$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.


We lose if WTO not taken seriously

November 28, 2018

Could the Provincial Growth Fund threaten New Zealand’s free trade credentials?

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones today confirmed that some Provincial Growth Fund expenditure may qualify as agricultural subsidies, meaning it would need to be reported to the World Trade Organisation, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Jones said he had sought advice from MFAT about the legitimacy of his spending. This would be the first time New Zealand has reported such subsidies to the WTO in 25 years.

“It would be incredibly embarrassing if the Government had to report this expenditure, especially given David Parker travelled to Europe in January seeking to limit the agricultural subsidies of other countries, and Jacinda Ardern’s recent trumpeting of free trade.

“Subsidies for agricultural products are tightly restricted under WTO rules and for good reason. They stand in the way of free and mutually-beneficial trade; they create inefficient domestic industries by coddling producers; and, they represent wasteful spending and require higher taxes to support them.

“The Fourth Labour Government scrapped all of New Zealand’s agricultural subsidies in the 1980s, resulting in more productive, profitable and innovative producers.

“In his typical, blustering fashion Jones said he had no intention of complying with the international trade body’s rules.

“NZ First has always harboured a deep desire to return us to the Fortress New Zealand of the 1970s.

“If Shane Jones is determined to continue making such payments, he’ll be sullying New Zealand’s international reputation as a free and open trading nation.

This exchange in question time yesterday doesn’t give any confidence that Jones is taking WTO requirements seriously:

David Seymour: Has the Minister had advice in any form that some of his provincial growth fund expenditure may have to be reported to the World Trade Organization as it qualifies as agricultural subsidies—the first time New Zealand would have reported such subsidies in 25 years?

Hon SHANE JONES: Yes. Naturally, advice has been sought from the foreign affairs department. However, given that the adjudication and the appeals of so-said international trade body are in a state of disarray, I’m not bothered by that at all.

Part of the pain of the ag-sag of the 80s was due to the axing of subsidies but I don’t know of any farmers who would want to go back to the bad old days when they were at the mercy of politicians and bureaucrats, focused on producing more rather than what markets wanted.

Free trade has made New Zealand stronger and protection from the WTO has helped when other countries have tried to use non-tariff barriers and other anti-trade measures against us.

As a small nation heavily dependent on trade, we need the WTO and the minister’s cavalier attitude to it and our reputation for free trade is yet another reason to question the PGF.

 


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.


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