Minister mulches our money

November 14, 2018

Only someone spending other people’s money would buy seedlings without making sure the ground work was done:

Forestry officials working on the Government’s flagship One Billion Trees plan ordered more than one million pine seedlings for a block of land so choked with scrub and weeds planting couldn’t go ahead.

Forestry Minister Shane Jones told the Herald “ambition” and “enthusiasm” had a part to play in planting delays which struck the $32 million inaugural joint venture on the Far North forestry block.

Official documents show the Government planned to plant 1100ha with pine this year and had ordered about 1,100,000 seedlings for that. The number of seedlings able to be planted collapsed to 191,000 as the condition of the land was revealed. . . 

This shows the regional slush fund is getting even sloppier:

Shane Jones has confirmed his flagship forest investment in Northland was bungled after pine seedlings ended up being mulched, National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“It’s our money and your reputation being mulched, Mr Jones. “The Minister’s extraordinary admission speaks volumes about the lax rules in place around the Provincial Growth Fund.

‘Mulching’ is a higher risk for any venture that involves taxpayer funds and lacks full disclosure. “We’ve seen evidence this week that Provincial Growth Fund meetings were among 61 that Mr Jones forgot until recently he had attended. This is a Minister given a loose grant of some $3 billion to pursue investments that suffer from a lack of transparency.

“Now we learn that the inaugural venture in the One Billion Trees scheme was a bust, with seedlings destroyed.

“This is incompetence laid bare. It shows the risks of wild and frenetic spending to an overtly political timetable. Jones concedes as much, telling the Herald that he has ‘three years to roll out planting of 23,000ha’.

“New Zealanders are entitled to expect taxpayer money will be spent sensibly not rushed out the door to bolster the election prospects of New Zealand First.”

Sensible spending is oxymoronic with this government in general and the regional slush fund in particular.


One unfortunate 61 incompetent

November 12, 2018

Shane Jones has been forced to admit he failed to disclose 61 meetings:

Shane Jones has had to correct 20 answers to questions from the National Party after he failed to disclose meetings he had earlier this year. . . 

Mr Jones, the regional economic development minister, said he took full responsibility for the muck-up which he put down to a transcription error from his outlook diary. . . 

To misquote Lady Bracknell, one error might be regarded as unfortunate, 61 looks like incompetence.

National MP Paul Goldsmith uses weekly written parliamentary questions to ask Mr Jones who he meets with and what for.

He said this slip-up by the minister seriously concerned him, because it was not one or two meetings he missed, but 61.

And, he said, a number of those meetings were to do with the $3 billion of public money Mr Jones had responsibility for.

“What’s made me nervous, is that we regularly ask who he meets with and you can understand that a minister would make the occasional mistake. But what we saw here was 61 meetings which he hadn’t initially declared, which he is now declaring.” . . 

Clare Curran was sacked after making the same mistake over not disclosing meetings twice. What happens to a minister who makes the same mistake 61 times?

 

 


Rural round-up

October 26, 2018

Tree planting plan lacks clarity – Neal Wallace:

The Government’s billion-tree planting programme lacks clarity with ministers delivering conflicting messages, Canterbury University expert Professor Euan Mason says.

Until there is consistency on the policy’s objective, definitive decisions cannot be made on where trees are planted, species, planting incentives and the economic and social impacts.

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones views the policy as regional economic development and carbon sequestering as part of climate change policy. . . 

Guy Trafford assesses the mess the US dairy industry is in from the recent unintended consequences of bad trade policies. He also reviews Canterbury dairy farm sales activity:

While most involved in New Zealand dairy farming are aware that around the globe nobody appears to be getting rich in the industry, some interesting figures have recently come out of Wisconsin.

It is the second largest American state for dairy production based upon cow numbers currently, and it is notable for the wrong reasons.

Between January 1st and August 31st this year 429 farms have closed down. This is likely to exceed the record year for closures of 2011 when 647 farms closed. While many of the closures are at the smaller end of the scale – less than 100 cows – an increasing number are larger and over 300 cows. The reasons given for the closures are the low returns and growing debts over successive years. . . 

Red meat sector welcomes CPTPP ratification:

The red meat sector welcomes the ratification of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

New Zealand is now the fourth country to complete its domestic ratification process along with Mexico, Singapore, and Japan. The agreement requires at least six of the eleven member countries to ratify the agreement before it can come into force. Consequently, we strongly encourage the remaining member countries to do so before the end of this year. . .

Horticulture submission not nonsense:

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says he was surprised by the attitude of some members of the Education and Workforce Select Committee when he spoke to the organisation’s submission on the Employment Relations (Triangular Relationships) Amendment Bill today.

“I thank National MP Nikki Kaye for calling out the comments about our submission from Labour MP Kieran McAnulty. We appeared in good faith to speak to our submission and were speechless when we were told we did not understand what the Bill proposes and then had to watch the MPs fight about it,” Chapman says. . . 

