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.

 

More on the Shane Jones/NZ First conflict of interest

RNZ have revealed more information about the forestry company NZ Future Forest Products (closely linked to NZ First) that applied for $15 million of Provincial Growth Fun funds within two weeks of the company being formed.

The office of the Minister in charge of the PGF, Shane Jones, was sent documents about the bid five times over four months – why to his office rather than to the PGF office?

And Jones eventually declared a conflict of interest on 14 October, the same day RNZ asked questions via the Official Information Act. Jones claims the timing was a coincidence.

Jones claims not to have known that two people with close links to NZ First, long time friend of Winston Peters, personal and party lawyer and trustee of the NZ First Foundation Brian Henry, and Peters’ long time partner Jan Trotman, were directors of the company.

And he says that because a loan was not granted by the PGF (after Jones recused himself from decision making) none of this matters anyway. That is nonsense.

If it is to be believed that Jones didn’t know of the potential conflict of interest until the day he was OIA’d about it, which I think is quite a stretch, I think it is incredible that Henry and Trotman wouldn’t have declared their involvement to Jones and to Peters. They certainly should have.

RNZ (Audio): New details revealed on NZ First-linked company and Shane Jones’ office

New information released to RNZ reveals that Shane Jones’ office was sent documents about a forestry company’s bid for $15 million from the Provincial Growth Fund multiple times and many months before he declared a conflict of interest because of links between the company and the New Zealand First Party.

As Guyon Espiner explains, it has now emerged that Mr Jones only declared a conflict of interest over the NZ Future Forest Products bid on the day RNZ lodged an Official Information Act request asking for details of his involvement.

RNZ: New details revealed over NZ First-linked company and Shane Jones’ office

Shane Jones’ office received official documents about a forestry company’s bid for public money five times over four months, but the New Zealand First minister only declared a conflict of interest on the day RNZ began asking questions.

NZ Future Forest Products (NZFFP) – whose directors include Winston Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry and Mr Peters’ partner Jan Trotman – made an unsuccessful bid to borrow $15 million from the Provincial Growth Fund, which Mr Jones is responsible for.

Mr Jones has said he recused himself from the decision-making over the bid because of his long-standing relationship with Mr Henry, who is the judicial officer for NZ First as well as Mr Peters’ lawyer.

Documents provided to RNZ show Mr Jones wrote to the prime minister advising her of his conflict of interests on 14 October – the same day RNZ lodged an Official Information Act request with his office.

Mr Jones has told Parliament that he was only “formally” made aware of the NZFFP bid to the Provincial Growth Fund on 14 October.

But answers to written questions lodged by National MP Chris Bishop show Mr Jones’ office was sent documents mentioning NZFFP and its applications to the PGF on five occasions between 17 June and 9 October.

In total, documents relating to NZFFP were sent to Mr Jones’ office on six occasions between 17 June and 13 November – when the bid was turned down – but Mr Jones said he “personally” received only three of them.

The documents sent to Mr Jones’ office included advice from the Provincial Growth Fund’s Independent Advisory Panel, on 10 July, on the NZFFP bid.

Henry was a founding director of NZFPP was the company was incorporated on 27 March 2019. Trotman became a director on 27 August.

He said none of the documents went into detail about the bid nor disclosed the involvement of Brian Henry and his son David Henry, who is also a director of the company.

So why were all the documents sent, three of them ‘personally’ to Jones, without going into detail or disclosing potential conflicts of interest and without going into detail?

In an interview with RNZ today, Mr Jones reiterated that 14 October was the first date he was formally briefed about the proposal.

That’s the same day RNZ asked questions. He was also asked about it in Parliament on 22 November, and repeatedly refused to disclose when he first knew about the bid or the conflict of interest. From Shane Jones avoids answering questions properly in Parliament:

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.

The company had been sending documents to Jones’ office (and three times to Jones personally) since 17 June, but Jones claims not to have become “aware that the company had applied to the Provincial Growth Fund” until 14 October. That claim appears to be misleading or false.

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…

…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…

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…

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…

Jones must have known that David Henry was or may be related to Brian Henry.  RNZ:

In an interview with RNZ today, Mr Jones reiterated that 14 October was the first date he was formally briefed about the proposal.

“I have already said that my office received papers identifying name of the company but I had no idea that that company involved the personalities that apparently are the directors of that company.”

Again at least misleading, he had received an email from one of the directors on 21 September.

Answers to written questions also show that Mr Peters wrote to the prime minister on 14 October, the same day as Mr Jones did, declaring a conflict of interest in relation to the NZFFP bid.

If Trotman didn’t disclose to Peters that she was a director of a company applying for PGF funds she should have.

