Jones talks on re­gional spend

Whanganui Chronicle - - Nation - By Lucy Ben­nett

“To the win­ner goes the booty.”

That’s how Re­gional Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Shane Jones de­scribed how he ended up with a bil­lion dol­lars to spend in the re­gions.

Jones was in front of a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee yes­ter­day morn­ing an­swer­ing ques­tions on ex­pen­di­ture in his port­fo­lio in the com­ing fi­nan­cial year.

Na­tional MP Paul Gold­smith ques­tioned how it was that 60 per cent of fund­ing dis­trib­uted so far through the Pro­vin­cial Growth Fund had gone to North­land, where New Zealand First MP Jones and his party leader Win­ston Peters are based, while the rest of New Zealand had re­ceived only 40 per cent.

“How do the peo­ple of New Zealand have con­fi­dence that this fund is not just a slush fund fo­cused on po­lit­i­cal gain for a party that is well known to be fo­cus­ing on North­land,” Gold­smith asked Jones.

Jones said the fund came about as a re­sult of the po­lit­i­cal process in cre­at­ing the Coali­tion Govern­ment.

“There’s rule No 1 in pol­i­tics — to the win­ner goes the booty. The booty in this case is to all the surge re­gions, and the best or­gan­ised surge re­gion . . . has proven to be the lead­er­ship of the North.”

Surge re­gions are those iden­ti­fied as need­ing early in­vest­ment. They in­clude North­land, Bay of Plenty, East Coast, Hawkes Bay Manawatu¯ / Whanganui and the West Coast.

It emerged dur­ing the hear­ing yes­ter­day that up to $61 mil­lion had so far gone to North­land while $42m was dis- trib­uted to other re­gions, plus $7.5m to the Howard League for na­tion­wide driver li­cens­ing.

Gold­smith said North­land had got more than asked for while the rest of the re­gions got only a frac­tion of the $240m asked for.

“How do you jus­tify one re­gion get­ting more than half of the to­tal spend­ing so far, and more than they asked for, and the rest of the re­gions of New Zealand mak­ing do with only a tiny frac­tion of what they asked for, and less than half .”

Jones cred­ited the ad­vo­cacy and pre­pared­ness of for­mer Na­tional MPs Far North mayor John Carter and Murray Mc­Cully for North­land’s suc­cess.

“It just came to pass that first up, best dressed.”

Although Jones said there was an “ex­ten­sive pro­gramme” planned for the South Is­land and other surge ar­eas, Pro­vin­cial Growth Fund head Nigel Bickle told the com­mit­tee that only 15 per cent of ap­pli­ca­tions be­ing pro­gressed were from the South Is­land.

Asked why there were so few South Is­land projects be­ing green-lighted, Jones said that the qual­ity of ap­pli­ca­tions from the South Is­land was not high enough.

“I would say to the South Is­lan­ders . . . the fund needs to see ap­pli­ca­tions and pro­pos­als of a higher qual­ity than the dregs of John Key’s cy­cle­ways down in the South Is­land that never got funded.”

Speak­ing to re­porters af­ter­wards, Gold­smith said there was a clear bias in the de­ci­sion­mak­ing.

“It’s the ar­ro­gance and shame­less­ness about the po­lit­i­cal na­ture of the fund that is of con­cern to us. We’re talk­ing about $3 bil­lion be­ing spent here, it’s a lot of money and it re­quires good clear pro­cesses and there’s a com­plete ab­sence of them.”

Jones said it was “tawdry and am­a­teur­ish” to suggest that be­cause the fo­cus had been on the North that other re­gions would suf­fer. “The peo­ple of the South Is­land, they’re anx­ious for me to get down there. They’re con­scious that there is putea (funds) to meet their pro­pos­als, they’ve just got to groom them up in a fash­ion that passes muster with our of­fi­cials.”

Re­gional Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Shane Jones was ques­tioned yes­ter­day by Na­tional’s Paul Gold­smith (in­set). PHO­TOS/FILE

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.