PGF wouldn’t fund Green school

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacinda Ardern rules out electorate deals for NZ First, Greens

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has pretty much ruled out doing anything to help Shane Jones win Northland to save NZ First from being dumped (unless they can turn around slumping party support), and has also ruled out helping Green MP Chloe Swarbrick in the Auckland Central electorate.

A Colmar Brunton poll shows that Jones is a way off the pace in Northland, getting less than half the support of both the National and Labour candidates.

In 2015 Labour helped Winston Peters win Northland in a by election, but he lost it in the 2017 general election.

1 News: Jacinda Ardern shuts down idea of deal with NZ First for Northland seat

A deal between New Zealand First and Labour for the Northland seat is not “on the table”, says Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, despite Shane Jones’ poor poll results over the weekend.

“The suggestion that we do a deal implies there’s been a conversation … it’s just not something that’s on the table for either parties,” Ms Ardern told TVNZ 1’s Breakfast.

“At this point, and as I’ve said many times before, we’re campaigning for Labour in that seat.”

She says Ms Prime has “consistently” had her full support.

“Our view is that we need to keep working really hard on that seat.

That’s a clear public signal that Labour won’t help NZ First there.

In response to the poll, Mr Jones told TVNZ 1’s Q+A he needed to get the “political jackhammer” out, with his message to Northlanders that if they wanted to get NZ First back into Parliament they should vote for him or the party.

Jones seems to have accepted the poll result and concedes he has an uphill battle. He is regarded as a poor campaigner and has not won several attempts to win an electorate. He stood in Whangarei last election, coming a close third just behind the Labour candidate but both were 11,000 votes behind National’s Shane Reti.

So with no help from Labour, at this stage things are looking grim for NZ First.

And Greens are not getting any help in Auckland Central.

Stuff: Jacinda Ardern doesn’t think Chlöe Swarbrick will win Auckland Central from National

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern doesn’t think the Greens’ Chlöe Swarbrick will win the Auckland Central seat.

Ardern, who previously stood and lost twice in the seat against National’s Nikki Kaye, told RNZ this morning she thought a Swarbrick victory was unlikely.

“The idea that the candidate that would be polling third should suddenly catapult up I just don’t think is keeping in mind the voting habits of that particular seat,” Ardern said.

That suggests Labour have been polling there, I haven’t seen any public polling for Auckland Central.

With the Greens hovering around the 5 per cent threshold, there had been some speculation Labour would do a deal with the party to keep it in Parliament.

Swarbrick herself poured water on this, telling RNZ, “we haven’t sought out a deal”.

“If we’re going to win this we’re going to win it the old-fashioned way,” Swarbrick said.

Ardern reiterated there would be no deal.

“Our view of course is we take the running in seats very seriously, we want to make sure we give our Labour voters and supporters the choice to vote for their Labour candidate on the ground.”

So Labour are doing what makes sense, going all out for as many seats and as many party votes as they can get.

There’s a real chance they will be the first party under MMP to get a majority on their own.

If Greens survive I think Labour would still include them in Government but if Labour has a majority Greens would be weak and used by Labour.

So the election is shaping up to be Labour or Labour + Greens versus National + ACT.

Northland electorate may be lost saviour for NZ First

With NZ First polling well below the 5% threshold (except in Winston’s claimed but never revealed polls) an alternative way of keeping them in Parliament is for Shane Jones to win the Northland electorate.

Jones has actually said that if voters want NZ First back in Parliament they should vote for him in Northland. But he has never yet won an electorate (this is the third he has stood in).

And a 1 News/Colmar Brunton poll on Northland doesn’t look promising for Jones or NZ First.

Candidate votes in the 2017 election:

  • Matt King 38.30%
  • Winston Peters 34.81%
  • Willow-Jean Prime 21.61%

Jones has puled out of a Q+A interview this morning saying he had another engagement after previously committing to the interview.

Interesting to see National (41%) close to Labour (38%) on the party polling there – that looks ok for National compared to recent polls, but it isn’t flash compared to the 2017 election result:

  • National 46.35%
  • Labour 30.12%
  • NZ First 13.17%
  • Greens 6.05%
  • Conservatives 0.37%
  • ACT 0.47%

NZ First party vote is well down on that at 7%, and they are headed off by ACT jumping to a remarkable 8%.

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 won’t do a deal with ‘celebrity’ Green

Labour refusing to help Green candidate Chloe Swarbrick in Auckland Central could be grim for NZ First, who need to have a deal to have any chance in Northland.