There were warnings of the risks of cronyism when the PGF was set up with Jones the Minister in charge of dishing out $3 billion.  This application by NZFFP has not helped perceptions of it being some sort of a slush fund

It seems a bit extraordinary Jones and Peters were completely unaware of the involvement of the Henrys and Trotman until the same day RNZ started asking questions, and Jones repeatedly refusing to answer questions about what he knew don’t help perceptions of some sort of impropriety.

I think it’s safe to assume that Jones knew more about this (‘informally’) than he has disclosed, there is  clear implication that’s the case.

And I think it seems negligent of Henry and Trotman not to disclose to Peters or Jones of their involvement in a PGF application. It certainly hasn’t looked good for NZ First.

And it doesn’t help the credibility of the Labour-NZ First coalition Government. The Greens aren’t involved directly, but their silence on this (as far as I’m aware), compared to what one could imagine their reaction would be to anything like this involving National or Act, suggests their standards can be compromised by being in power.

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

That it was declined is immaterial to what happened during the application. Robertson has put himself in a position of appearing to approve of what happened.

Jacinda Ardern has appeared impotent on the behaviour and actions of one of her Ministers, Jones.

This story has been running alongside the revelation that Brian Henry is trustee of a Foundation that appears to be designed to hide donations to NZ First that would normally need to be declared.

Story behind the NZ First whistleblowing (Wine Box 2.0)

The big political story through the week (Stuff claim of the year) was the revelations of questionable handling of donations and finances by NZ First.

The Electoral Commission is investigating to see if anything illegal was done, but it at least appears to push party finance laws to the limit, and is widely seen to be contrary to the spirit of the laws, and stinks of a lack of transparency. This is more of an issue than usual with the amount of money being dished out behind the NZ First initiated Provincial Growth Fund, overseen by NZ First MP Shane Jones.

Journalist Matt Shand reveals some of the background behind the documents – which were provided in a wine box.

Stuff: A wine box, a deep throat and a dumpster – the trail that led to the NZ First donations scandal

Matt Shand broke the biggest political story of the year with explosive revelations about a NZ First slush fund. He talks about the clandestine way in which the documents came into his possession and asks why reporters must go to such lengths to access information which should be publicly available.

The Winebox 2.0 documents, the only proof of the mysterious dealings of the New Zealand First Foundation and the coterie of Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters advisors that control it, was mere moments away from becoming papier mache.

It should not be this hard to find out who donated to a political party in New Zealand.

Forgetting the rigmarole of finally getting hard proof, the information should be publicly available. It is beyond a lack of transparency. I feel it is a lack of basic honesty. For Peters the documents potentially betray his voters, the donors who back the party, his candidates, his MPs and democracy.

There are so many people left bloodied on the path behind him that a resistance started to form and say enough is enough. There is a shortage of people in New Zealand willing to stand up when they see a wrong but that attitude is changing and the reveal of these documents, and the reaction of the public to them, should send a strong message to politicians.

I agree. It does look dishonest – again for Winston Peters and donations.

Yes other parties have had issues with how they secretly and shadily they have handled party donations, and National are currently being investigated over an alleged donation scam.

But this story is about NZ First, and threatens the future of the party and potentially the future of the coalition government, so it is  particularly big deal.

Calling the Electoral Commission for some clarity, this indeed, appeared to be a smoking gun. More sources came forward.

The first spin from Peters is that the foundation and party were unconnected and the donation issues were an administrative error. The unconnected foundation paid for the speakers at the party conference, reimbursed MP Clayton Mitchell for travel, made payments to Peter’s partner, Jan Trotman, paid for the NZ First website hosting fees and it was even advertised as a fund as a “means to secure NZ First’s future.”

Two of its trustees are deep in the NZ First Party. The first, Doug Woolerton, is NZ First’s founding party president. The second is Peters’ lawyer, long-time friend, NZ First Judicial Officer, and self-proclaimed “Dark Shadow” of the NZ First Party, Brian Henry. Ironically, it was Henry who helped Peters out during the Winebox enquiry.

There were other links to the NZ First Party. Donors have outed Tauranga-based MP Clayton Mitchell as the man arranging the donations and working to give out its bank number. Donors said they thought money that ended up in the foundation account was meant for the political party.

The second spin was that the foundation gave the party loans. And this is true. It did. Payments were remade. Some loans seem strange. On April 29, 2019 the foundation loaned the NZ First Party 44,923. On April 30 the New Zealand First party paid $44,923 back to the foundation. None of the experts we’ve asked can think of a reason for this.

It should not be this hard to get straight answers.

