Barry Soper: Provincial Growth Fund goes where banks fear to tread

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Thursday, 28 February 2019, 6:27a.m.
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.

COMMENT:

The cash rich Provincial Growth Fund goes where banks fear to tread.

Well the self proclaimed First Citizen of the Provinces Shane Jones admitted as much when the fund earlier this month agreed to cough up a hundred million dollars to improve long forgotten, weed infested Māori land.

A proud Prime Minister made the spending announcement, saying research had shown up to 80 percent of Māori freehold land was under utilised and therefore unproductive.

Trouble is there are so many owners, hundreds of them, owning relatively small blocks and they can't be bothered getting together and improving them.

So it seems the rationale is, an injection of taxpayer dosh will turn them into productive units.

It seems that weekly a team of Ministers, frequently led by Jacinda Ardern, descend on the money hungry provinces with stacks of cash.

In three years the fund will have doled out three billion bucks with Jones once declaring the spoils go to the victor and to the winner goes the booty, which could mean either the well organised provinces or probably more likely New Zealand First which wrung the money out of the coalition deal with Labour.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones in his Beehive office. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones in his Beehive office. Photo / Mark Mitchell

And a lot of the booty, a hundred million dollars of it, has gone to the Far North where the party has more than a passing electoral interest in.

Another eight million was poured into the area yesterday and like a lot of the spend, it's for establishing the feasibility of ideas from iwi, like more than a quarter of a million for exploring the potential for a barge for transporting logs and the same amount of money for scoping three development projects.

That view was certainly reinforced last year when the hundreds of thousands signed off and earmarked for a waste to energy scheme was withheld when it was discovered the chief executive had been referred to the Serious Fraud Office.

The bureaucrat responsible apologised to Jones for not being careful enough about delving into the application for money which of course fell well short of instilling confidence in the way the money's being handed out.

So who gets to decide who doles out the dosh?

If it's twenty million or more Cabinet collaborates, if it's less than that but more than a million, First Citizen Jones has the sign off and if it's less than a mil the bureaucrats are in the box seat.

Launching the fund almost a year ago to the day, Jones described the fund as "a bloody big risk."

Andrew Dickens Afternoons

Andrew Dickens Afternoons

12p.m. - 4p.m.