, how would that in any way be caught by a conflict of interest?

And in the case of myself and Shane Jones, well I didn’t even know about it and nor did Shane Jones to the best of our knowledge, because it was handled by the process.

What on earth would the Auditor General investigate?

A journalist asks a question “But if you’re confident everything was done by the book…”

We’re not going to have you running off in a psycho case of attack on a political party without any grounds whatsover.

No no if you want to tell me why the Auditor General is justified give me the reasons. Don’t sit there indolently and snottily and lazily saying you’ve got a case when you ain’t got one, for even a preliminary inquiry.

….Yes, I am calling you psycho, because you can’t event even make out the case.

You’ve got to be psychologically maladjusted if you can’t make a case out for an investigation and you think it’s sound. The laugh’s on you because you’re meant to be a journalist.

In Parliament yesterday:

Question No. 4—Finance

4. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Associate Minister of Finance: How much money did NZ Future Forest Products Ltd apply for from the Provincial Growth Fund and what was the application for?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Associate Minister of Finance): I can confirm that N.Z. Future Forest Products Ltd applied for a $15 million loan from the Provincial Growth Fund. As the information is already in the public domain, I can tell the member that the loan was to carry out a feasibility study for a new engineered timber operation in Gisborne. It’s worth noting that the application has been declined by Ministers.

Chris Bishop: On what date was responsibility for N.Z. Future Forest Products’ applications to the Government for funding through the Provincial Growth Fund transferred from the Hon Shane Jones to him because Mr Jones had identified a conflict of interest?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The transfer occurred on 4 November.

Chris Bishop: Does that mean that the Hon Shane Jones was the Minister in charge of the Provincial Growth Fund from March 2019, when N.Z. Future Forest Products’ application was made, up until 4 November, when the responsibility was transferred to him?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I wouldn’t characterise it as the member has. I’m not responsible for the period where Mr Jones—prior to the transfer on 4 November. Obviously, it was transferred to my office on 4 November. I received advice, and declined the application on 7 November.

Chris Bishop: Is he aware on what date the Hon Shane Jones became aware of the N.Z. Future Forest Products’ application to the Provincial Growth Fund?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: No.

Chris Bishop: Is he aware of what the conflict of interest is that meant the Hon Shane Jones transferred responsibility to him as Associate Minister of Finance?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I’m advised that Minister Jones took advice from the Cabinet Office and acted appropriately in transferring the matter to me for my responsibility to make the decision.

SPEAKER: Order! Order! I am going to ask the member to—I mean, he can say no if he—

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Mr Speaker, I don’t have that detail. If the member does wish to put it down in writing, I’m sure we can find an appropriate answer.

Chris Bishop: Is he aware of whether the Hon Shane Jones wrote to the Prime Minister advising of the conflict of interest, as required by section 2.72 of the Cabinet Manual?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I’m not responsible for that. I can confirm that the responsibility was transferred to me, obviously, on 4 November, and then, on 7 November, I declined the application.

This casts some doubt on what Peters has stated. perhaps journalists should go more psycho on this. Or at least do some more investigating.

Jaan Trotman was made a director in August. That now appears awkward given these dates.

National are again calling on the Auditor General to investigate – Jones oversaw PGF application for six months

“NZFFP’s application was made in March 2019 soon after the company was registered with Winston Peters’ personal lawyer Brian Henry appointed as a director, with Mr Peters’ partner Jan Trotman being appointed in August.

“This means Shane Jones was in charge of the process for nearly six months while NZFFP was discussing its application with officials.

“Multiple questions arise in this murky affair and the Auditor-General must investigate. Among them, why did it take Mr Jones so long to declare this conflict of interest? What advice led to Mr Peters also declaring a conflict, as he appeared to reveal in Parliament today, and when did he declare that conflict?

Peters declared a conflict of interest? On Monday he sgated “And in the case of myself and Shane Jones, well I didn’t even know about it and nor did Shane Jones to the best of our knowledge, because it was handled by the process”.

In question 1 yesterday:

Hon Paula Bennett: So does she believe it’s appropriate for the Deputy Prime Minister to call journalists “psychos” for asking questions and doing their job?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, when a journalist asks about an application to the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), which was treated only by the independent PGF fund managers and never went to Ministers, and where both Ministers declared a potential conflict of interest and the application did not succeed and failed, one has to ask oneself what sort of mind is it that thinks that the Ministers are so useless that they failed to get the application approved in the first place. That’s what a psycho looks like.

Both Ministers? Jones and Peters?

There may be some justification for further investigation.

Provincial growth Fund another ‘Think Big’ dud?

A New Zealand think tank is claiming the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) needs a course correction to ensure it isn’t wasting money.

The Maxim Institute released a report on Tuesday which suggests the Government’s “big” thinking with the $3 billion PGF comes with too much risk, and it needs to start making “smart” investments to generate the best outcomes for the regions.

“The temptation when you are under that kind of pressure is to pick the low hanging fruit, to grab the thing that is investment ready, even if it isn’t necessarily the best investment in the big scheme of things” said chief executive Alex Penk.

The report says that the PGF has “great potential” but introduces the risk of “misallocating resources, creating dependency culture and favouring rent-seekers over innovators”.

The institute’s five key concerns include a lack of evaluation and little co-ordination across the overall regional development strategy. It also said a “sector-based investment strategy that picks certain sectors over others introduces undue risk”.

 

Splashing cash at Waitangi

So far one of the biggest stories of the lead up to Waitangi Day is the splashing of Government cash.

It looks more like a political pork barrel campaign than a dignified marking of New Zealand’s most important historical event.

And it’s not just the PR use and abuse of being in the national spotlight that is raising questions.

Newshub can reveal the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), designed to create jobs and boost the regions, has only created 54 jobs and spent just $26.6 million of its $3 billion.

Even with just 3.4 percent of the funding paid out, each job is costing the Government about $484,000.

Minister in charge of ther Money Machine, Shane Jones:

“I accept that the projects are going to take a while to fully establish…The Regional Economic Development Minister find himself tangled up in the Government’s own red tape. Despite my heroic rhetoric, it is quite a red tape process”.