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Shane Jones could hire the Prime Minister to work on his tree-planting schemes – and she’d get a pay rise – based on the fuzzy economics of the Provincial Growth Fund, National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Minister’s own officials have estimated the $485 million forestry injection from the PGF would create 1,000 jobs. That’s half the number Mr Jones sometimes cites and works out at $485,000 per job, or $15,000 more than the Prime Minister earns in a year.

“When asked about his ambitious target, the Minister gave a facetious reply, saying New Zealanders should be prepared to wait as much as 100 years, the time it takes for a Totara to grow, for that sort of result.

“Unfortunately that may be a best-case scenario because it doesn’t take into account jobs lost from the sheep and beef sector when farmland is converted to forestry.

“We could easily find that once we account for job losses in the pastoral industry there may be fewer than 500 genuinely new jobs – that’s getting close to $1 million per job.

“Meantime, the biggest challenge facing businesses in most regions is finding workers.

“Job creation was touted as the main economic benefit of the $1.1 million from the PGF allocated to tree planting on the shores of Te Waihora/Lakes Ellesmere, for example, but down the road in Ashburton there are 500 job vacancies that employers are struggling to fill.

“Elsewhere Shane Jones has suggested the new jobs could be exported, quipping that if they aren’t all filled by ‘nephs on the couch’ they could be taken up by ‘a few Melanesians’.

“So, once more Mr Jones is being tricky with his figures and the Provincial Growth Fund has muddled objectives. I’m not sure many people would think a priority for Government spending should be providing work opportunities for people overseas?”

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