Today’s extraordinary performance by David Parker and Jacinda Ardern in Parliament raises even more questions about NZ First’s links to a shady Provincial Growth Fund application, National’s Regional Development spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Yesterday in Question Time, Winston Peters talked about ‘both’ ministers declaring a conflict of interest in Future Forest Product Limited’s bid for $15 million of PGF funding.
“We know Shane Jones was one of them, but who was the other minister and why is the Prime Minister and the Associate Minister of Finance not providing straight answers?
“The Prime Minister was asked directly today ‘were there other ministers or under-secretaries who declared a conflict of interest in the matter being discussed?’ and she utterly failed to answer the question.
“Multiple questions still hang over the Future Forest Products Limited application. While Shane Jones declared a conflict in October after returning from holiday, why did it take him so long to do this when the application began in March?
“When was Mr Jones first aware of the application? What involvement did he have in the application while it was before the Provincial Development Unit?
“The Provincial Growth Fund is $3 billion worth of taxpayers’ money, so it’s right for questions to be asked about the probity of the process, and right for the Prime Minister and her Government to give the public some direct answers.”
Revelations in Question Time about Shane Jones’ involvement in a Provincial Growth Fund application where he had a clear conflict shows why the Auditor-General needs to investigate, National’s Regional Development spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Regional Development Minister Shane Jones was in charge of the process of NZ Future Forest Products Limited applying for Provincial Growth Fund money for six months.
“Mr Jones only transferred responsibility for the application to Associate Minister of Finance David Clark three days before the application was turned down.
“Dr Clark confirmed in Question Time today that responsibility for NZ Future Forest Products Limited’s application to the PGF was transferred to him on November 4, 2019 with the decision made to turn the application down on November 7, just three days later.
“NZFFP’s application was made in March 2019 soon after the company was registered with Winston Peters’ personal lawyer Brian Henry appointed as a director, with Mr Peters’ partner Jan Trotman being appointed in August.
“This means Shane Jones was in charge of the process for nearly six months while NZFFP was discussing its application with officials.
“Multiple questions arise in this murky affair and the Auditor-General must investigate. Among them, why did it take Mr Jones so long to declare this conflict of interest? What advice led to Mr Peters also declaring a conflict, as he appeared to reveal in Parliament today, and when did he declare that conflict?
“If you set up a $3 billion slush fund then you’ve got to expect some tough questions. The process surrounding the Future Forest Products application doesn’t pass the sniff test.”
Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter ignored official warnings that the Government’s car tax will make some vehicles with the poorest safety ratings considerably cheaper, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
Minutes from the NZTA Board meeting on August 23 reveal management asked Ministers to not apply the proposed ‘feebate’ for electric cars to one-star and two-star rated vehicles.
“As the Minister responsible for road safety, how can Julie Anne Genter propose a policy that would make it cheaper to buy vehicles that have such poor safety ratings?
“Her own officials warned her the Government’s car tax is a bad idea, but those warnings appear to have gone in one ear and out the other.
“The Government sold its car tax to the public by claiming vehicles like the Suzuki Swift and Mazda 2 Demio would become cheaper, despite some models of these cars having either a one or two-star Used Car Safety Rating.
“It’s hard to believe Julie Anne Genter didn’t know these cars had poor safety ratings – the scores are there for all to see on the Government’s own rightcar.govt.nz website.
“We shouldn’t really be surprised at this given Julie Anne Genter has also dismissed Treasury’s warnings that the car tax will not only force some car buyers to pay thousands more, but it will have a near-zero impact on emissions as well.
“National believes financial incentives, not penalties, are the best way to support this country’s shift to electric vehicles. We will continue to oppose Labour’s car tax.”
The NZTA Board minutes can be found here
The Transport Minister and Prime Minister have some explaining to do after Phil Twyford was caught misleading Parliament, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
"Phil Twyford is on record in Parliament as saying no one from the previous NZ Transport Agency Board asked to stay on before they were axed in September.
“But after media reported ‘sources’ confirming a different version of events, the Minister has changed his story and admitted at least one board member did ask to stay on.
"The Transport Minister’s selective memory is not good enough. He has repeatedly stood by his claim that all five NZTA board members walked willingly out the door. It wasn’t until media backed him into a corner that he admitted some were shown the exit.