NZ First has control of the $3 Billion Provincial Growth Fund, which comes under Minister for Regions Shane Jones.

And Jones seems to be another political bully on top of Peters and his ‘dark enforcer’ Brian Henry. who threw around a $30 million defamation threat this week (which on it’s own is a big story).

There was another big story that was overwhelmed by Wine Box 2.0 this week – Jones threatens Auckland Port CEO

Shane Jones threatened Ports of Auckland CEO Tony Gibson in a heated meeting in the Beehive last week as the port launched its own campaign dismissing the New Zealand First-instigated proposal to move it to Whangarei. Dileepa Fonseka has the exclusive.

Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones warned Auckland’s port boss Tony Gibson at a closed-door meeting last week to stay away from the ports debate.

At a meeting in Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s office last week with POAL CEO, Jones said: “My advice to you as a chief executive is do not put your head in a political noose.”

Jones confirmed his comments in an interview with Newsroom. He said his words were meant as a warning to the CEO not to enter the “political fray” of the ports debate.

Others at the meeting told Newsroom Jones boasted that both he and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters were top political operators and ports CEO Tony Gibson would be making a mistake if he decided to take them on.

Jones said his warnings that the decision to move the port was “as much about politics as it is about economics”. Newsroom spoke to Jones after hearing of the heated meeting from sources within the Government.

“Don’t fudge any words, the leaks that you’ve been given are a reflection of the warning that I gave.”

Jones said now that discussions around the meeting had leaked he considered Gibson a “political combatant”.

“Now I will deal with him, in the time before the election, in a very political way. I love that, that’s the sport I’m paid to engage in.”

It isn’t the ‘sport’ that we the taxpayers pay Jones to engage in. Threats are unbecoming of a Minister, and Jones has been guilty of bullying abuses of power before this.

Shand:

New ports, dredging, slipways, a mussel-processing plant in Marlborough, a $5.7 million grant to protect Manuka honey’s trademark, money to plant trees and all manner of activity are funded by the PGF. Knowing what we do now, about NZ First Foundation donations, there are legitimate questions to be asked about the decision making process.

There are also legitimate questions to be asked about why the law can’t force parties to be more transparent about their wealthy donors.

Because that’s too important to be reliant on a handful of brave whistle blowers doing the right thing.

Far too important.

And it’s too important to tolerate political activists continually trying to disrupt the messages that challenge these abuses of law and power, and divert with tedious whataboutism.

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.

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.

Shane Jones interview on Nation

Shane Jones on Newshub Nation:

Have you offered your resignation to the Prime Minister at any point?

Oh, no. Absolutely not.

Newshub:  Shane Jones drops capital gains tax clue (includes video of the interview):

Shane Jones has hinted the upcoming capital gains tax announcement could include relief for the regions.

The Regional Development Minister declined to comment on what exactly the Government has come up with, following the Tax Working Group’s recommendations, which were made public in February.

The Regional Development Minister told Newshub Nation on Saturday revealing its contents was off-limits.

“There’s various ways that I could be sacked,” he told interviewer Tova O’Brien.

“One of them that will definitely get me sacked by the end of this programme is if I offer any view whatsoever in terms of what lies exclusively in the realm of my leader and Prime Minister.”

Asked if he could give assurances that “farmers and regional businesses” wouldn’t be hit hard, Jones gave one of his typically cryptic replies.

“Well, in the near future, all I would say is that to the folk who have dirty boots and hard-working calloused hands, watch this space.”

Transcript:


Tova O’Brien: He’s the self-styled champion for the north – as he so often likes to remind us – the first citizen of the provinces, but does Shane Jones’ bluster and bravado mean he gets away with far more than most other ministers? Once again he’s in hot water, once again he’s been reprimanded by the Prime Minister and once again it’s over allegations of a conflict of interest and interfering in a judicial process. Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones joins me now. Kia ora, Matua. Thank you for joining us. Minister Jones, you directly spoke to the Chief Executive of the NZ Transport Agency about its case against Stan Semenoff Logging failing to meet safety standards. A High Court case, you’re a minister, you’re not allowed to interfere. Why did you?

Shane Jones: No, well, the facts are being distorted by the National Party. Not once have I ever had anything to do with the prosecution decision that you refer to. Those decisions, I imagine, are made in windowless rooms by lawyers and an independent body. I have no delegations for those matters.

The brief discussion I had with the acting CEO of NZTA, I’m glad to see, has been taken up now by the industry leadership. I accept, however, the cautionary words that the Prime Minister expressed with me. It is a distraction.

It is very difficult to maintain the entirety of the Cabinet Manual if perceptions start to grow that a minister’s interfering with a High Court case. But I’ve probably seen more High Court cases and, in the Maori Fisheries, funded more High Court cases than any other MP. I know exactly where the boundary line is.

