More questions on slush fund

January 21, 2020

The Provincial Growth Fund is in the news for the wrong reason again:

A forestry company with close links to New Zealand First says it gave a presentation to Shanne Jones about a project it was seeking a $15 million government loan for – months before Jones says he first heard of it.

When NZ Future Forest Products (NZFFP) applied for Provincial Growth Fund money on 8 April, 2019, the company was asked whether the project had been “previously discussed” with the government.

The application form shows NZFFP ticked the ‘yes’ box and said it had made a “presentation to the Minister” about its forestry and wood processing plans “including descriptions of the applicant”.

Jones, a New Zealand First MP who is forestry minister and the minister responsible for the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund, has consistently claimed he first heard about the NZFFP bid on 14 October last year. . . 

Jones refused to be interviewed over the latest revelation but in a statement said the presentation never happened. “There was no presentation as described by the applicants,” he said.

The statement said Jones “did not have any Ministerial meetings to discuss the application”.

After being asked if he had any meetings at all with any NZFFP representatives in 2019, he responded in a statement “no”. He went on to say he was “not involved in PGF-related conversations with the Henrys under the guise of NZFFP”.

But in an interview with RNZ, David Henry, who is Brian Henry’s son and the NZFFP director who signed the application form, said the presentation was a 15-minute meeting he and Jones had in Wellington.

“We had a discussion with Shane. I think it was about a 15-minute chat. Whether you want to call it a briefing or a presentation – it was a short discussion generally about the New Zealand wood supply chain and what we personally believed.” . . 

The application was turned down, but National’s Regional Development spokesperson Chris Bishop says that still leaves questions to be answered:

“While no money changed hands, the process is even more important than the substantive outcome because of the close links between those involved and the historical murkiness of Shane Jones’ $3 billion slush fund.”

That is the nub of the problem – the PGF is a slush fund with few if any of the checks and balances in the allocation process which ought to precede any spending of taxpayers’ funds.


Rural round-up

December 23, 2019

Wairoa farmland sold for forestry angers 50 Shades of Green as Shane Jones extends olive branch – Zane Small:

Shane Jones is extending an olive branch to the pro-farming community after the Government approved more farmland to be sold for forestry, saying he wants to hear their concerns. 

The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) – a Government agency – has approved the sale of 1065 hectares of land in Wairoa from Craigmore (Te Puna) Limited, a company that manages various farm and forest investments in New Zealand.

The land being acquired is currently run as a sheep and beef cattle farm, with small plantings of radiata pine and manuka. The OIO approved the sale of land on the understanding it’s erosion-prone and better suited to forestry. . . .

Skills will help grow careers – Sally Rae:

From fitness to farming, Luke Fisher is relishing his career move into the primary industries.

English-born Mr Fisher, a business manager for Farmlands at its Motueka branch, has been in Dunedin for six weeks as one of two interns in the AGMARDT-AbacusBio international internship programme.

He is joined by Emma Hinton, who is business manager at Farmlands’ Leeston branch in Canterbury.

Sales Slump in the dairy sector:

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows there were 54 less farm sales (-16.1%) for the three months ended November 2019 than for the three months ended November 2018. Overall, there were 282 farm sales in the three months ended November 2019, compared to 260 farm sales for the three months ended October 2019 (+8.5%), and 336 farm sales for the three months ended November 2018. 1,295 farms were sold in the year to November 2019, 12.8% fewer than were sold in the year to November 2018, with 44.4% less Dairy farms, 1.6% less Grazing farms, 23.4% less Finishing farms and the same number of Arable farms sold over the same period. . .

River clean-up energises farmer :

Invests $18,000 of his own money to help restore river after realising the impact on waterways.

He’s a “townie” turned dairy farmer and is enthusiastically embracing the clean-up one of New Zealand’s most degraded rivers.

Gerard Vallely, a 65-year-old who, with his wife Ann, runs two dairy farms in west Otago, has set aside a sizeable chunk of his property to be developed into a wetland – and has so far spent $18,000 of his own money doing so.

The farms border two streams, tributaries of the Pomahaka River, and the land he has ‘donated’ is part of an overall project in the district to restore the river, long considered one of the country’s best fishing locations, back to health. . .

Christmas market short of peas, strawberries – David Hill:

Locally grown strawberries and peas could be missing from the Christmas dinner menu.

As he prepares for the seventh annual Sefton Christmas Harvest Market on his farm near Rangiora, North Canterbury grower Cam Booker said Christmas strawberries, raspberries and peas were in short supply.

He said there would be no homegrown strawberries on the Booker Christmas dinner table this year . . .

New Zealand Hops confirms Craig Orr as new Chief Executive:

Food and beverage industry leader, Craig Orr, is confirmed as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of New Zealand Hops Ltd (NZHL).

New Zealand Hops is a contemporary grower co-operative, based in Nelson, Tasman, the only region commercially growing hops in New Zealand. The co-operative represents the interests of 28 growers, many of whom are intergenerational families, having grown hops in the region for more than 150 years.

The co-ordination of the industry was first initiated in 1939 with the inception of the New Zealand Hop Marketing Board. . .