Now Niki Kaye has withdrawn from contention in the Auckland Central electorate it is up for grabs. National haven’t named a replacement candidate yet, but leaving the seat open to discussion about whether Labour and Greens will do some sort of a deal. If Swarbrick wins the seat her party won’t have to make the 5% threshold to get back into Parliament, but Labour are openly unwilling to help.

RNZ: Labour rules out deal with Greens in Nikki Kaye’s seat

Labour is adamant it won’t be doing a deal with the Greens in the Auckland Central electorate.

Labour Party’s candidate Helen White will be going up against Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick, who is campaigning for both the party and electorate vote.

White said National won the seat in 2017 by just 1500 votes over Labour.

“The vote was so close for Labour, it just isn’t in the same league with regard to the gap that the Greens would have to move,” she said.

Given that, White said she was sizing up National as her main opponent in the seat.

The Greens are polling at about five or six percent, right on the threshold for getting back into parliament.

But regardless of that, White said she wouldn’t be making way for Swarbrick in Auckland Central.

“I actually think the Greens will be fine, they’ve got a solid base and obviously Chlöe is way up on that list, so people will firmly expect to see Chlöe in parliament.”

Asked what she would say to people who pointed out Swarbrick’s higher profile and name recognition, White said: “I’d ask them whether they’re looking for a celebrity or someone to do this job very seriously.”

At a campaign event in Auckland last night, Labour’s national campaign manager Hayden Munro told the crowd the party could not afford to split the progressive vote in the seat.

But if Labour aren’t going to help Swarbrick, or vice versa as some arrogant Labour supporters have insisted should happen, the left wing vote will be split between White and Swarbrick.

Labour will be very keen to take Auckland Central back now Kaye is out of the picture, but as long as the Greens get 5% or more (as I think is likely) then who wins Auckland Central won’t matter, as the party vote is what matters.

Labour refusing to do a deal in Auckland Central has greater implications for NZ First, who are polling well under the threshold.

If Labour don’t do a deal to help Swarbrick then they can’t credibly do a deal to help Shane Jones in Northland. And if Jones loses there (he has never won an electorate), and if NZ First fail to make 5%, they are out of Parliament.

And the old dog Winston Peters seems to have lost his political teeth.

Stuff – Winston Peters: old dog, same tricks but no bite

The NZ First leader is fighting for survival, afraid that he’s about to be tossed out of the toxic swamp of Parliament.

And as his time in the Beehive peters out, he shows no sign of changing. But the old dog’s teeth are no longer sharp.

As he awaits the outcome of a Serious Fraud Office investigation following revelations about the secretive NZ First Foundation, Peters has watched his party’s polling dwindle to around 2 per cent.

He’s been here before. But while pundits were previously reluctant to write off Peters, his tricks just now seem as old and tired as Lazarus himself.

His campaign launch last weekend failed to showcase any new ideas.

No-one buys the schtick of baiting his Government partners any more. In a sense, he’s the victim of his own chaotic tactics. Self-preservation kept him in the Labour-NZF-Greens alliance – destabilising a leader as popular as Ardern would almost certainly have finished him.

But having gone the distance with the Greens, attacking them to kick off a campaign is just meaningless political rhetoric.

His other stock tactic of distraction also failed him last week.

Facing scrutiny about a taxpayer-funded trip to Antarctica for two wealthy mates, Peters cooked up a story about who’d leaked his private pension details.

It was the latest half-cocked claim in a saga that has already cost him $320,000 in High Court costs. He’s got a long history of making unproven allegations under the shelter of parliamentary privilege, while those he accused have no way to defend themselves.

Peters can only win if voters see only his crafted image and ignore the reality of who he really is.

But once the tricks become obvious – when the threadbare curtain concealing him is pulled back – the show man can no longer pass himself off as the Wizard of Oz.

Peters is looking jaded and out of ideas.

His stymieing of a $100m rescue package for Southland, as the region reels from the likely closure of the Tiwai smelter, was cruelly cynical.

Peters was in Southland on Friday making ludicrous suggestions that management or employees buy the smelter, as there is not chance of a Government buyout he had previously suggested.

So Peters was pushing policy that he has no support for from other parties, so has no chance of succeeding with. Voters are likely to see through his promises, which are as lacking in credibility as his accusations in Parliament.

Jones also looks like he has lost already. He must have got the message from Labour that they aren’t going to help him in Northland.

Shane Jones signals NZ First attack on immigration

It’s not a surprise to see NZ First target immigration coming in to an election campaign. NZ First had planned to launch their campaign this weekend, but that has been delayed a weekafter what seemed like urgent but minor surgery this week for Winston Peters – see Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters takes medical leave (Peters also had hospital treatment and a week off work last year).