But you’re related to the managing director of this Northland company. You once received a donation from him. What made you think it was appropriate to get involved and make that call to the NZTA CE?

You see, I have not made any call to the NZTA CEO. I have raised, in Parliament, with him issues that are now actually being agreed to by the broad leadership of the industry, and people misapprehend what my role is. My role is to isolate those issues that time to time thwart and undermine regional development.

Now, try as much as the Tories might to brand me as someone breaking High Court rules, the reality is I am a feisty, earthy, industrial-grade politician. That’s what the people expect of me, and when I’ve been around the motu, the country, over the last two weeks, not one single garden-variety Kiwi has raised this with me as being a problem.

That’s not necessarily on them, though, and being feisty and industrial-grade doesn’t preclude you from the Cabinet Manual and interfering in judicial processes is against the Cabinet Manual. The NZTA had taken a case against Semenoff Logging.

And that case is, I presume, going to continue in the High Court, and I have nothing to do with that case. I’ve never had anything to do with that case. They are a body that exercises statutory power, and our democracy works on the basis that when we who hold power, i.e. the officials, they’re capable of looking after themselves and having their decision tested in any court. Just because I raise an issue about the essential importance of logistics, supply-chain, doesn’t mean that I’m involved in a High Court case. I absolutely reject-

The reason the ministers need to keep an arm’s length is because of ministerial influence, so even having that conversation can be perceived as influence.

So this is where, Tova, I think that you run the risk of repeating non-credible memes being driven by the National Party. I utterly reject their assertions, and the reality is that I will remain the champion of the regions. The industry love my contributions. From a party that is pro-industry, you should not expect me to shut up. Just because I say things that make the windy bureaucrats feel a bit nervous, in actual fact that makes me more popular amongst the people who back me.

Yeah, there’s windy bureaucrats and then there’s ministerial interference. But anyway, this isn’t the first time you’ve been accused of this. You were also accused of interfering in legal proceedings against fishing company, Talleys, the PM hauled you over the coals for overstepping with the Serious Fraud Office investigation. You have form here.

Well, I don’t recall saying anything untoward about the SFO. I remember giving a general debate speech.

It was enough for the Prime Minister to give you a call and to tell you not to.

Yeah, I mean, the reality is that there’s the role that I have as a minister and then there’s the role that I have as a politician. Look, I wouldn’t read too much in it. I think that people from time to time in the media misapprehend the role that I have. In terms of any other court cases — well, I’ve got nothing to say about them. The people that are embroiled in litigation, they can look after themselves.

So was the Prime Minister wrong to reprimand you?

No, she is totally within her rights to do what she does. I thoroughly understand the Westminster system of democracy. I’ve just got a very robust— and as I’ve said, I’m a retail politician, I’m industrial-grade and I don’t care if it sounds as if I’m always leading with my chin. That is what the people who support me expect me to do.

Yeah, perhaps there needs to be more of a demarcation between those two hats because former National minister, Maurice Williamson, he interfered in a police case, made a call, also said he wasn’t trying to influence an active police case, but he was forced to offer his resignation to the then Prime Minister and resigned. Have you offered your resignation to the Prime Minister at any point?

The difference between Maurice Williamson and me is that I was an ambassador, then I became a politician. Maurice was a politician, now he’s an ambassador in America. He’s done it the other way round.

Have you offered your resignation to the Prime Minister at any point?

Oh, no. Absolutely not.

OK, what about — because it looks a bit like the Prime Minister, she kind of hauls you into the office, says, ‘Don’t do this, Shane.’ You say, ‘Sure, sure, sure.’ Then you walk out and perhaps do it again. Does she have any control over you?

No, I take very seriously what the Prime Minister says, but the Prime Minister also realises that there has never been a consistently loud, focused voice from the regions and the provinces. She, I believe, realises that from time to time there might be a bit of bump and grind, and she’s well within her rights to caution me to ensure that I don’t represent an unwelcome distraction to the overarching narrative of the government. I don’t believe I do. In fact, where I go, I’m met with popular acclamation.

What about Winston Peters? Has he ever chastised you or cautioned you?

What happens in our caucus is tapu. That’s where it stays.

Okay, on the Provincial Growth Fund, how many full-time jobs is your PGF, Provincial Growth Fund, created so far?

Yeah, so the most recent announcement was well over 500. The challenge that I’ve got is that although we’ve allocated $1.6 billion the pace at which the bureaucrats and officials can roll out the approval process, I can’t interfere with that. I can encourage them to go quicker. I do, every week. But at the end of the day, there are strictures that they have to observe in terms of the allocation of public money.