$484k per job yet there’s a worker shortage

December 9, 2019

The Provincial Growth Fund gets a lot of publicity but the results are a long way from matching the rhetoric:

An answer to a written question from National Regional Development spokesperson Chris Bishop reveals 1922 people are employed by PGF projects – and of that, just 616 are full-time jobs.

So far, $297.4 million has been spent so far on PGF projects. That’s $484,000 per full-time job, excluding those part-time jobs.

Jones insists infrastructure projects like roads and rail will take years to build, however in the long-term they’ll create jobs and further investment and increase confidence in the regions. . . 

Roads? We’re paying higher fuel taxes but that money is going on public transport in Auckland not much-needed upgrades to roads in the provinces.

And the bus and rail not roads policy is costing jobs as businesses finishing roading  projects have no more work ahead of them.

Rail? That’s a very limited option that doesn’t go very far from routes taken by State Highway 1.

While politicians squabble over whether enough jobs are being created in the regions, the PGF is managing to create well-paid jobs here in Wellington.

The unit in charge of the fund’s doubled in size over the past year. There are now 116 employees. And 71 of them earn a salary of more than $100,000.

That’s around one job in Wellington for fewer than 20, full and part time in the provinces.

David Farrar calls the number of jobs created pitiful:

By comparison in 2016/17 there were 137,000 new jobs created which was 66 new jobs every working hour.

So Shane Jones has spent $300 million over two years and created what was basically one day of job growth under National!

New and growing businesses creating more jobs ought to be applauded, but in some areas the problem isn’t no jobs, it’s a shortage of workers for the jobs in already established businesses.

Employers in dairying, horticulture and hospitality are struggling to find staff willing and able to fill their vacancies.

The provinces would get more value from initiatives that would provide employable workers than they’re getting from the money scattered through the PGF.


H is for

November 19, 2019

When Labour, NZ First and the Green Party were in opposition they were very critical of National’s Cabinet Clubs through which people paid to attend meals at which senior politicians spoke.

Their criticism has dried up now they’re in government and Labour is charging $1500 for a lunch with Jacinda Ardern who happens to be Prime Minister but will be acting as Labour leader.

Running a political party and election campaigns costs a lot of money. It can be easier to get a sum like this from a few people than it is to raise a similar amount from a lot more people in much smaller amounts.

Anyone who thinks a politician can be bought for $1500 (minus the GST that will have to be paid), or even a lot more, has a very jaundiced view of the world and politicians.

I don’t have any concerns about this method of fundraising. I do have concerns about those who suggest state funding of political parties as an alternative.

And I’m not impressed with the hypocrisy from those who criticised National for raising funds this way but are saying nothing now it’s their end of the political spectrum doing it.

On the subject of hypocrisy, the Veteran  has spotted another large dose of it in Northland:

It appears that Labour has disregarded my quite inspired and well meaning advice that if  ‘they’ want to see Winston First back in parliament then they should have Kevin Davis go List only giving the Jones boy a clear run at the Te Tai Tokerau seat which he would win at a canter …

the prodigal son returning and all of that. I can report that Labour’s well respected Willow Jean Prime has been told she’s going to have to take one for the team and confine her campaigning to anywhere but Northland … Chatham Islands perhaps. . .

Labour did that to allow Winston Peters to win the Northland by-election.

That he wasn’t able to hold it at the next election ought to be a lesson for Northland voters who think another NZ First MP would be any better for them than the party’s leader was.

They should also learn from Southland, the West Coast and Taranaki where this government’s policies are doing far more harm than can be mitigated by dollops of money from the provincial slush fund.


Threats & hypocrisy

October 2, 2019

Fresh from a gentle slap on the wrist from the Prime Minister for his vote-for-us-or-else comments, Shane Jones was threatening utu:

Shane Jones has a stern word of warning for foreign-owned forestry companies looking to undermine him: “Political utu is a dish best served cold”.

He said the people who tried to undermine him would learn this lesson closer to the next election. 

Is he not expecting to be a minister closer to the election that he thinks thinks he can say something then his role prevents him from saying now?

Jones made the remarks after he was publicly rebuked by the Prime Minister for trying to solicit votes for NZ First at the Northland Forestry Awards. . . 

But now Jones is firing back. He wants the attendees to know he’s aware of who they are, and their relationship to the National Party. 

“They were playing a dangerous game,” Jones said.

“I know them. A handful work for international forestry companies,” he said. 

“It is wrong for overseas-owned forestry companies to have their staff briefing the media and using the same language as the National Party against me.” . . .

This is appalling for any MP, let alone a Minister, and what makes it worse is the hypocrisy.

His one billion trees policy is encouraging forestry and, while making it all but impossible for foreigners to buy land for farming, the government he’s part of is making it easier for them to buy farms to plant in trees for forestry.

 


Open and transparent?

September 30, 2019

When Jacinda Ardern declared hers would be an open and transparent government this probably wasn’t what she was meaning:

Controversial Cabinet Minister Shane Jones told a forestry awards ceremony they needed to vote for him or miss out on the billions he’s handing out for provincial growth, it has been alleged.