Shane Jones was interviewed on The Nation, but ‘hinted’ at tough immigration policy, presumably leving the big announcements to Peters once he is back on deck.

Newshub: Shane Jones hints at controversial New Zealand First immigration policies despite COVID-19 border closure

Speaking to Newshub Nation on Saturday, Jones said he believes employers have “a duty” to train New Zealand workers before immigrants.

He promised New Zealand First does not intend to make it easy for language schools while acknowledging the border closure will make their business difficult regardless.

“We’ve had the COVID experience – the borders have closed and it’s hard to see when and how they will open,” he said.

“I can say New Zealand First has no agenda of making it easy for language schools which have brought migrants into New Zealand with low skill, low values and had a very disruptive and negative impact on our labour market.”

Host Simon Shepard said the border closure has removed the immigration debate from the election conversation – a claim which Jones debated.

“I’ve every confidence our leader, our Caucus and our party will have very profound things to say about immigration,” he said.

“Just watch this space – we will have sensible things to say about immigration and it may come to pass that not everyone will enjoy what we have to say,” he continued.

“We’ve got to speak about the fact that in our population of five million we cannot rely on unfettered immigration at a time when our infrastructure is creaking.”

His comments follow a February interview with Newshub Nation where Jones blasted the Government’s immigration policy, saying too many people “from New Delhi” are being allowed to settle in New Zealand.

“I think the number of students that have come from India have ruined many of those institutions,” he said about academic institutions.

Jones defended his comments despite the Prime Minister calling them “loose and wrong”.

NZ First are in for a tough battle this election, with recent poll results around 2%.

In their favour is the disproportionate amount of free publicity the media are likely to give them.

1 News: Battle for Northland seat between Matt King and Shane Jones shaping up as a must win for NZ First

Its candidate Shane Jones is trying to snatch the seat off National MP Matt King in a bid to help keep the Winston Peters-led party in Parliament.

But National’s Matt King says it’ll take more than political stunts to win the seat.

“They won’t be fooled by the game these guys are playing,” he told 1 NEWS.

The MP alleges that the Provincial Growth Fund is being used to curry favour, with Northland securing nearly $600 million.

However, Mr Jones says it’s not Northland “feeling the love”.

“All the provinces have felt the provincial love and that’s because we were elected to drive provincial development.”

PGP handouts have been somewhat overshadowed by much bigger Covid subsidies and handouts, and some PGP funds have been shifted tor Covid recovery.

List MP Willow-Jean Prime is standing for Labour again.

Labour have so far given no indication they will help NZ First in Northland. If they stick to this approach it will be difficult for Jones, who has never won an electorate.

Like Peters, Jones is a boundary pushing attention seeker.

Newshub: Shane Jones stops putting up billboards in Kerikeri after council admits error in allowing it

National MP Matt King, the current MP for Northland, accused his New Zealand First opponent earlier this week of putting up “illegal” election advertising in Kerikeri.

King argued the ‘Jones for Jobs’ billboards broke the Electoral Commission’s rules that election hoardings cannot be put up until July 18.

The Electoral Commission had a different take, explaining how it’s fine for hoardings to be up before July 18 if the local council allows it.

“Election advertising may be published at any time, except on election day. This means election hoardings can be put up at any time, subject to the rules the local council has in place.”

Newshub went to the Far North District Council – the authority overseeing the town of Kerikeri – and CEO Shaun Clarke said there were no rules against it.

“There are no active bylaws or policies which would restrict early hoardings on private land in the Far North District.”

But Clarke has contacted Newshub to say he got it wrong and that there is a rule stating election signs can be erected “no sooner than 8 weeks prior to, and then removed no later than the close of day before polling day”.

Those rules are similar to most if not all local bodies for election hoardings. The CEO should have known that.

Otago University Law Professor Andrew Geddis confirmed there is no nationwide law to say you can only put up election billboards in a specified period before the election.

Outside of that period it’s up to local councils.

“If the CEO doesn’t know his own bylaws, that’s a worry,” Geddis said.

I hope it was only ignorance of his own bylaws.

Jones should have also been well aware of the by laws, he’s been a politician for a long time and has contested several electorates, including Northland in 2008. He unsuccessfully contested Whangerei in 2017, coming third, over ten thousand votes behind current MP Shane Reti.

Peters won Northland in a by-election in 2015 when Labour told their voters to support him (and most did), but lost to King inn the 2017 general election to King by 1,389 votes.

 

 

NZ First and fishing boat camera delays

Newshub has agitated Winston Peters with their reporting of ongoing delays at fitting cameras on fishing boats to monitor catches and protection of protected bird and sea mammal species.

