Questionable Provincial Growth Fund job claims

Minister of Regional Economic Development  Shane Jones has been questioned for some time about how many jobs have been created by the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF). He has now come up with a number, but that is a bit dubious.

RNZ: Shane Jones’ 10,000 job creation claim under scrutiny

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones is crowing over cracking the target of creating more than 10,000 jobs through the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).

He said a detailed stocktake has found 13,217 people have been employed so far following PGF investments.

But Jones has dismissed as unimportant details like how long they had been employed for, and how many were full time or part time.

Jones said the PGF outstripping the job numbers it hoped to achieve “speaks volumes about the fund’s success”.

“So just at the level of the human face of the PGF, this figure is not only handsome it’s an affirmation of everything we set out to do,” Jones said.

Until now, the Provincial Development Unit only collected data about the number of workers employed on a given project over the last month.

For example, figures for May show a total of 2727.

But with growing demands from both journalists and the opposition for more details Jones got MBIE officials to ring every fund recipient to find out how many people they had employed.

To head off what he calls “doubting Thomas types” Jones had the stocktake reviewed by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

However, it highlighted some shortcomings, most notably – that the figure was a count of people working on projects, not the number of jobs created.

Jones said he was not being disingenuous claiming the 10,000 jobs milestone.

“I’m not too hung up on looking at this purely through the font of an FTE (full-time equivalent). It is going to endow and it has endowed regions with new infrastructure which leads to productivity and in that journey the lives of 13,000 people have been positively touched in an economic way,” Jones said.

It seems typical of Jones not to get hung up details that give a true picture of success of the huge fund.

But National’s Michael Woodhouse said Jones was “gilding the lily”.

“They have no idea how many jobs have been created and the reason is they didn’t ask the applicants, so I think it’s disingenuous to say that many jobs have been created and they’re doing random surveys to pluck any sort of job number out of the air to make it look as if they’ve achieved an arbitrary goal,” Woodhouse said.

Woodhouse said while $2.7 billion of the fund had been committed, only $339 million had actually made it out the door.

Actual delivery is an issue\.

Greymouth Mayor Tania Gibson said the fund had been great for her region.

The West Coast has been allocated just under $180m and has so far had 518 jobs.

Gibson said the planned $18m Pounamu Pathway and visitor centre was a spark of hope for businesses in the CBD.

But she said red tape had stopped projects from starting yet.

“Well that’s the thing, we still have to get those projects off the ground to do the job creation … so we’ve got a lot of work to do now to make that happen. It’s not always as easy as it sounds,” she said.

So the jobs have not actually been created yet apart from being on paper proposals.

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little also believed the PGF had been a success.

Wairoa got just $6.1m to help rebuild the town centre and $9m to better digital connections for business as well as roading and skills and employment initiatives.

Little could not say exactly how many jobs had been created but said the fund was about more than that.

“Social, economic, cultural and environmental that we’re able to tick off and it makes Wairoa a much better place to live.

“So even if your jobs haven’t been as many as they thought, but I believe Wairoa has been really successful, it’s just people feeling a little bit better about themselves about getting things done,” Little said.

It’s not surprising to see a mayor being enthusiastic about being given large amounts of money by the Government, regardless of whether the money is achieving what was promised or not.

Jones has claimed “this figure is not only handsome it’s an affirmation of everything we set out to do”.

From the original PGF Cabinet Paper (December 2017) – key design features of the fund are:

Objectives of the Fund: The overall objective of the Fund is to lift the productivity potential in the regions. The following specific objectives are proposed – jobs and sustainable economic development; social inclusion and participation; Māori development; climate change and environmental sustainability; and resilience (infrastructure and economic).

To support our overall goal of productive, sustainable and inclusive growth, and to achieve the lift in productivity potential in the regions, I propose that investments must contribute to most of the following objectives, with a particular focus on the first objective:

a. Increased jobs and sustainable economic development: investments support increased jobs (with a focus on high quality jobs) and sustainable economic development over the long term, particularly in regions and sub-regions where unemployment is high and there are significant social challenges;

– Authorised for lodgement
Hon Shane Jones
Minister for Regional Economic Development

Jones’ claims fall well short of demonstrating that the PGF is substantially increasing high quality jobs and sustainable economic development – and says nothing about how cost effective his handouts have been.