One person present labelled Jones’ comments as an inducement to “bribery” and another thought the minister – responsible for forestry and the $3 billion provincial growth fund – was “buying votes”.

But Jones says New Zealand can expect him to remind it over the next 12 months that votes for New Zealand First are needed to ensure it continues to fulfil promises in its coalition agreement with Labour.

“When you get a retail politician like myself – a son of the north – you’ve never going to take the politics out of the politicians.” . .

There’s politics and there’s politicking and then there’s blatant vote-for-us-or-else which looks very close to bribery.

Another person who paid close attention to Jones’ speech said he was angry and shocked at the political approach.

“Some of the things he said I didn’t particularly like. [It was] he had this big pot of gold so make sure you keep voting for me. There were direct comments along those lines.”

A third person who objected to Jones’ comment said it detracted from the intent of the evening, which was to celebrate excellence in forestry.

“It should never have been a political rally, which is what he made it. He was saying ‘if you don’t vote for me, you won’t get any share of the billion dollars’. He said you’ve only got a few months of me here, so you’d better vote.

“It’s just bribery. I thought that was pretty disgusting.”

Another person present said: “It wasn’t a political forum. He didn’t do himself any good. He just made a complete idiot of himself.”

Those interviewed did not want to be named, citing the influence of Jones’ Provincial Growth Fund and concerns speaking openly could have a personal and financial impact. 

Whether it was meant as a threat or not, these people have not only interpreted what Jones said as vote-for-us-or-else, they’re scared about the consequences of speaking out.

What he said is bad enough. That he said it so openly is worse. It shows that he thinks he’s immune from any censor by both his leader and the Prime Minister that ought to follow this behavior but won’t.

Reacting to the Herald piece, Taxpayers’ Union Spokesman Jordan Williams said:

“This is truely banana republic stuff.  A Minister telling an industry sector that they need to pony up with support, or else lose taxpayer funded lavish.”

”It is shocking, and belongs in Namibia, not New Zealand.”

“Even for Shane Jones this is breathtakingly shameless.  This not only sours the reputation of the current Government, it sours the reputation of our whole political establishment.  It is pork barrel politics in its true meaning.”

“Taxpayers are relying on the Prime Minister to prevent Shane Jones dragging us down the transparency indexes.  Now is the time for her to show whether she demands western democracy standards of her Ministers, or whether her junior coalition partner wields the true power and can do what they like with public funds.”

Sadly the junior coalition partner does wield the true power and its members not only can and do do what they like with public funds, at least one is open that they’re vote-buying with them.


Rural round-up

September 26, 2019

Trees don’t pay tax. Government’s Action for Healthy Waterways discussion document a massive subsidy for tree planting:

Environmental lobby group 50 Shades of Green says the government’s policy document on waterways will provide a massive subsidy for forestry.

Spokesman, Andy Scott said the problem was it would make sheep and beef farming less economic thereby encouraging farmers to walk away and sell their land for trees.

“Modelling suggesting 68% of dry stock farms in the Waikato/Waipa catchment would be converted to forestry as a direct result of the proposed regulations will send a chill through the entire sheep and beef industry,” Andy Scott said. . .

Time for a ‘cup of tea’ over trees policy:

Minister Jones Needs Assurance That His ‘Trees Fund Branching Out’ Doesn’t End up as a Knot According to 50 Shades of Green.

Conservation Group 50 Shades of Green supports Minister Jones in his efforts to put the right tree in the right place.

It also supports Iwi initiatives to regenerate native bush.

What it doesn’t support is easy access for foreign investors and carbon speculators to plant good farmland in trees for no other reason than to claim carbon credits. . .

Millions poured to ensure mānuka honey is a NZ only product  – Yvette McCullough:

The government is allocating nearly $6 million to a campaign to stop Australian beekeepers marketing their products as “mānuka” honey.

The Mānuka Honey Appellation Society is being granted $5.7 million through the Provincial Growth Fund, including a $1.7 million loan, to help in its bid to secure international property rights.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones accused Australian honey producers of trying to steal what was indigenous to New Zealand. . .

Major dairy producer unveils $30m expansion:

When a group of dairy families opened Idaho Milk Products a decade ago, the company faced a murky future at best.

The $80 million facility began churning out cream and protein during a recession, at a time of painfully low milk prices.

“These dairy families risked everything,” Idaho Dairymen’s Association CEO Rick Naerebout said. “They rolled the dice, put everything on the line that their families had built for generations.”

Ten years and a $30 million plant expansion later, it looks like the gamble is paying off. . .

Welsh dairy farmers plan to blockade lorries of ‘cheap’ Irish beef :

Farmers in Wales are planning to disrupt Irish trucks carrying beef from entering Wales via the Port of Holyhead.

The blockade is planned for Friday 27 September.

According to North Wales Live, the protest is a result of farmer complaints that “prices are down £150-£200 (€170-€ 226) on this time last year, blaming the slump on imports” coupled with the uncertainty of Brexit.

Farmers are urged to make a stand against “rock-bottom beef prices and ‘subsidised’ Irish beef imports.”. . .

 


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