You say over 500, but the list provided by your office says that only 272 full-time jobs have been created so far. That’s a long way off the 10,000 promised.

Yeah, well, look, can we just deal with the 10,000? That 10,000 figure is an extraordinarily important and ambitious figure associated with the full import of the programmes, once they’re up and running. And as I said to you, the Provincial Growth Fund, whilst we are allocating putea, there are other things happening in the provinces. I’m a great supporter of those other things because I’m pro-industry. I’m pro-fishing, I’m pro-dairy, and I’m pro-mining. The fact that oil and gas is actually going to get a boost down in the South Island, then they’re going to find in me a great champion.

Let’s talk about oil and gas. Let’s talk about a region that is crying out for more funding and jobs, Taranaki, thanks in large parts to your government’s oil and gas ban. What responsibility does the Government — and you, as champion of the regions — what responsibility do you have to ensure economic stability there.

Well, I don’t want to go into too much detail, but in the near future there’s going to be a transitional, large meeting up there. But I would say that Taranaki stakeholders, they have various proposals that they’re promoting. There is a proposal doing the rounds called 8 Rivers. That’s associated with storing gas in the ground, using gas for hydrogen energy.

But I want to remind everyone, Tova, that when the Prime Minister made her announcement, which I supported, but we secured the on-going existence of entitlements that are already in place, which is why I’m an enthusiast for the various mining entities, oil and gas mining in the South Island, who are rolling out through the process that they’re entitled to do.

OK, so, 8 Rivers, you raise that now, you also raised that last time you were on this programme, last year. But we haven’t heard much more about it, so what’s happening with that? It wants $20 million from the PGF, is that right? Is it going to get that money?

Yeah, well, it’s just going through the process. I mean, obviously these things take a bit of time, because it is an enormously large project. I’m not the only Minister that would make that decision. And, look, I accept that when I associate myself with the oil and gas industry it does lead to criticism.

And you mentioned Greenpeace, well, you mentioned the accusations that Greenpeace made against me about a fishing court case. I’ve got no time for their lime-coloured righteousness. And if people in the South Island are allowed to use their rights to explore and develop oil and gas, I know the South Island people want that to happen. And before Greenpeace lecture me about that, they can explain to New Zealand why their boat has been under investigation for polluting the Bluff harbour.

Greenpeace aside, what about Labour and the Greens. What do they think about what you’re saying today?

No, they know, the Prime Minister knows that when we made our announcement, no more fresh mining applications offshore. We did, however, retain the ability of International and Domestic firms to use their current entitlements.

Which means 8 Rivers could go ahead, cause they—

Well, they would need to go through a statutory consent process, but the point I’m making—

With the help of your $20 million dollars from the PGF?

Well, we don’t know what the amount of putea is.

But there is going to be some?

Well let’s not taint the process, allow them to go through the process. Ministers will make a decision, yea or nay. But the point that I’m making — I can’t fund, and we don’t fund everything that happens in provinces. We make decisions that have impacts. An impact that was made from our oil and gas decision is people are legally allowed to continue to explore and invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the South Island.

So, 8 Rivers, for those who don’t know, is a development project – it would create hydrogen, urea, and electricity using natural gasses. So, that’s controversial within your Government. How much biffo is going on behind the scenes between you and David Parker, say?

Oh, no, David Parker is a very good friend of mine. Although as Attorney General, he has been known from time to time to warn me to be very conscious of the blurry lines between my writ as the champion of the provinces and other legal obligations.

OK, let’s move on to Westland Milk. Chinese Company Yili is buying Westland Milk for nearly $600 million dollars, $588 million dollars. Are you comfortable with China buying such a significant New Zealand dairy asset?

Well, in phase two of the overseas investment rules that David Parker is leading, he is going out to consult whether there should be criteria dealing with a test of national significance, not necessarily for land, but for strategic industries.

Is that a ‘no’?

No, what I’m saying is that I don’t want to say anything that taints the ability of the Mongolian milk company to acquire whatever consents that they might have.

Well, one of your colleagues, Mark Patterson, has said that it’s an erosion of New Zealand control in our significant dairying assets. Do you agree with him?

Well, you’re talking to me as a Minister of the Crown. And I feel like I have an obligation—

Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate.

Yeah, fair point. But please listen with your taringas. I don’t want to taint whatever process the Mongolian milk company is going through. Mark is a dearly loved colleague of mine and I thoroughly understand his anxieties, but people are playing by the rules. And the rules at the moment allow them to proceed. I’m disappointed with the ineptitude and how absolutely useless the directors of New Zealand’s second-largest dairy co-op are, but that’s not the problem of the Mongolians. That’s the problem of how useless those directors are.