Labour’s election support by district under threat?

From Harry Jamieson@graveyjones5

The Labour party managed to form a coalition government after this election, making @jacindaardern the 2nd youngest PM in NZ history. They performed best in cities (Dunedin, Wellington, Nelson ect) as well as in rural areas with large Maori populations (East Coast).

Image

This excludes special votes but should be approximately the same.  It is done per district rather than per electorate.

Māori support was strong, but that could be challenged this year.

RNZ: Whānau Ora head warns minister over funding allocation

Whānau Ora minister Peeni Henare can kiss Māori progress goodbye if he continues to allow other agencies to dip into its funding, the organisation’s head has warned.

It comes as distinguished Māori leaders seek an urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing over the government’s handling of Whānau Ora funding.

It received an $80m funding boost over four years in the 2019 Budget, but North Island commissioning agency chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said not all of that money was going to Whānau Ora.

“From what we have seen, particularly in the last 12 months, we believe that the government is starting to undermine Whānau Ora,” Raukawa-Tait told RNZ’sCheckpoint.

She – along with Dame Naida Glavish, Dame Tariana Turia, Lady Tureiti Moxon and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi – wrote to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in November last year expressing their concerns, but said they had not had a response.

They are now seeking an urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing, claiming the government has breached the Treaty of Waitangi by refusing to adequately and transparently fund Whānau Ora.

Of the $20m extra funding Whānau Ora was promised last year, only about $5m was received by the commissioning agencies.

Raukawa-Tait said that did not make any sense, and she had a message for the Minister of Whānau Ora, Peeni Henare.

“Be the minister that we want to have confidence in. At this present moment we do not.”If he does not understand his role and our expectations of him than you can kiss Māori progress goodbye for the next two decades.”

She said if he continued to allow government agencies to use its funding, Whānau Ora faced destruction by stealth.

Henare denied any of the Whānau Ora funding was going to other government agencies, and said the move was politically motivated.

He’s referring to the move to challenge the funding of Whānau Ora – of course there’s politics involved, that’s how the Government is lobbied, especially in an election year.

It’s hard to know how Labour support will be generally this year, but it should actually increase. In the 2017 election they got 36.89% of the party vote, but since then have mostly polled in the 40s:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2020_New_Zealand_general_election

That trend my be a bit of a concern for Labour.

Their poll support peaked at 50.8 in June 2019 (Newshub/Reid Research), but the same pollster had them at 41.6% in October and three polls since then (two from Colmar Brunton and one from YouGov) were 40%, 41% and 39%.

A generally sound economy with promises and money available for big spending boosts this year will be in Labour’s favour, but influential coalition partner NZ First is best known this term for dishing out dollops of money to the regions, and the Greens are pushing for even higher levels of borrowing and spending,

Labour will need to try to get the balance right between buying voter support (with voters’ money) without appearing too financially reckless.

Submitting to the Criminal Justice Advisory Group

It’;s fair to say I am not entirely happy with my experiences with the judicial system. I think there are ways it can be improved, so I have approached the Criminal Justice Advisory Group offering some input. They are visiting Dunedin and I will be able to meet them.

I have specific issues to address, but am open to other ideas to put forward.

Any suggestions on how our judicial system could be improved?

From Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata Safe and Effective Justice:  Criminal Justice Advisory Group to visit the regions

The Safe and Effective Justice Programme Advisory Group – Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora – is visiting towns and cities across New Zealand to hear what people want from their criminal justice system.

They will hold a series of meetings from mid-October 2018, including public drop-in sessions.

Chair of te Uepū, Hon Chester Borrows said he is looking forward to hearing from people whose lives and work are affected by the criminal justice system, and canvassing ideas on how it can be improved.

