The much talked about Opotiki Harbour Development is the first big test for the Government’s provincial growth fund, National Party Economic Development Spokesperson Simon Bridges says.
“Since the formation of the Coalition Government, Regional Development Minister Shane Jones has repeatedly named just one particular individual project, the Opotiki Harbour Development, as an example of what he’d invest in,” Mr Bridges says.
“The only problem is that official advice earlier this year suggested the Opotiki Development would cost two to three times the original $50 million envisaged by the project partners.
“That means the cost to Government could be far greater than the $20-$30 million envisaged, and the expected 220 jobs could end up costing more than half a million dollars per job to create.
“At that rate, the whole $1 billion provincial growth fund will only create 2,000 jobs. In the last two years, 245,000 jobs were created under the previous Government.
“The previous Government directed officials to work to improve the economics of the project by reducing the construction costs, increasing the revenue from the project, or sourcing additional funding from other parties.
“Mr Jones must know all this yet he continues to talk the Harbour Development project up, suggesting a lack of concern about good process and cost to taxpayers. He is on the record saying anything to do with Harboursides is likely to ‘get a tick from me’.
“Already the fund, a key coalition plank, has struck controversy with the so-called Billion Trees Planting Programme when it was revealed that Government would actually only seek to achieve half of this target.
“The question that must be asked is whether this provincial growth fund will have a robust defensible process for allocating taxpayers’ money, or whether it is a huge political slush fund.
“This is $3 billion of hard-earned taxpayers’ money over three years. It can’t be run like Shane Jones’ personal fiefdom.”