Min­is­ter: ex­pect a Clutha call


New Re­gional Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Shane Jones is get­ting calls ask­ing for money from the new $1 bil­lion a year re­gional de­vel­op­ment fund - and Clutha District Coun­cil is about to pick up the phone.

At a coun­cil meet­ing at Bal­clutha on Thurs­day, Clutha District mayor Bryan Cado­gan told Clutha-based New Zealand First MP Mark Pat­ter­son, who was in­vited to speak, that he was keen to put a del­e­ga­tion to­gether, go to Welling­ton ’’and talk to Mr Jones’’ as soon as pos­si­ble.

Jones was given the $3b provin­cial growth fund in his port­fo­lio. This re­gional fund will cover the cap­i­tal cost of plant­ing 100 mil­lion trees a year, make ‘‘sig­nif­i­cant’’ in­vest­ment in re­gional rail, com­mis­sion a fea­si­bil­ity study of op­tions for mov­ing the Ports of Auck­land, and will fund other ‘‘large scale cap­i­tal projects’’.

List MP and Lawrence farmer Pat­ter­son was adamant that the coun­cil shouldn’t visit Jones: ‘‘I think the min­is­ter should come down to visit you.’’

Cado­gan thanked Pat­ter­son for the ad­vice, and con­grat­u­lated him on his new role in the Labour-NZ First-Greens al­liance. He said the coun­cil would be in touch about a meet­ing.

In one of his first of­fi­cial ap­pear­ances as MP in the newly sworn-in gov­ern­ment, Pat­ter­son fielded some rapid-fire ques­tions from coun­cil­lors about the re­gional fund.

He be­gan by ex­plain­ing that the fund was ‘‘new money’’ that was made avail­able for tar­geted projects not ‘‘old money’’ repack­aged from another source.

‘‘We [NZ First] are driv­ing that, that is our space, and that’s where the rub­ber hits the road, and where you as a coun­cil come in.’’

The idea was that the fund would help counter-act the bil­lions go­ing into Auck­land, and get peo­ple ‘‘out of there and into the re­gions’’, he said.

When asked by deputy mayor Cr Ste­wart Cowie how the Clutha District could get in the queue for its share of the tree plant­ing scheme, Pat­ter­son said he would be a ‘‘strong ad­vo­cate to get that hap­pen­ing here’’, but had been told ‘‘not to make any prom­ises’’.

How­ever, he said NZ First had a clear idea of where it wanted the money to go, and it was a mat­ter of clar­i­fy­ing those pa­ram­e­ters.

It would be good to see ‘‘Shane Jones com­ing down to start dis­cus­sions at a may­oral level’’, he told the coun­cil.

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