Peters has been connected with fishing company interests for years, Shane Jones is former chair of both Te Ohu Kaimoana and Sealord, and fishing companies have donated to NZ First and to the NZ First trust (and also to national and Labour candidates).

The installation of cameras on fishing boats seems to have been contentious. National planned to require it when they were in Government, and the Green Party, Greenpeace and NZ Forest and Bird strongly supports it.

RNZ (February 2018): Govt considering ditching fishing boat camera plans

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash said many in the fishing industry were unhappy with the camera proposal and all options were on the table – including dumping it entirely.

One of Mr Nash’s first moves when he became the Fisheries Minister was to put the brakes on the rollout of electronic monitoring of the commercial fishing fleet.

The former National government came up with the plan last year, saying it would protect the sustainability of fish stocks and act as a deterrent against illegal activity, like fish dumping.

But Mr Nash said National forced it upon the sector, and he was getting advice from officials on what should be done.

“There are certainly concerns in the industry that there hasn’t been a proper process followed and a complete and utter lack of consultation.

“That does seem to be the prevailing attitude but we haven’t made any final decision on that,” he said.

Mr Nash said ditching the programme entirely was one of the options being considered.

“We could continue the project as it is, we could delay it – at the extreme we could dump it.”

National Party fisheries spokesman Gerry Brownlee said the rollout of cameras was needed to deal with well-publicised problems in the sector.

“Our step to put cameras on board was not rejected by the industry, it was the speed with which they were required to comply and they felt they needed more time,” he said.

Mr Brownlee said to move away from cameras would be ignoring problems, such as commercial fisheries catching non-quota species, as well as seabirds and sea mammals.

Forest and Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said the fishing industry could not be trusted and cameras on boats was the only way to keep it honest.

Seafood New Zealand chief executive Tim Pankhurst said Forest and Bird had an anti-commercial fishing agenda, and that the camera proposal was simplistic, unreasonably costly and inadequate.

Stuff (January 2019): Cameras on fishing boats delayed, angering Greens and Greenpeace

The Government has again delayed the rollout of mandatory cameras on fishing boats.

The change to the regulation was “gazetted” on Wednesday and gives companies until August 2019 to get their boats ready.

This follows another delay caused as the policy, supported by the previous Government, made its way through Cabinet.

Both the Green Party and Greenpeace have expressed disappointment at the delay.

“We don’t agree with this delay which is putting our fisheries and natural environment at risk”, Green Party animal welfare spokesperson Gareth Hughes said.

Despite being a part of the Government, the Greens are free to disagree with it on issues its MPs have no ministerial discretion over.

Former Green Party co-leader and Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman was also angered by the delay.

“There was a disturbing level of malpractice exposed by the original trials of the cameras back in 2012,” Norman said.

Norman alleged NZ First MP and Regional Development Minister Shane Jones was behind the move. NZ First have interfered in several other fishing policy decisions in recent months, and Jones received thousands of dollars in donations from fishing companies.

“If Shane Jones is now the de facto Minister of Fishing and has a policy agenda to help fishing companies destroy the environment, then the Government should just come clean about it rather than quietly delaying any action to protect our oceans,” Norman said.

Jones vigorously defended himself against Norman, saying the Greenpeace leader had left politics so should stay out of it.

Newsroom last month (June 2020): Why the delay to get cameras on boats?

The deadline for having cameras installed on commercial fishing boats was pushed back again last week with technology being pegged as one reason for the delay.

Newsroom’s enquiries have not been able to establish the nature of those technology issues, finding only that a step to define which technology solutions are required hasn’t yet happened.

Since cameras on boats were first proposed by the National-led government following concern over illegal fish-dumping, the rollout date has shifted several times from the original date of October 2018.

A new date of October 2021 added to legislation last week is not a firm line in the sand. Nash said it’s a holding date, “not a planned date for either beginning or completing any implementation”.

Stuff reported Nash raised cost as an issue last week as well as technical complications saying: “The technology at this point is just not available to allow us to equip the whole fleet with cameras.”

However, enquiries to Fisheries NZ reveal there’s a process step required before technical decisions are made and costs are known.

Asked what the technical issues causing the delay were, Fisheries NZ’s deputy director-general Dan Bolger said a public consultation would be needed.

Public consultation will take time, but it’s not clear why it is needed at this stage.

The delays have frustrated conservationists. Greenpeace’s ocean campaigner Jessica Desmond said the ongoing stalling wasn’t good enough.

“There’s been a long pattern of delaying this legislation implementation. There’s been OIAs showing the industry oppose this legislation, there’s been all kinds of excuses about money and technicalities.”

