Shane Jones’ inability to pinpoint when he first learned that a forestry company with links to NZ First was applying to the Provincial Growth Fund casts even more shadow over his involvement in the bid, National’s Regional Development spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“All the evidence suggests Shane Jones was aware of NZ Future Forest Products Limited’s bid for $15 million of PGF funding long before he recused himself from the decision-making process.
“He was given umpteen chances to be upfront and honest in Parliament today, but instead chose to repeatedly dodge questions.
“Yesterday he told Parliament ‘I have known about Mr David Henry and Brian Henry's wood processing ambitions for several years’, but today he attempted to play down his knowledge of David Henry and NZ Future Forest Products.
“Shane Jones says the application was lodged on April 8 and he recused himself on October 14, once ‘formally’ notified of the funding application going to ministers. But this doesn’t answer when he first learned of the application’s existence.
“National has learned that NZ Future Forest Products Limited emailed Shane Jones about forestry matters on September 21 – an email Jones conveniently says he has no recollection of – suggesting he was more in the loop than he is letting on.
“NZFFP’s application raises a lot of eyebrows. It was made in March 2019 soon after the company was registered, with Winston Peters’ personal lawyer Brian Henry appointed as a director. Mr Peters’ partner Jan Trotman was then appointed in August, one month before the company emailed Mr Jones’ office about the application.
“Mr Jones has an appalling track record of inappropriate behaviour, conflicts of interest and lack of accountability – traits that have become a stain on the Provincial Growth Fund.
“The PGF was Labour’s reward to NZ First for supporting the coalition. The result is a slush fund that lacks transparency and is being treated as NZ First’s campaign chest for 2020.”