The $10 million that the Provincial Growth Fund loaned Westland Milk, was that an attempt to stave off an offshore purchase like this?

Well, I must be very honest, I had no idea that the directors had only one plan in mind, and they never ever shared that with me that they were preparing the company for sale via Macquaries, I think those are their advisors. So we put a caveat on that $10 million dollars in the event that there was a change of ownership, then the deal would vaporise.

Now it’s been suspended. And it’s not the only time you’ve offered a loan through the PGF. You also gave Oceania Marine in Whangarei a $4.8 million dollar loan. Is the Government becoming a lender of last resort?

Well, look, the policy underlying the Provincial Growth Fund is imaginative. It is bold. And, look, I accept that it inverts what used to happen. And I realise there are risks in doing that. But if there is a genuine case of market failure, then we have the criteria, endorsed by Cabinet, for the four ministers to proceed in that direction. Now, I know I’m attacked by the National Party for doing this, but I’m reminded of that great saying which I’ll adapt from my Grandmother, which is that if the Epsom cat wants to eat fine fish, then he’s got to get his feet wet.

OK, let’s move on to the capital gains tax, an announcement is going to be made very soon by your Government. Are you happy with where the Government has settled?

So, there’s various ways that I could be sacked. One of them that will definitely get me sacked by the end of this programme is if I offer any view whatsoever in terms of what lies exclusively in the province of my leader and Prime Minister.

Yes, but as the much-lauded, by your good self, champion of the regions, that includes farmers and regional businesses, can you give them assurance that they’re not going to be stung by a capital gains tax?

Well, in the near future, all I would say is that to the folk who have dirty boots and hard-working calloused hands, watch this space.

Sounds like New Zealand First got a win, and perhaps the tail is indeed wagging the dog. It was Winston Peter’s birthday this week, 74-years-old, what did you get him?

Every time I go overseas I bring a gift back for my rangatira, and that gift is the subject of great privacy between him and I. But we shared a day yesterday in Whangarei, and although the announcements were relatively modest, it’s always a pleasure to be with, yeah, the rangatira of New Zealand First.

What about the gift of succession? Who would win in a leadership fight between Shane Jones, Ron Mark and Fletcher Tabuteau, say?

Right, well, I don’t think we should contemplate a future at all without our leader, Winston Peters. And when I had the opportunity, Tova, to come back into politics, I wanted to demonstrate that the provinces would have a champion, and that champion doesn’t need to hanker after anything else.

Yeah, that’s not a no. Thank you very much for joining us, kia ora, Matua Shane.

Transcript provided by Able. www.able.co.nz

Loose cannon Shane Jones fires more shots, Ardern missing in action

I’m not sure if Shane Jones is deliberately trying to make things difficult for Jacinda Ardern, or is trying to establish himself as New Zealand’s version of Donald Trump (an arsehole popular enough to get elected), or is just getting out of control.

On Tuesday Jones made threats against a journalist who had criticised his conflict of interest as minister in charge of the Provincial Growth Fund – Hamish Rutherford “Minister of Regional Economic Development Shane Jones delights in announcing funding cash from the Provincial Growth Fund, but when he or his office face questions about the probity or merits of the fund, the response has bordered on hostile.” Shane Jones makes ‘chilling’ threats against journalist.

Yesterday in General Debate in Parliament he fired another shot at the journalist, threatened that the Government would ensure the SFO investigation of the National party over a donation was thorough, and also blasted the Spark CEO who made a disclosure as required by NZX rules.

This is a message to corporate New Zealand: do not arrogantly take upon yourselves the ability to influence foreign policy and make these unwise statements as Mr Simon Moutter did to the sharemarket, thus providing an opportunity for anxiety and stress for all of our exporters. Show judiciousness; do not go beyond your corporate writ. Wanderlust, you may be.

Jones has attacked CEOs and companies in the past, notably Air New Zealand.

How the bar has been set for the provincial champion to declare a conflict of interest. Has the Leader of the Opposition yet been interviewed by the Serious Fraud Office? Was the Leader of the Opposition interviewed by the police; more to the point, will he declare to the New Zealand public that he has been; and if that is the case, will he stand down? No. Where is this self-styled crusader of civic responsibility from Fairfax pummelling and pounding the other side of the House? Conspicuous silence from the media.

Another swipe at Rutherford. The media has not been silent on the announcement that the Police handed over the donation case to the Serious Fraud Office – but the SFO has not even said they will investigate yet, so obviously they won’t have interviewed Simon Bridges.

This is a very dangerous development in the integrity of our electoral system.