Fishing industry opposition was made clear in a letter sent in 2018 to Nash signed by Sealord, Talley’s, New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen and Te Ohu Kai Moana:

“The purpose of this letter is to dismiss any suggestion that the New Zealand seafood industry supports the current proposal, is in any way split in its opposition to it or that our industry has anything less than overwhelming opposition to your Ministry’s current proposal for cameras.”

New Zealand First’s Shane Jones denied being involved with the delay despite his past ties to the fishing industry as a former chair of both Te Ohu Kaimoana and Sealord, pro-industry stance, and history of receiving donations from Talley’s.

The NZ First Foundation received $26,950 from Talley’s and managing director Sir Peter Talley between 2017 and 2019. In 2017, Talley’s donated $10,000 to Jones.

The company also made a donation of $2000 to one other NZ First candidate, and donations of $5000 to seven National candidates and one Labour candidate in 2017.

Timeline:

2012 to 2013 – Video-monitoring pilot programme shows some monitored boats illegally discarding unwanted fish.

May 2016 – A report by an MPI investigator is leaked which called for prosecutions to be pursued. MPI announces an inquiry by former Solicitor General into the lack of prosecutions.

May 2017 – $30.5 million boost to fisheries management announced by then-Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy. It includes funding for GPS monitoring, electronic logbooks and was to be “followed by cameras on every vessel phased in from 1 October next year”.

November 2017 – Minister Stuart Nash postpones cameras on fishing boats saying: “I am working with MPI officials on options for timing and these will be communicated once a decision has been made.”

July 2018 – Letter from fishing companies sent to Nash saying the companies do not support cameras on boats.

January 2019 – Rollout of cameras delayed until August.

June 2019 – $17.1 million announced in Budget for cameras on boats fishing in Māui dolphin habitat by November 2019.

June 2020 – Rollout delayed to a “holding date” of October 2021.

On Tuesday: Winston Peters launches attack on Newshub journalist Michael Morrah ahead of fishing boat camera investigative report

On Tuesday’s Newshub Live at 6pm, Newshub Investigations Reporter Michael Morrah will reveal the politics behind delays in introducing cameras on fishing boats – and who’s responsible.

NZ First leader Winston Peters has released a statement before it goes it air, defending his party’s actions.

Peters is calling it “the worst form of unethical tabloid journalism”.

“What is appalling is how clickbait journalism is affecting the public’s right to be informed accurately about government policy,” he said.

“Newshub’s ‘shock horror’ special investigation will be as shallow as the motives behind its creation, and highlight once again some in the New Zealand’s media’s inability to understand how coalitions work.”

Morrah has covered the fishing industry for a decade and stands by his reporting.

“The public can make their own mind up tonight on Newshub Live at 6pm about whether this is clickbait journalism as Peters has claimed,” he says.

“I strongly reject any such suggestion, and I believe this story is in the public interest.”

The news item on Tuesday evening: Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash blames pressure from NZ First for delay in fishing boat cameras in recording

Newshub has obtained an explosive audio recording of Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash talking about NZ First MPs Winston Peters and Shane Jones.

The recording was from February 2018, around the time the Government first delayed the rollout of cameras on nearly 1000 fishing boats – since then it’s been delayed again until at least October next year.

In it, Nash points the finger of blame squarely at them for delaying plans to put cameras on commercial fishing boats to make sure they don’t break the law.

“New Zealand First has not been the cause of delays on cameras,” Nash has claimed on Tuesday.

But in February 2018, a few months after he took office, the explanation was remarkably different according to this secret recording obtained by Newshub.

“I’ve got to play the political game in a way that allows me to make these changes. Now, Winston Peters and Shane Jones have made it very clear they do not want cameras on boats,” Nash can be heard saying in a recording.

Nash then went on to say a public review of the fisheries management is needed to get the cameras rolled out.

“If Winston wants to have that discussion with Jacinda, it is had in the public arena and it is almost impossible for him to win it,” he said.

“But if he has it behind closed doors on the 9th floor now, then the public will never know about it. So what I am trying to do is put Winston and Shane into a position where they cannot back down.”

“By revoking these regulations, first of all people like Winston and the industry will go, ‘oh there, there you go. That’s fantastic, that’s been done. We don’t have to worry about this’,” he said in the recording.

“Little do they know behind the scenes the tidal wave on this is coming and they won’t be able to avoid it.”

But that tidal wave never came, nor did the planned fisheries review nor cameras on all boats.

On Tuesday, Nash said his comments were a mistake and that he ‘misread’ NZ First’s position.

“I just got it wrong. I was a new Minister. I was coming to grips with the portfolio. I got it wrong,” he told Newshub.