They will be in each region on the following dates:

  • Taranaki: 15 November
  • Whanganui/Manawatū/Horowhenua: 16-17 November
  • Otago/Southland: 19-21 November
  • Wellington: 23 November
  • West Coast: 27-28 November
  • Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa: 28-29 November
  • East Coast: 3-4 December
  • Tasman/Marlborough: 10-11 December

They plan to carry out further public engagement in 2019.

You can also make submissions: Tell us your views

We want to hear your views so we can have a conversation about building a better justice system.

What we will do with the information you give us

  • We will read the information you give us, and analyse it so we understand it.
  • We might use the findings to propose recommendations to the Minister of Justice on changing the justice system.

Submit here: https://safeandeffectivejustice.govt.nz/have-your-say/your-views/

 

 

Nation – fossil fuel use in regions that rely on it

On Newshub Nation this morning:

John-Michael Swannix is in the regions to find out how communities that rely on the fossil fuel industry can be part of a carbon neutral future.

 

Oil and gas announcement a bad look for NZ First

The Greens and associated organisations were ecstatic after the announcement was made yesterday that no more offshore oil and gas exploration permits would be issued, and there would be no more onshore permits outside Taranaki (but existing permits would remain). It was seen as a big win for James Shaw and the Greens.

In contrast NZ First’s Shane Jones publicly squirmed, and Labour rushed to try to pacify criticism, especially in Taranaki.

Photos from the announcement were telling:

The power of a photograph. Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones holds his face in his hand.

Kevin Stent/Stuff

Stuff: Photo says it all: How Shane Jones reacted to Government’s oil news

“At the press conference it became pretty obvious there were two contrasting dynamics going on. A disgruntled Jones and a gleeful (Climate Change Minister James) Shaw,” Stent said.

Ardern and Minister of Energy Megan Woods don’t look over the moon either.

Stuff: Shane Jones says ending oil and gas exploration is the ‘only scenario’

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says the Government’s ending of oil and gas exploration is the “only scenario” and NZ First voters will have to accept that.

Jones fronted media alongside Ardern, Climate Change Minister and Green Party co-leader James Shaw and Energy Minister Megan Woods where he painted a picture of NZ First leader Winston Peters going to lengths to strike a deal with Ardern to keep any existing entitlements intact.

Speaking to media after the announcement Jones was frank about being a “pro-industry man” and being unable to “walk back from that status”.

“But I am one person and I am loyal to the agreements that are struck by my leader and the Prime Minister and it’s futile to talk about alternative scenarios.”

As both a NZ First MP and a self-professed “champion of the regions” Jones said “this is a genuine MMP Government, this is what the majority of New Zealanders voted for and we’re putting it into practice”

The announcement puts Jones and NZ First in a difficult position.

It may not have helped that coincidentally petrol pump prices rose yesterday due to rising international oil prices.

‘Having a conversation’ on Air NZ and the regions

Phil Twyford has just appeared on his weekly Newshub morning spot alongside Judith Collins. He is Minister of Transport. Duncan Garner asked him about the Shane Jones attacks on Air NZ.

Twyford effectively backed Jones’ stance on pushing for air services for regions.

He said that as a Minister he would have a conversation with the head of Air NZ over better services for regions.

He was asked if he supported using some of the $200 million annual profit from Air NZ being used to provide regional services, he avoided answering that.

Garner pushed him on what he wanted Air NZ to do, and he copped out with the standard Labour fob  off ‘ they will have ‘an ongoing conversation’.

So without being up front Twyford has effectively backed Jones’ attention seeking stance, which is contrary to what the Minister responsible for state owned companies Grant Robertson has said, and contrary to the sort of reprimand Jacinda Ardern directed at Jones.

I’d expect Newshub to do a news item on this.

 

Property prices down in Auckland, up in regions

House prices in Auckland are down slightly over the past quarter, and has also been flat to lower in Tauranga and Christchurch and other urban areas except for Rotorua, Palmerston North, Dunedin and Invercargill.

RNZ: House price growth ‘runs out of puff’ in cities

Latest data from QV shows house price growth around the country slowing, with the national average climbing 4.3 percent in the year to September.

In Auckland, though values had grown 0.8 percent over the year, they dropped back in the last three months to an average of $1,039,066.