Ministers attacking journalists doing their job is not new, but Jones is threatening the integrity of the media, which is an essential component of our electoral system.

But, if he could actually do what he next threatens, that would be a particularly dangerous development on the integrity of both our democratic system and our judicial system.

Now, we’ve watched a pattern of this. We’ve watched a proud police officer be lampooned and suffer scurrilous allegations; he had done nothing wrong, yet he was pilloried, tainted, and stigmatised.

That’s talking about Wally Haumaha, who has been linked with NZ First. The State Services Commission found that Justice and Corrections had failed two complainants, and “A report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has found two instances where the high-ranking cop aggressively asserted authority and belittled staff from Ministry of Justice and Corrections…The report said Haumaha’s behaviour met the common understanding of bullying…The IPCA received a third complaint in August, and found Haumaha pressured officers to provide information that would help him defend allegations after taking advice from lawyers.” – High-ranking cop Wally Haumaha belittled and humiliated staff, police watchdog says

May all of that wrongdoing rest upon the head of the Leader of the Opposition, because he says he’s the Leader of the National Party but it’s just not his responsibility in terms of what the Serious Fraud Office is looking at.

I make a prediction: the Serious Fraud Office, once unwisely sicked by that side of the House on to our Leader, knows we will study every single step that they take, to ensure—to ensure, because it’s the National Party—it’s not whitewashed. We will ensure that happens, this incredibly serious and people may very well go to jail, because they won’t have offended the Cabinet Manual; they will have broken the law.

Paul Goldsmith (National) followed Jones in the General Debate:

Well, here I am, coming after Shane Jones, and I’m not quite sure what he actually said, but he seemed to say that they will ensure—presumably, “they” being the Government of the day—that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) does a thorough job on our leader. That would be an extraordinary statement to make. Is he now saying that he is going to guide the SFO, which is an independent statutory body on the police doing their work? He’s going to stand and guide the SFO as they do their work? What an extraordinary thing for a Cabinet Minister to say. I can’t believe he said they will ensure that the SFO does it well.

Newshub: Shane Jones makes outrageous claims about National Party donations probe in Parliament

New Zealand First Minister Shane Jones has outrageously weighed in on the investigation into National Party donations.

The extraordinary scenes in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon added to a string of New Zealand First ministerial mishaps in recent times.

Jones’ incredible comment about the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) probe into the Simon Bridges-led party was made under parliamentary privilege and therefore protected from threats of prosecution.

But the SFO is protected by a fundamental of New Zealand’s democracy known as ‘constabulary independence’, meaning politicians can’t get involved in how it chooses to uphold the law – it’s sacred.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has already mildly rebuked Jones after his attack on Rutherford. Will she do anything about this latest outburst from Jones? Probably not much – she seems largely impotent when it comes to NZ First loose cannon MPs bringing the Government into disrepute.

Jones seems to be able to get away with whatever he likes, and he seems to be getting out of control – but Winston Peters is also not doing anything about Jones, publicly at least at by the way Jones continues to spray dirty bullets around it appears that Peters approves of this.

And Ron Mark is also joining the attacks, so it appears that it may be a deliberate NZ First strategy to improve their flagging support.

They may manage to get another percent or two, but at risk of dragging Labour down, especially if Ardern continues to appear to have no control over them.

Ardern has successfully become a champion of progressive celebrity style politics, but if she can’t manage the tough stuff and show some leadership over her much smaller coalition partner party she may find some of her support is not sustainable.

Shane Jones makes ‘chilling’ threats against journalist

Minister of Self Promotion Shane Jones has made disturbing threats against Stuff journalist Hamish Rutherford.

Rutherford:  Bunny boiler jokes aside, Shane Jones’ threats could be chilling

On Monday, in an interview with Morning Report, Shane Jones, possibly the most forceful personality currently in New Zealand’s Parliament, described me as a “bunny boiler”.

Whatever he means by that, I would have happily let that pass.

But Jones also described me as “unethical”, a more serious claim which he has not clarified, despite implying that he might use parliamentary privilege to say more – an ancient right MPs have to say literally whatever they want without legal repercussions, so long as they say it in the House.

It is an ancient and important right. But I understood, at its core, was the need to promote free speech, not to stifle it.

This has led to a difficult couple of days. I have not been able to defend myself as I have not known what the accusations might be.

Jones (or any MP) could say anything at all about me, or you, with no legal comeback.

It is extraordinary for Jones to make ‘unethical’ accusations and threaten to use parliamentary privilege to say more.

This all came after I published a story on Sunday, which revealed that Jones sat in a meeting and provided reassurances to his ministerial colleagues about a project he had declared a conflict of interest in.