Apple and stonefruit industry members successfully broker meeting between MPI and US facility to aid reaccreditation process:

The nursery and fruit-growing companies at the heart of the legal action against MPI over seized plants and plant material have been working hard to facilitate the rebuilding of the relationship between MPI and the USA-based Clean Plant Centre North West (CPCNW).

This facility has supplied New Zealand orchards and nurseries with new plant varieties for over 30 years and plays a critical role in the future of the New Zealand apple and stonefruit export industry. As part of MPI’s recent review and audit, accreditation of the facility was withdrawn.  . . 

‘Non-dairy milks? I wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole’: Food journalist JOANNA BLYTHMAN destroys the healthy alt-milk myth:

Non-dairy ‘milks’? As a seasoned investigative food journalist, I wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole.

So I’m sorry to see that people are forking out more for them than dairy milk. 

Coffee chains typically charge an extra fee if you want a latte made with an alt-milk – because we’ve been led to believe they’ll make us healthier, and that buying them is more virtuous.

Let’s look at how the vast majority of milk lookalikes are made. . . 

 


Government’s don’t have magic money tree

September 10, 2018

The Taxpayers’ Union correctly points out that doling out public money will destroy jobs not create them:

Shane Jones’ spending in Kawakawa will destroy jobs, not create them, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Taxpayers might think that $2.4 million for three jobs is a bad deal. Actually, it’s far worse than that. Taking this much money out of the private sector destroys jobs. It’s $2.4 million fewer dollars that taxpayers could have spent in their communities.”

That’s money that individuals could have used to create, expand or support businesses; provide for their futures, give to charity or simply choose to spend as they wished.

“What’s most terrifying about the Provincial Growth Fund is that, so far, Shane Jones has only spent four percent of his $3 billion. There is so much more spending to come that the public risks becoming desensitised to Shane Jones’ flagrant waste, when we should be outraged.”

“It looks like Shane Jones actually has far more money in the Provincial Growth Fund than he knows what to do with. In that case, he needs to simply give the money back.”

Councils and businesses in the provinces are doing their best to come up with ideas to get their share of this money and they can’t be blamed for that.

If money is being given away, why wouldn’t they try to get some for their pet projects?

But government’s don’t have a magic money tree. Every dollar a government spends comes from taxpayers.

The $2.4 million being splurged on the Kawakawa cultural centre in Northland will create just three jobs.

It could have been spent on health, education, crime prevention, infrastructure or any number of other ways that would give better value for money and a better return on investment.

It could also have been left in the pay packets of the people who earned it.


Keeping promises to partners breaking promises to people

August 14, 2018

Labour is keeping promises it made to its political partners while breaking promises it made to people when it campaigned last year.

Shane Jones continues to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars with no plan or oversight, while the Government repeatedly breaks promises claiming it doesn’t have enough money, National’s Regional Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“When the Government is closing down maternity centres like Lumsden’s, cancelling new funding for cochlear implants for children, breaking its promise of universal cheap GP visits and more funding for mental health initiatives because it claims it doesn’t have enough money, the extra $240 million for planting pine trees is extraordinary.

“The fact is the Government has now found around $485 million for NZ First’s pet project, while at the same time telling teachers it can’t afford the pay rises they want.

This is partly the cost of MMP but it is also about priorities.

The government began by prioritising non-essentials like fee-free tertiary education and has continued to find money for such things as good looking horses while saying there is not enough money for necessities.

“Labour is putting its promises to its political partners ahead of everyday New Zealanders and NZ First is milking that for all its worth.

“Meanwhile, Mr Jones’ Provincial Growth Fund continues to cause real concern.

“From broken promises that there’d be no private gain, to terms described by grant recipients as exceedingly generous to Mr Jones doling out cash to people he knows, the fund has been beset by concerning revelation after revelation.

“The Government is flinging good money after bad at projects we have no detail on, no oversight of and no confidence in and it shows no sign of abating or improving.

“And it makes no economic sense. Mr Jones admits the trees will be planted in regions where there is currently little economic rationale for such a strategy and where commercial foresters haven’t seen the need to expand. None of it makes sense.

“When the teachers unions, maternity carers and advocates for the deaf are sitting across the table from ministers pleading poverty they should keep in mind the fact NZ First has more negotiating power than all of them put together.”

Primary teachers will strike tomorrow as they campaign for better pay and conditions.

Find me anyone who thinks the non-essentials the government is funding should take higher priority than the education of primary school children and I’ll find a bridge to sell them

People who voted for Labour were promised a government that would care about people and put them first. They’ve got one that has  spent too much on paying for power at the expense of necessities.

Instead of putting the needs of New Zealand and New Zealanders first they’ve put the wants of New Zealand First first.