NZ First MPs are adamant they haven’t delayed things, with Jones blaming the pandemic.

“I’m not the Fisheries Minister, but I suspect that COVID has got a lot to do with it,” Regional Development Minister Shane Jones told Newshub.

“Cameras on fishing boats is really interesting. We haven’t blocked cameras on fishing boats,” NZ First MP Tracey Martin told Newshub Nation.

Although in an interview with Newshub less than two weeks ago, party leader Winston Peters eventually acknowledged NZ First was involved in the delay.

“Do we listen to industry representation, yes. Are we concerned about families and their economic representation? Yes. Are we the cause of that delay? Well, we are part of the representation that has ended up with a more rational and sane policy, yes” he said. Asked whether that was a yes to the original question, Peters responded: “yes”.

Talley’s Andrew Talley told Newshub “within the right framework cameras have a place in modern fisheries management”.

He says there’s “no connection” with donations and the camera delays.

When questioned if NZ First had delayed the cameras because he got financial backing from the fishing industry, Peters called it an “insulting question”.

“Stop making your vile, defamatory allegations by way of an accusatory question,” he told Newshub. “This conversation is over.”

Peters can get tetchy when under pressure.

Newshub followed up yesterday:  Talleys hosted fundraiser dinners for NZ First, but denies that’s behind delay in fishing boat cameras

Members of fishing family Talleys organised two fundraising dinners at hotels for New Zealand First, Newshub can reveal – another link between the party and the fishing industry.

Newshub can reveal Talleys Fishing directors hosted two fundraising dinners for NZ First – one last year at a Christchurch hotel.

There’s nothing illegal or wrong about hosting fundraisers. The MC was former RNZ board chair Richard Griffin. He confirmed to Newshub that he’d MCed two fundraiser meetings for NZ First, and that Winston Peters, Shane Jones and Clayton Mitchell were there.

Asked about the fundraisers, Peters said “I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about.”

Even after Newshub briefed his office, he still refused to talk about it, saying “I don’t know what on earth you’re asking these questions for”.

After contentious donation issues in 2008 Peters lost his Tauranga seat and NZ First failed to make the 5% threshold, dumping them out of Parliament.

Stuff: Stuart Nash apologises to Winston Peters and Shane Jones over fisheries comments

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash made a “heartfelt” apology to Winston Peters and Shane Jones for remarks made in a private phone call, which aired on television last night.

Nash said today that the conversation was had two and a half years ago, and he couldn’t remember who was on the other end of the call.

He said he’d apologised to Peters and Jones about the call.

“I’ve apologised to Winston and to Shane and said I got it wrong,” Nash said. “I think they took it well because it was heartfelt,” he said.

Nash said at the time that while the technology had been rolled on 20 boats on the West Coast, it was not yet ready for wider distribution.

If it works on some boats why shouldn’t it be able to work on others?

Cameras are already used successfully on some fishing boats, so the technology seems fine. Fisheries New Zealand:  On-board cameras for commercial fishing vessels

On-board cameras give us independent information about what goes on at sea. They help verify catch reporting, and monitor fishing activity by commercial fishers, to encourage compliance with the rules.

Overseas experience shows that placing cameras on commercial fishing vessels greatly improves the quality of fisher-reported data.

For example, reports of interactions with seabirds and mammals increased 7 times when electronic monitoring was introduced to Australia’s longline fisheries in 2015. Overall reported catch remained the same.

Camera technologies have been used around the world on commercial fishing vessels for decades, and we have learnt a lot from fisheries overseas which are already using these systems.

New Zealand regulations for on-board cameras on commercial fishing vessels came into effect in 2018.

Since then, we’ve been developing the systems and processes to support this, and have now put cameras on some fishing vessels. The regulations applied to these vessels from 1 November 2019 in a defined fishing area on the west coast of the North Island.

Currently, a holding date of 1 October 2021 has been set before the on-board camera regulations apply to other commercial fishing vessels.

So technology does not appear to be an issue.  It looks more like a political problem. Putting things on hold until next year sounds like waiting and hoping for a different mix of parties in Government.

 

 

Infrastructure handouts announced

$3 billion aimed at fast tracking infrastructure projects to try to boost recovery from the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic were announced yesterday.

Infrastructure investment to create jobs, kick-start COVID rebuild

A new package of infrastructure investments will help kick-start the post-COVID rebuild by creating more than 20,000 jobs and unlocking more than $5 billion of projects up and down New Zealand.

That is presumably an estimate of job numbers. There is no indication whether people with the right qualifications and skills  are available to do the jobs, or if they will need to be trained – which would take time.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones today outlined how the $3 billion infrastructure fund in the COVID Response and Recovery Fund will be allocated across regions, following extensive engagement with local councils and businesses.