That project, Manea, Footprints of Kupe, a proposed cultural centre in Opononi, is in line to get up to $4.6 million in taxpayer funding.

The story also highlighted what I believe were inconsistencies about his statements about what exactly his interest was and whether his statements to Parliament were, with the benefit of hindsight, accurate.

Jones’ office tried to shut down questions on the project in 2018 and Jones has equivocated about whether he knew that the project’s supporters were using his name as they tried to apply for taxpayer funding in 2015.

Jones has drawn more attention to all of this rather than shut it down by trying to scare Rutherford off.

The fact that no-one from the Government has properly shot down Jones’ threat to malign me in Parliament will not deter me.

But it should be a chilling warning of the potential consequences for anyone planning to question this Government’s integrity.

Where does Jacinda Ardern stand on this?

RNZ:  Jacinda Ardern says Shane Jones’ remark on journalist is not appropriate

The prime minister says attacking a journalist in the House using parliamentary privilege is “ill-advised”.

Jacinda Ardern told Morning Report it would not be appropriate for Mr Jones to launch an attack on Rutherford.

“Ultimately I have, when asked, said that I did not believe that would be appropriate, and that’s my advice to Mr Jones.”

That really put Jones in his place – a place where he seems to be able to do and say as he pleases.

Shane Jones denies conflict of interest accusations

Putting Shane Jones in charge of a billion dollars a year of handouts through the Provincial Growth Fund was always going to be both a financial and a political risk.

And it was always going to be scrutinised by political opponents, especially with the amount of money being poured into Jones’ home province, Northland.

RNZ: Shane Jones denies conflict of interest in funding decision

Cabinet Minister Shane Jones is denying his role in a decision to fund a group from the regional growth fund is a conflict of interest.

Before he became minister Mr Jones was involved in plans to build Manea Footprints of Kupe, a culture heritage and education centre in Northland.

He declared a conflict of interest in the project when he became a Minister in November 2017.

But in February 2018 he attended a meeting of Ministers where he spoke about the project, providing reassurances about its management.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson then approved a $4.6 million grant, despite Treasury recommending it not go ahead.

Mr Jones said he gave only factual information at the meeting and was not otherwise involved in the decision.

National MP Paul Goldsmith…

…said the Prime Minister must demand answers from Mr Jones.

“If you’ve declared a conflict of interest you shouldn’t be in the room,” Mr Goldsmith said.

“He was in the room, responding to questions, we don’t know to what extent, and so he’s left himself wide open to perceived conflicts of interest and not doing things as they should be done.”

Act leader David Seymour…

…said the Prime Minister must sack Mr Jones over his involvement in the project.

Mr Seymour said it was “completely inappropriate” for Mr Jones to be involved in the meeting which decided to grant the project $4.6m.

In an answer to a Parliamentary question, Mr Jones said he had attended no formal meetings about the project since becoming a Minister.

He said Mr Jones’ misleading answer showed he is not fit for ministerial office and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has no choice but to sack him.

Stuff: Prime Minister rejects calls to sack Shane Jones, saying conflict was managed

Jacinda Ardern says she will not sack Shane Jones, after it was revealed the NZ First Minister took part in a key funding meeting for a project he had earlier declared a conflict of interest in.

Documents show Jones, the Regional Development Minister, sat in on a funding meeting where a group of Cabinet colleagues approved up to $4.6 million in funding from the Provincial Growth Fund, providing reassurances about the governance of the plan.

“Based on both the information and advice I’ve received, the conflict of interest was managed in accordance with the Cabinet Manual so therefore I would have no cause to sack Minister Jones”, the Prime Minister said in a statement.

Jones defended staying in the meeting in taking part, saying he had disclosed his interest, which satisfied is responsibilities, although he acknowledged there was a “school of thought” that would consider he should have left the meeting.

“I don’t believe my presence in any meeting with three other powerful ministers has any deterrent effect.”

He has dismissed documents from Manea’s proponents suggesting he was proposed to be the chairman of an entity to facilitate the project.

“I don’t care what the documents said, that was just wishful thinking on the part of the people of Hokianga.”

Act MP David Seymour called for Jones to be sacked as a minister and has written to the auditor-general asking for an investigation.

“Clare Curran was sacked for failing to disclose a meeting. Shane Jones has done exactly the same, the only difference being that Curran’s meeting had no consequence whereas Jones was decisive in $4.6 million of taxpayer money going to an organisation he’d previously been involved with,” Seymour said.

Jones will probably keep his job, for now at least, but these stories will keep nagging away at Government credibility and prudence in handing money out to Northland projects that he has had some connection to.

 

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”.