Values fell in a number of Auckland suburbs, including the North Shore and Waitakere, while rising in Rodney and the city centre.

QV national spokesperson David Nagel said the usual spring surge in listings had not happened yet.

“The reductions in quarterly value growth have extended from just the main centres last month to almost all the 15 major urban areas we track with the exception of Rotorua, Palmerston North, Dunedin and Invercargill,” he said.

Year-on-year growth was showing double digit gains in many provincial towns, but the quarterly figures revealed a gradual slowing of the property market in almost all city locations, he said.

“Values are reflecting small decreases in all but a few isolated pockets of Auckland while Tauranga and Christchurch have also shown a small decline over the past quarter.”

NZH: Auckland house values fall: lack of finance blamed

Auckland’s housing market stalled in the last three months with property values falling by 0.6 per cent and buyers unable to get finance being blamed.

The QV House Price Index showed Auckland values only rose a meagre 0.8 per cent in the last 12 months – the slowest pace of annual growth since April 2011.

Isn’t the flattening of prices in Auckland a good thing?  property inflation had been causing major problems.

Despite the drop, the average current value now stands at $1,039,066 – putting most houses out of the reach of first-home buyers.

Problems like that.

Nationally, values rose 1.1 per cent in the last three months to September and 4.3 per cent annually.

Last month, QV blamed winter, bank lending limits, the election and China’s crackdown on capital flows for national house value growth being the slowest in five years and Auckland values hitting their most glacial pace since 2011.

  • Hamilton values rose 1.3% in the last quarter and 3.2% in the last year.
  • Tauranga values fell 0.1% in the last quarter but rose 6.6% annually.
  • Wellington values rose 0.8% quarterly and 10.7% annually.
  • Rotorua values were up 4.5% quarterly and 16.2% annually.
  • Christchurch values fell 1% quarterly and 0.8% annually.
  • Queenstown Lakes values rose 0.7% quarterly and by 12.6% annually.

 

Also on Q & A -the regions and farming

Also on Q & A this morning:

Can we reboot our regions?

The future seems grim for some of our regions that are facing flat-lining growth or even decline. But could there be a silver lining? Demographer Professor Paul Spoonley talks solutions in his new book, Rebooting the Regions.

And the man that runs New Zealand’s biggest farm talks about the future of dairy, doing more to fix our water problems and the changing face of modern farming. Landcorp CEO Steven Carden is interviewed by Corin Dann.

Joining our host Greg Boyed on the panel are political scientist Dr Bryce Edwards, former Labour candidate Dr Deborah Russell and businessman Sam Stubbs.

 

NZ First targeting regions

New Zealand First will have their conference in Dunedin this weekend.The theme will be “It’s time”.

Leading into this in an interview with NZ Herald Winston Peters says they will be increasing their focus on the regions – Winston Peters: Regional NZ will be our election battleground.

In an interview with the Herald before the conference, Peters said the party would redouble its focus on regional New Zealand to grow its vote.

The 71-year-old has spent less time in Parliament lately in favour of his Northland electorate and the regions, with recent trips to Dunedin, Dannevirke and Kaikohe.

“We are seriously getting around the provinces,” he said. “The Greens can cough and get in the media. We pack halls and don’t. We pack halls in this country like no other political party.”

Peters is as good as any politician at coughing and getting media coverage. And he’s better than most at packing halls, but he puts a lot more effort into old style campaigning than anyone else.

There has been growing speculation that former Labour MP Shane Jones will leave the diplomatic corps and stand for NZ First in Whangarei against National MP Shane Reti.

There has been speculation on Jones joining NZ First for years, going back to when he was a Labour MP. If Jones stood for NZ First in Whangarei he would probably be very competitive there.

Peters would not name names but said there were more people interested in standing for NZ First than any time in its 23-year history.

“There are seats around the country that we can capture…we have a list of them but we are not disclosing where they are at this point in time.

“We are keeping our powder shot dry. We won Northland by totally and utterly ambushing their arrogance. So you can understand our desire to keep our plans to ourselves.”