“Misleading Parliament is yet another nail in the very badly damaged coffin that has Phil Twyford's name on it.
"He has already broken one of Labour's major election promises by making a complete hash of KiwiBuild. Now his fingerprints are all over the Auckland light rail fiasco that has quickly become KiwiBuild 2.0.
“Twyford says he will correct his statement when Parliament next sits. This isn’t the first time he’s had to correct the record – he corrected his ministerial diary in June after he failed to disclose a meeting with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and was caught out.
"The Prime Minister now needs to say whether she has confidence in her Minister’s actions or whether he will face repercussions.
“Her Government claimed to be the most open and transparent ever but this couldn't be further from the truth, as evidenced by Clare Curran's secret meetings, Julie Anne Genter's secret letter, and now Phil Twyford's secret sackings.”
Kiwis sitting in traffic on the way home from long weekend holidays will be disheartened to know congestion will only get worse under Labour, National’s Transport Spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Radical changes to transport policy settings by the Labour Government has meant the cancellation or postponement of many important transport projects around the country, including roads jammed on holiday weekends like Otaki to North of Levin, the Tauranga Northern Link, Cambridge to Piarere and Warkworth to Whangarei.
“The Government has stripped $5 billion from state highways and directed the money to a slow tram down Dominion Road to Mangere, or alternatively, a monorail and underground system direct to the airport. It’s impossible to say which, because Phil Twyford hasn’t yet made up his mind as to what the objectives of his light rail project are.
“The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has also been directed not to prioritise travel time savings. NZTA’s former Chief Executive Fergus Gammie confirmed to MPs before Select Committee earlier this year that the current Government Policy Statement ‘doesn’t prioritise travel time savings, and that is quite a significant change.’
“An Official Information Act request released to National shows that last year officials warned Phil Twyford that ‘the revised direction… could mean that travel times increase, particularly in seasonal and holiday peaks.’
“Kiwi motorists paying through the nose for petrol thanks to Labour’s new fuel taxes and regional fuel tax in Auckland should be outraged their hard-earned money is going on a light rail project that has no business case, no route and no costings – while they sit in traffic trying to get home on roads that have no chance of being upgraded thanks to Labour.”
Phil Twyford’s refusal to confirm in Parliament that either of the proposals for Auckland’s light rail will go directly to the airport shows the project has gone totally off the rails, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Auckland’s light rail project has become KiwiBuild 2.0. It’s yet another broken election promise from Labour, overseen by Phil Twyford.
“Not only did the Transport Minister fail to confirm light rail would actually stop at the airport, he also wouldn’t say whether the NZ Infra bid would be able to carry 11,000 commuters per hour, the equivalent of four lanes of motorway.
“Phil Twyford said in the past this would be a major benefit of light rail, but he seems less certain about the benefits now that the chaos surrounding the project has been exposed.
“Labour promised voters at the last election that it would have light rail between the city and Mt Roskill done in four years, before extending to the airport. But after two years of excuses and dithering, the Government hasn’t even completed the basic first step of a business case.
“The Government appears to have little-to-no idea about what it’s trying to accomplish, how it will achieve its objectives, who will deliver the project, and how much it will cost.
“The longer this debacle drags on, the more it will cost taxpayers. Treasury has already warned that getting it wrong could see the $6 billion project cost balloon significantly.
“Yet more evidence that Labour can’t be trusted on transport.”
The Transport Minister must swallow his pride and sit down with Wellington’s new mayor to hammer out a Let’s Get Wellington Moving deal that people actually want, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“It is difficult to see Andy Foster’s election defeat of Justin Lester as anything other than a rejection of the Let’s Get Wellington Moving package Lester cooked up behind closed doors with Phil Twyford and Julie Anne Genter.
“It didn’t deliver what Wellingtonians want or need. They cancelled the second Terrace tunnel and trenching of SH1, then Julie Anne Genter’s now infamous secret letter killed off a second Mt Vic tunnel anytime soon.
“Justin Lester tried to spin it as the ‘best deal possible’ but angry and frustrated Wellingtonians saw through this. That’s why he started pushing for progress on the Mt Vic tunnel during the campaign.