The investment package includes about $210 million for climate resilience and flood protection projects, $155 million for transformative energy projects, about $180 million for large-scale construction projects and $50 million for enhanced regional digital connectivity.

The COVID Response and Recovery Fund (CRRF) set out in Budget 2020 earmarked $3 billion for infrastructure projects. Cabinet’s initial decisions on this allocation include:

  • Housing and urban development: $464m
  • Environmental: $460m
  • Community and social development: $670m
  • Transport (cycleways, walkways, ports and roads): $708m

The projects are in addition to the $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme and existing Provincial Growth Fund investments.

Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones said the pipeline of projects would create immediate economic activity in the metropolitan centres as well as the regions.

Cabinet has now made initial decisions about key sectors it would like to support and general regional distribution of funds, with more than 150 projects worth $2.6 billion being approved in principal. Officials are now undertaking final due diligence to ensure projects are viable and offer the benefits stated by applicants.

That doesn’t sound like ‘immediate economic activity’.

About $400 million has been set aside as a contingency as the Government takes a responsible approach to managing spending on behalf of taxpayers. Funds not required in the contingency will be put towards further infrastructure projects, providing an incentive for local councils to deliver the approved projects on time and on budget, as this would unlock a further potential $400 million of investment.

Large infrastructure projects have a habit of running over budget, especially when the investigations and planning of them is rushed.

Rushing projects also raises the risks of them being ill-conceived and chosen so the Government is seen to be doling something.

And there are suggestions the announcements that the announcements are more timed for the election than practical progression of the projects. This announcement included government self promotion:

“This is about creating jobs as we recover and rebuild from the recession caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Because we went hard and early with our health response, we’ve been able to open up the economy quicker than other countries and get a head start on our recovery,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson said.

“This package will provide Kiwis with confidence that the Government is backing them in this challenging economic environment by creating new jobs and opportunities in communities around the country.”

Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones said the pipeline of projects would create immediate economic activity in the metropolitan centres as well as the regions.

“Both are critical to our economic and social recovery from the COVID-19 crisis,” Shane Jones said.

“Not only has this massive undertaking provided us with the largest stocktake of infrastructure projects we’ve ever had but it’s enabled us to partner with central and local government, the private sector and community groups to deliver projects for all Kiwis.

“The specific projects we’re announcing today are examples of the sort of projects we’re supporting – from nationwide investments in flood protection and better digital connectivity to civic facilities that we know form the bedrock of our communities.

“I am extremely proud of the depth and breadth of this unprecedented piece of work,” Shane Jones said.

Jones may also be hoping this unprecedented piece of work will help his electorate election chances, and Robertson may be hoping it helps Labour’s chances of being re-elected (but he may not be hoping for NZ First to interfere with them governing again next term).

It will be well after the election before the worth of the projects being pushed have been money well spent, or squandered.

Winston ‘spray and walk away’ Peters and NZ First failings

NZ First looks to be in big trouble. It is still twelve weeks until the election, and Winston has been good at pulling campaign rabbits out of the hat, but prospects currently look a bit grim for NZ First.

This far out from the 2017 election Peters was confident of getting 20+% in the election, beating Labour and being top dog in coalition negotiations.  In June-July 2017 NZ First were getting 8-11% in polls and Peters always claimed polls were wrong (unless he liked the results).

Jacinda Ardern took over leadership and Labour bounced back in the polls, and NZ First dropped, getting 5-8% results towards the election. Still Peters claimed ‘Crap’ polls don’t reflect NZ First’s position:

RNZ’s latest poll of polls – which is the average of the major polls – has New Zealand First at 7.5 percent and falling.

Mr Peters today said despite the party’s slump in the polls, New Zealand First was actually going “very well” and the large variation between the recent polls showed they could not be relied upon and should not be taken seriously.

He said political polls were akin to voodoo.

“I think your polls are crap and I’ve always thought that,” Mr Peters said in Whangamata today.

“What you should say is ‘Mr Peters – my crap polls should be listened to’, and my answer’s ‘no your crap polls should be totally ignored by the public because they’re rubbish’.”

Eleven days later NZ First got 7.2% in the election, so the polls weren’t that far off.

Peters still acted like he had won the election and dictated the terms of coalition negotiations. He dominated proceedings, played the media, Labour and Greens, and came out with a disproportionate deal – the Winston tail wagged the Labour puppy which was desperate to get back into Government after nine years in opposition.