Details perhaps, but Peters has been sharing his plans a bit in this interview.

While National is vulnerable to shedding support it’s not just them that NZ First are targeting.

NZ First deputy-leader Ron Mark has recently turned attention from National to Labour during exchanges in Parliament, accusing the fellow opposition party of stealing policy.

Peters reacted angrily after Little said the party was considering policy that would write-off student debt for graduates who worked in certain public service jobs in the regions – similar to existing NZ First policy.

NZ First had been called racist and xenophobic for calling for lower immigration levels in the past, Peters said, and didn’t like to see other long-standing policies “stolen”.

He did not think much of the memorandum of understanding between Labour and the Green Party: “It’s not for me to comment on what their political strategy might be. Suffice to say it’s not a winning one”.

The memorandum has not been the game changer (yet) that Greens and Labour were hoping for. Greens seem to have hit a support ceiling and Labour have not only failed to recover from an awful result last election, they are at risk of collapsing further. Peters no doubt senses this.

Peters continued his long-standing position of not commenting on possible coalition deals after the election.

So voters have no idea what he might do, something he keeps getting away – to an extent. It hasn’t worked in getting NZ First into government since 2005.

“Will we be ready for [the election’s] ramifications? Of course we will be ready. But we don’t talk about it as a caucus. In fact, I do my best to discourage anybody worrying about where they fit in the day after the election.”

He might have to do better discouraging his MPs: In response to The political tides are all flowing the way of ‘kingmaker’ Winston Peters:

ClaytonMitchellTweet

Peters could remind Mitchell about counting kings before the election has hatched.

NZ First could potentially get anywhere between 5% and 20% in the next election, with 8-15% looking quite doable.

They are attractive to the disgruntled and disillusioned, but their biggest asset, Peters, is also their biggest deterrent. He is good at picking up protest votes but recent elections have shown an electorate reluctance to crown Peters with the power to dictate.

Tourism set to overtake dairy as largest export earner

It’s often claimed that New Zealand has become too reliant on dairy trade. Milk products are certainly a significant and important part of our economy, but that’s far from all that keeps things ticking over.

While dairy has been getting a lot of the attention the tourism sector has been quietly growing and is set to become our biggest export earner. NZ Herald reports:

Gloombusters: Tourism drives economy higher

New Zealand’s tourism sector is on track to overtake dairy as New Zealand’s biggest export earner and the country will soon crack three million visitors a year.

Tourism has recovered from the hit dealt by the global economic crisis and for the past three years has enjoyed strong growth.

Prime Minister John Key, who is also Tourism Minister, expects this summer to be the country’s biggest for the visitor industry.

“It’s a growth sector and there’s a lot more left in the tank,” Key said.

The latest full year figures showed international tourism expenditure contributed $10.3 billion (15.3 per cent) to New Zealand’s total exports.

Key said recent strong growth had come in spite of a strong Kiwi dollar against main source markets and the more favourable exchange rate for visitors would make this country even more attractive.

And the benefits of tourism are spread around regions (like dairy).

The benefits of tourism were widely spread with most spending outside Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Statistics New Zealand figures show the tourism industry directly employed 94,100 fulltime equivalents, or 4.7 per cent of total employment.

The Tourism Industry Association New Zealand agrees with Key’s assessment that another bumper summer season is in prospect.

It has been holding a series of 12 regional tourism summits and chief executive Chris Roberts said the sector was in extremely good heart.

“For many regions, tourism is the bright light when it comes to economic growth.

“We’ve seen good growth in international and domestic visitor spend in the past two years and that looks set to continue,” Roberts said.

This is good news. That’s probably why it doesn’t get much attention in the media.

Nor does it get much attention from the Opposition. Labour’s spokesperson for Tourism is Peeni Henare. He has only a handful of media releases on Labour’s website (four since the election). None of those are on Tourism – he seems more interested in his role as Associate Māori Affairs Spokesperson.

Henare won the Tamaki Makaurau electorate last year, and as a first year MP is ranked near the bottom of Labour’s pecking order.

John Key is the Minister of Tourism, showing a different priority he and National put on one of our biggest markets.