“Phil Twyford is fond of saying the Let’s Get Wellington Moving package has unanimous support from councils across the Wellington region. That is no longer the case.
“He must now do four things. First, return to the negotiating table and deliver a transport package Wellingtonians want. Second, exclude Julie Anne Genter from the process.
“Third, he needs to be upfront with Wellingtonians about the secret letter she sent to him and release it forthwith.
“Fourth, he needs to keep Welllington’s regional mayors into the loop this time, rather than just announce projects after only giving them a few hours’ notice.
“Phil Twyford can deliver an effective and popular Let’s Get Wellington Moving package, but only if he heeds the call sent by Wellingtonians during the mayoral election.”
Shane Jones has been so preoccupied with parading around the country making loud announcements while wearing hi-vis, he’s failing to deliver on his promises to hard-working New Zealanders, National’s Regional Development spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Feedback around the country is that the Minister is quick with a big announcement, but very slow with actual money. Many businesses will be wondering if they’re ever going to receive their funding, with only $274 million actually paid out, out of the $2.46 billion that’s been allocated.
“If Shane Jones is going to spend it all by this time next year, he’ll have to spend $7.5 million a day.
“From the money he has actually paid out, close to $50 million has been spent on business cases and feasibility studies. The Minister is continuing the theme of this Government of spending lots on working groups, but not a lot on anything tangible.
“All the Provincial Growth Fund is doing is creating more jobs for bureaucrats in Wellington who write glossy reports, rather than delivering for the regions who are crying out for solid economic policy.
“Shane Jones likes to say talk is cheap, money is real, but it’s clear the Minister is big on talk and nowhere to be seen when it comes to delivering the cash.
“National favours sensible economic policies that nurture New Zealand’s economic growth, create more jobs and help lift all our communities. That’s the route to prosperity. Carefully stage-managed publicity events in the regions is just politics and doesn’t help anyone.”
The Government’s decision to kill off the four-lane Ōtaki to Levin expressway shows Labour’s neglect of New Zealand’s state highways knows no bounds, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“This is a gut-punch from the Transport Minister to the people of Horowhenua and the thousands of New Zealanders who want a safe and efficient State Highway 1.
“If Phil Twyford is so concerned about the crash rate along SH1 from Ōtaki to Levin then why won’t he upgrade it to the same world-leading standard as Transmission Gully and the Kāpiti expressway?
“The local community deserves the quality four-lane expressway it has been crying out for. But instead it has been let down by a Transport Minister who, remarkably, believes there has been an over-investment in roads and motorways in this country for decades.
“Having certainty about Ōtaki to Levin’s future is cold comfort when the news is that it’s been pegged back from an expressway to a two-lane road that won’t be built for ten years.
“As Transport Minister, Phil Twyford has milked an extra $1.7 billion out of motorists through fuel tax hikes and extra GST, and has plundered billions more from the state highways budget to pay for his light rail pet projects in Auckland and Wellington.
“As a result, $5 billion less will be available to build the safer, high-quality highways this country desperately needs over the next decade.
“Regional New Zealand deserves more respect than it is getting from this Labour-led Government, which – thanks to the Green thumb Twyford is under – is ideologically opposed to building highways.”
National has an open mind about shifting Auckland’s port activity long-term but is sceptical about the process underpinning a recently-released report on the idea, National’s Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“This looks like a political play by Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones to succeed in the north, and the worry is that this process is heading towards a pre-determined outcome.
“These decisions need to be based on sound economic analysis of what is best for the economic future of the upper North Island, not what best suits NZ First’s needs.
“There should be a proper process in place for these decisions to be made through the new Infrastructure Commission.
“I also wonder if the left hand is talking to the right hand. If you’re going to divert shipping, freight and logistics to Northland then a four-lane motorway between Whangarei and Auckland will be needed to unlock Northland’s economic potential.
“But the Government won’t do this because of Transport Minister Phil Twyford’s aversion to road building and his determination to throw billions at a slow tram down Dominion Rd.
“Decisions of this scale shouldn’t be made during the two weeks of a coalition negotiation. New Zealand’s infrastructure should be geared toward economic growth and free from political meddling, as it would be under a National Government.”