Good for party not good for govt

June 15, 2018

In March Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Shane Jones calling for sacking of a board member was a step too far.

A few months later he can say what he likes:

He’s shared a personal opinion, it’s not government policy, and that’s the end of the story,” Ms Ardern told Newshub.

That might have been a personal opinion but it was also a political act and it’s not the end of the story.

Jones wasn’t invited to Fieldays as a private citizen or even an MP, he was invited because he’s a Minister and Ministers should not meddle in private businesses.

If he wants to comment on Fonterra and its board he should buy a farm, some cows and shares in the company.

And then he should still refrain from making personal attacks on board members.

But of course he was playing to the gallery.

RIchard Harman at Politik says it was a carefully calculated campaign by NZ FIrst to boost its poll ratings.

But what’s good for the party’s poll ratings is not good behaviour for a minister, good governance nor for the government.

Jones’s comments added fuel to the fire of concern already burning businesses.

They’ve made the Prime Minister look as if she can’t control her cabinet.

And they’ve added to concerns about what might happen when Jones’s leader Winston Peters is acting PM.

 


Business not Minister’s business

June 14, 2018

NZ First MP Shane Jones has stomped with his clod hoppers where he has no business to be again:

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones has climbed into the leadership of dairy giant Fonterra, calling for chairman John Wilson to follow chief executive Theo Spierings out the door.

Jones said he told the company it should stop being political and instead focus on its business.

Says the Minister who uses personal attacks instead of polite discourse and ought to be focusing on politics not meddling in business.

They should focus less on interfering in politics and more on justifying the money they’ve lost overseas. I believe that they have become disconnected from the farming community.”

Jones said he had suggested to Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor whether it was time to restructure the dairy co-op, and singled out Wilson for special mention.

Doesn’t he know that the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA), under which Fonterra was created, is under review already?

The leadership of Fonterra, I believe, starting with the chairman, is full of its own importance and has become disconnected.”

He said there was an absolute absence of accountability for the “enormous amounts of dough” that the current chairman had presided over.

This sounds very like a minister full of his own importance presiding over a billion dollar slush fund with little accountability.

The CEO has gone, well that’s only one party of the double-Dutch we’ve had to put up with in Fonterra over the last nine years. I thoroughly believe this … that as the CEO leaves Fonterra, the chairman should in quick order catch the next cab out of town.

Double-Dutch? Is this a xenophobic reference to the retiring CEO Theo Spierings and past chair Sir Henry van der Heyden who stepped down nearly a decade ago?

“I’ve been bloody disappointed that Fonterra, in my view, the leadership has not accepted that there’s a new Government and there is a new narrative and I’ve had a gutsful of them believing they are bigger then what they really are.” . .

Believing they’re bigger than they are? That’s rich coming from the party with far more power – and voter money – than its voter support at the election entitle it to.

This sort of tirade does nothing to reassure  businesses which are already very wary of the policies and directions of the government.:

The time has come for the Prime Minister to step in and discipline her Regional Economic Development Minister who repeatedly seeks publicity by attacking business leaders, National’s Regional Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said today.

“Business confidence in New Zealand is plummeting and the reasons for that are mounting.

“The Government’s low growth policies like higher taxes and stronger unions are causing businesses to hire fewer people and invest less in growth and it has them concerned about the future of New Zealand and who can blame them?

“Because on top of that you have a loudmouth Regional Economic Development Minister who’s putting his own ego and need for publicity ahead of the interests of New Zealand.

“Shane Jones’ attacks on Fonterra’s leadership are the latest burp from a man who is fast losing any respect he once had.

“He says Fonterra’s leadership is ‘full of their own importance’.  That sounds like a more apt description of himself.

“He even added he’s ‘worried about the absolute absence of accountability for the enormous amounts of dough that the current Fonterrra chairman has presided over’.

“This is startling hypocrisy from the same man who defended his own region getting the lion’s share of funding from his billion-dollar Provincial Growth Fund by stating ‘to the winner goes the booty’.

“Well it’s not his booty and it’s clear Shane Jones has no idea what accountability means.

“This Government has decided to spend $3 billion over the next three years on regional economic development, including roundabouts and church restorations. It’s critical the responsible is up to the job and focused on doing his job well.

“At the moment, all he seems good for is attacking business leaders whenever a few days have gone by without some of the media coverage for which he craves.

A friend who was at the KPMG breakfast at which Jones launched his tirade said it was entirely inappropriate, and a very poor reflection on the MP and the government.

Fonterra is a co-operative. The performance of the company and its chair are the business of its shareholders not an MP.

There is some dissatisfaction and there are concerns but this season’s  milk price is the third highest since the company was formed.

Shareholders could well be more concerned about the MP who has no business interfering in their business than the chair’s performance.

So Jones’s loose lips could well strengthen the position of Wilson who is up for re-election this year.


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