NZ First scored  the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund prize and they have been dishing out dosh as if it was election bribes all over the country. Donors from the racing and fishing industries were also rewarded with favourable policy changes.

Peters started the term as Deputy Prime Minister but acting as if he was the virtual leader with Ardern his rookie subordinate.

But Ardern’s leadership overshadowed Peters, especially in difficult times such as the Christchurch mosque murders, the Whakaari/White Island eruption and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Peters lost a court battle against National MPs and public officials over his super overpayments being made public.

And this year NZ First was exposed with the use of a trust to hide and effectively fiddle party donations. Whatever the Serious Fraud Office decide to do damage has already been done. One NZ First MP, Clayton Mitchell, won’t be standing this election and that looks a bit like it could be connected to his involvement in party donations.

Peters is starting to look old and stale alongside Ardern and in Parliament.

NZ First have been polling around the all important threshold and have recently slipped well below it. At the start of the year poll results were 3-5%, but last month (May) they got a consistent 2.7%, 2.9% and 2.5% across three polls, and yesterday they dropped to 1.8% in the latest Colmar Brunton poll, their lowest result since 2014.

Winston’s reaction was predictable. 1 News headlined NZ First sees disastrous poll result but Peters responded

Asked about the party’s poor showing in the poll, party leader Winston Peters told 1 NEWS – “your polls are crap…your polls are rubbish…your problem is you don’t have the intellectual capacity to absorb the mistakes of your polling industry.”

Mr Peters denied that the Serious Fraud Office investigation into the secretive foundation bankrolling his party was contributing to its poor results.

“Once again that’s a jack-up as well, and we’ll prove that….this is the point here New Zealand First is so effective, that we’re impervious to attack on any reasonable grounds so common dirt is what they try against us – it’s not going to work,” Mr Peters said.

But Peters is looking like a repetitive, faded jaded mandarin.

On Thursdays in Parliament Peters gets to answer questions on behalf of the Prime Minister. I wonder what he thinks of being referred to as ‘she’ and repeat lame Government lines, like (from Hansard):

Hon Nikki Kaye: Will she absolutely guarantee there will not be an inquiry or investigation into the failures that have occurred?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, it would be wrong to actually guarantee against a future inquiry. We cannot see the purpose of making such a commitment when, in fact, transparency and openness is our middle name.

Lack of openness and transparency have dogged the government, and have never been attributes associated with Peters.

Hon Chris Hipkins: Would the officials working at the front line have more time to do the jobs that we desperately need them to do if they weren’t having to investigate spurious and baseless claims being made by members of the Opposition?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Most definitely. To have an official having to behave like Sherlock Holmes to find a guilty party that doesn’t exist is preposterous behaviour, and Mr Woodhouse should be apologising to the country.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Will she commit to telling the New Zealand public if and when the investigations being led by Dr Megan Woods reveals the veracity of the claim?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Most definitely. But this is how the real world works—this is how the real world works. When an allegation is made, especially from someone who’s educated and a member of Parliament and a former Minister, you expect that member to back it up. We do not the old fungus or moss ad that used to go like this, “I just spray and walk away.” Spray and walk away won’t do, Mr Woodhouse.

That’s a laugh coming from him. Peters has been the spray and walk away champion of Parliament for decades. One of his trademarks is to make outrageous allegations in Parliament, insists he has evidence, but fails to front up with it.

Things are looking grim for Peters and the future of his party. Sure, he may pick up on a scandal and milk it for all it’s worth between now and the election, and pull off another miracle recovery, but he may struggle with that.

NZ First has never survived in Government for more than a term, and didn’t survive in Parliament after the 2005-2008 stint.

This campaign Peters is not just having to do a ‘me against them’ battle while claiming he would do a deal with anyone.  He is having to deal with pushback from Labour for doing the dirty on some of their policies, and Greens are also targeting NZ First for dumping on some of their aspirations. Plus of course National currently have a position of not dealing with NZ First after the election.

The threshold is looking like a difficult target for NZ First.

Their other way back is for Shane Jones to win the Northland electorate that Peters lost in 2017. Jones has never managed to win an electorate yet. Voters don’t seem to like his over-hyped oratory anywhere near as much as he does.

With or without an SFO decision before the election it’s going to be a big battle for Peters this time, and after a busy term he may struggle to raise the energy needed to pull it off. Most people are wise to his hype, hypocrisy and forked tongue.

Winston will spray, but we will have to wait until September to see whether he has to walk away from a long career in politics or not.

NZ First bottom lines begin – moving Auckland’s port

NZ First seems to have a bottomless pit of bottom lines in election campaigns.

Last election: The comprehensive list of Winston Peters’ bottom lines

I think this is the first one this campaign: