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Shane Jones’ admission this morning that his Provincial Growth Fund is a political tool is backed up by new figures released this morning revealing Northland as the main recipient of taxpayers’ money, National’s Regional Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Provincial Growth Fund should really be renamed the Political Survival Fund after more than half the funding announced so far has gone to one region – one with less than 10 per cent of regional New Zealand’s population.

“MBIE information shows Northland has sought $54.6 million from the fund so far. Applications from all the other regions combined amounted to $240 million.

“Yet Northland projects have received funding up to $61 million – even more than they’ve asked for. While the rest of the regions have had to make do with $42.4 million combined, plus a $7.5 million grant to the Howard League covering the whole country, including Northland.

“Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and New Zealand First haven’t hidden the fact they see their party’s survival linked to winning a Northland seat. Now the Minister has confirmed that the rest of New Zealand are paying for it.

“The Minister’s ridiculous defence for the emphasis on Northland was simply ‘to the victor goes the spoils’. But New Zealanders will see it for what it is – shameless pork-barrelling.

“Prime Minister Ardern and the Labour Party should be ashamed for enabling such a misuse of public funds.

“Northlanders will be scratching their heads, wondering why some groups are getting all this attention, while the single most important investment for their region – the double lane highway from Wellsford to Whangarei has been scrapped in favour of Auckland’s light rail.

“Shanes Jones is being allowed to use public money for a thinly veiled political slush fund - but on the really big issues, such as advancing oil and gas production, there is no question that New Zealand First’s ‘provincial champion’ label is nothing more than wishful thinking.”

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