If water storage is good . . .?

April 10, 2019

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will invest up to $18.5 million in water storage to unlock land use potential in the Mid North, Regional Economic Development.

“Up to $18.5 million will be invested to help investigate and, if feasible, construct community-scale water storage and use options in Kaipara and Mid North,” Shane Jones said.

“This project is the largest PGF investment to date in water storage. Regional Economic Development Ministers backed the proposal because of the real opportunities that ensuring a more reliable water supply could bring to the region – up to $150m in increased horticulture earnings per year and up to 1150 jobs created.

“The region is vulnerable to droughts and floods, so better access to water will give landowners greater options to utilise their land, develop new markets and maintain and grow a skilled workforce.

“This project is relatively small in scale, compared to proposed water projects in the past, and enjoys wide support from local government. It will alleviate pressure on surface and groundwater resources, and will reduce sedimentation, a key water quality issue for the region, as land use shifts towards horticulture.

“It will also mean better access to water for use on Māori-owned land – the development of which is a key objective for the PGF.” . . 

New Zealand has plenty of water, the problem is it doesn’t fall and flow evenly or conveniently where and when it’s needed.

Those of a very dark green persuasion say that’s nature’s way and we have to accept it.

Those with more moderate views say that water storage is the most environmentally friendly way to harness nature’s bounty – storing water when there’s more than enough, to use when there’s too little.

The economic and social benefits of this are clear – a reliable water supply provides insurance against the financial and human costs of droughts. There are also environmental benefits – the ability to maintain minimum flows in waterways which improves their health and that of the flora and fauna that live in them.

This is why the previous government provided funding for water storage. This government stopped that but is using the PGF to do it instead.

While supporting water storage, I have reservations about this funding.

Successful irrigation projects are driven from the water-users up, not the government down.

I also have a question – if water storage is good in Northland, why isn’t it good in other parts of the country which would have received government help under the previous government but won’t under this one?


A good use for PGF

March 27, 2019

Part of the West Coast is cut off again:

“Significant rain” has fallen overnight in the Westland District after flooding washed away the Waiho Bridge and slips closed roads.

A state of emergency is continuing after being declared last night after the bridge, south of Franz Josef, was swept away in wild weather. However the Hokitika River has held – a relief for locals.

A 350km stretch of road on SH6 is closed between Hokitika and Makarora, near Wanaka. . . 

I have criticised the Provincial Growth Fund and most of the projects to which it has been put.

But rebuilding the bridge and funding other repairs and future flood protection work would be a good use for it.

 


Will they buy it?

February 8, 2019

Will They Buy It? A one-act play set in an office in the Beehive.

Official: We’ve got a bit of a problem Minister. The Opposition aren’t buying your numbers for jobs created by the Provincial Growth Fund grants.

Shane: That’s alright. We can just say they don’t understand big numbers.

Official: That’s the problem Minister, the numbers aren’t big, except in the Ministry.

Shane: Job creation is job creation, let’s not quibble about who’s got them.

Official: But our own figures show that 118 civil servants have been employed to administer the PGF, with most based in Wellington. Only 54 actual jobs have been created so far – a run rate of less than 0.5 FTE for each official.

Shane: Jobs are jobs, you’re quibbling.

Official: It’s not me Minister, it’s Paul Goldsmith, and it’s not who’s got them, it’s where.  They’re in Wellington and Wellington isn’t the provinces.”

Shane: Wellington’s a province, what’s the problem?

Official: There’s Wellington the province, Minister, and Wellington the city, and the civil servant jobs are in the city.

Shane: The city’s in the province though, we can tell them that.

Official: With respect Minister, do you really think they’ll buy that, especially when unemployment’s  gone up?

Shane: Hmm, well let’s distract them. We’ve still got money in the provincial growth pot, it can’t be hard to find something to throw it at.

Official: But will they buy it Minister?

 


$490,191 per job

February 5, 2019

The Provincial Growth Fund, like KiwiBuild, has over promised and under delivered:

Shane Jones’ Provincial Growth Fund has created just 54 jobs in its first year, making a mockery of the Government’s claim to be helping regional New Zealand, National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Fund is all about maximising NZ First’s re-election chances in 2020 but the Prime Minister is fully on board, turning up in small towns supposedly with an open cheque book and a feel-good soundbite. Trouble is, it’s big on hot air and miniscule on substance.

“Despite all the hoopla, only 38 of the 135 announced projects have received funding and just 3.4 per cent of the funding has actually been paid out. That’s $26.6 million for 54 jobs, or the equivalent of $490,191 per job.

That money would employ a lot of teachers, nurses or police officers.

“That’s a dismal outcome considering the mountain of press releases, town hall meetings and hyperbole being rolled out by this Government. Mr Jones would have you believe he’s the saviour of the provinces but the only thing he seems intent on saving is his political career.

“The facts about the PGF are elusive and the Government hasn’t willingly disclosed what’s really going on. It has taken endless questioning by National to penetrate the layers of Government obfuscation.

“Meanwhile, Mr Jones’ claims become more fanciful every time he speaks. Prior to Christmas he claimed 4000 jobs had been created as a direct result of the PGF. A day later that had jumped to 9000. In reality the Fund is as shambolic as KiwiBuild – an epic fail that has seen just 47 of 100,000 houses actually built.

“What’s worse is that the Government fails to understand the basics of employment, in terms of helping young, unemployed Maori in particular. Their job prospects have dimmed as a result of 90-day trials being dumped and the massive increase in the minimum wage.

“National favours sensible economic policies that nurture New Zealand’s economic growth, create more jobs and help lift all our communities. That’s the route to prosperity. Carefully stage-managed publicity events in the regions are just politics.”

The regions do need investment in some areas which are government business including infrastructure and health services.

It started by axing funding for roads and irrigation and has done nothing more for health services. Instead of helping, it is refusing to help Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, is funding SIT to take over Telford Farm Training Institute for only one year and is closing rural maternity centres.

Instead of investing money where there is genuine need it has allowed the PGF to give out money to projects at what looks like whim and, in many cases, without a proper business case.

It has also provided a serious disincentive to real and sustainable job creation in the private sector with the threat of so-called fair pay agreements that would take us back to the bad old days of the 1970s.


Roads government business

February 4, 2019

Northland is getting $20.39m from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), $19.41 million of which is to upgrade transport links because Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says:

“Reliable transport infrastructure is crucial to Northland’s economic success as it affects every part of the region’s economy. Strengthening transport links is critical to fully unlocking the potential of the North and enable new opportunities for local people and business. . . “

Transport infrastructure, or what the rest of us call roads,  is the business of government which is more than can be said for a lot of the initiatives to benefit from the PGF but this raises questions about the government’s roading priorities:

The investment from the Provincial Growth fund for transport links in Kaipara will no doubt be welcomed by local residents but the Government’s overall approach to roading in Northland makes no sense, National’s spokesperson for Transport Paul Goldsmith says.

“The reality is that although the Government has provided this funding, it is not going to build the key road that the region needs – the highly engineered four lane highway from Wellsford to Whangarei.

“On the one hand the Government is going to continue to drip feed funding for a half measure, a single laned highway to Whangarei, frustrating all Northlanders, and at the same time sporadically throw a bit of money from the Provincial Growth Fund to favoured regions.

“This is part and parcel of the politicisation of the fund from Shane Jones with a bias to particular regions. . . 

The four lane highway would be more expensive than the roading improvements around Kaipara but it would also would give the biggest benefit to most people and contribute most to both road safety and economic growth.

The package also gives money to develop Maori land.

“The extra capital for the development of Māori land will be welcomed by Māori – it’s a pity however, that the Government has axed the Te Ture Whenua Māori reforms which would have added hundreds of millions of dollars of value for Māori landowners and their whanau by unlocking the economic potential of the around 1.4 million hectares of land.

“We should be wary of the PGF becoming the banker of last resort for general business or Māori land owners.”

We should be very wary of the PGF doing anything at all without establishing the need, costs and benefits.


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