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.