Shane Jones has lashed out once again as he struggles with being in a Government that is acting against the interests of regional New Zealand, National’s Regional Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“Confronted with the reality of being part of a Cabinet that is systematically tearing down the foundations of regional prosperity, every few weeks Mr Jones chooses a new target to attack to try and pretend that he is the regions’ champion,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“This week’s target is officials in Government who apparently are slowing him down.
“Mr Jones is determined to shovel $3 billion of taxpayers’ precious money out the door as fast as possible. Anybody that troubles him with due process and asking pesky questions like ‘what are getting for this money?’ is abused.
“Softening the line’ between the Government and bureaucracy is code for removing any restraints from him, as a politician, allocating funding as he sees fit.
“He is already skating on thin ice with one of the murkiest fund-allocation processes known to mankind.
“One of the most precious things the Ardern-Peters Government has inherited from previous New Zealand Governments of every political persuasion is an international reputation for low levels of corruption.
“Our independent and politically neutral public service is a big part of that. Yes they can be frustrating at times but they are there for good reason – to ensure taxpayers’ money isn’t wasted and everyone is treated fairly.
“Ms Ardern should defend the integrity of our political institutions and tell Mr Jones to pull his head in.
“If Mr Jones really wants to be the regions’ champion he should fight harder to resist the damage his Government is doing to the regions – such as unilaterally lopping off important industries like exploration for oil and gas, pulling back on large scale irrigation, withdrawing funding for state highways to the regions, adding more costs on to the tourism industry, putting more barriers in the way of foreign investment… the list goes on.
“But, that’s clearly too hard. So he’s trying to cover it up by having a whack at the public service instead.”
The Government continues to undermine regional New Zealand, with the Conservation Minister scuttling a plan to extract waxes and resins from a wetland in Northland that would create jobs for locals, National’s Regional Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“For all its talk about helping people in Northland to get ahead, Eugenie Sage has put politics ahead of creating jobs in the region.
“The joint venture by Ngai Takato and Resin & Wax Holdings to extract valuable waxes and resins from a peat wetland in the Far North would help secure the iwi its economic and environmental future.
“But Ms Sage is now getting in the way of that and appears to be doing all she can to stop it.
“She is making no attempt to strike a balance between managing our environment and responsible economic growth.
“The iwi themselves have said that while the venture would provide jobs and opportunities for its people, the environment is also a primary focus for them. The consented area for extraction avoids conservation land.
“Ms Sage needs to let them get on with it but so far, this looks like another win for the Greens over NZ First.”
A review’s finding that MBIE officials failed to do basic background checks on the people behind the proposed waste-to-energy scheme is exactly what we’d expect from Mr Jones’ $3 billion slush fund, National’s Regional Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“It reflects badly on the officials concerned, but worse on the Government which has put enormous pressure on the Ministry,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“Mr Jones has been so determined to shovel money out the door as quickly as possible, basic due diligence on who is receiving the public money wasn’t carried out.
“And the Minister shamelessly admitted the reason for the rush in a speech in Rotorua recently – there’s only 29 months to the next election.
“This is money earned by the people of New Zealand and paid over to the Government in their taxes. We all have the right to expect that care will be taken in how it is spent.
“The Prime Minister should read the riot act to Mr Jones about his Provincial Growth Fund. Taxpayers’ money is not there for him to hand over to whomever he thinks.
“She should also take responsibility for the style of her Government which is emerging.
“The Prime Minister promised a new style of politics, of openness and transparency, and yet here we have her Ministers and officials sneaking out bad news at 4pm on a Friday while she’s overseas."
The Labour-NZ First Government is turning its back on improving Northland’s roads with Transport Minister Phil Twyford’s confirmation this morning that the four-laning of State Highway One between Auckland and Northland won’t go ahead, National’s Transport Spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross and Regional Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith say.
“On Morning Report this morning Mr Twyford washed his hands of the project saying a few extra passing lanes and some barriers would be enough,” Mr Ross says.
“This road was prioritised for significant upgrading by National, not at random, but because it serves as the gateway from New Zealand’s largest city to our northern most and least affluent region.
“State Highway One between Auckland and Whangarei is a very busy and dangerous stretch of highway that all local mayors say is the number transport priority for their region.
“It has been acknowledged for years as needing to be brought up to expressway standard to serve current and future traffic needs and help the economic development of the region.”
Mr Twyford also said it wasn’t his place as Transport Minister to select major projects for the transport agency.
“Mr Twyford can’t have it both ways. By his standard, how is it okay for him to demand specific projects in Auckland - including his promise for light rail to service the Prime Minister’s electorate? An Auckland light rail network that Northlanders will be taxed more at the pump to pay for while their own State Highway One upgrade sits stalled,” Mr Ross says.
“In addition, Mr Twyford’s colleague, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones is hand-picking pork barrel transport projects down the road from his own house,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“This Government has obviously decided to replace meaningful infrastructure investment in regional New Zealand that will encourage development, with ‘Santa Claus’ Jones wandering around giving bits of money to a few pet projects.
“It’s a roundabout here, a church renovation there, the odd passing lane. But large meaningful transport investments that grow regions and transform lives are out the window.
“Cancellation of upgrading State Highway One into Northland is another example of the Government giving a little bit with one hand and taking away much more from the regions with the other.
“They are running a giant confidence trick against regional New Zealand. And people in our regions are rapidly starting to see it.”
Handouts from the Shane Jones’ provincial slush fund are a very poor substitute for policies that encourage regions to grow and succeed, National Party Regional Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“The Government is playing a massive confidence trick on regional New Zealand by introducing numerous policies that will damage regional economies and then turning up with a few handouts and expecting that to compensate for the damage,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“Today Shane Jones has landed in Taranaki which just happens to have a massive cloud over its economy because of the Government’s attitude to the region’s crucial oil and gas industry.
“And he expects a few cheques for feasibility studies and the Cathedral to cover that off. Well it won’t, especially when the previous government had already announced much of this funding, including for the Cathedral before the last election.
“This is occurring in a week where the Government has continued to put the boot into regional New Zealand by hiking road taxes and decreasing regional roading investment, and then cancelling irrigation funding.
“If you take that along with their policies of stopping international investment in the primary sector, regional New Zealand will definitely be thinking they’ve been sold a pup with this Shane Jones fund.
“Mr Jones needs to front up to Taranaki business leaders and the gas industry today and tell them he’ll back them and ensure they can continue to benefit Taranaki and the wider economy.
“If he can’t do that he has simply become an apologist for the Labour-Green policies that are steadily dealing to regional New Zealand.”
The Government’s confirmation it will axe major irrigation projects is the second major blow it’s dealt to regional New Zealand in a week, National’s Paul Goldsmith and Nathan Guy say.
“Fresh from whacking a major new fuel tax on New Zealand motorists the Government has announced it will leave regional farmers and growers at the mercy of prolonged droughts by canning support for important irrigation projects,” National’s Agriculture spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“This is a huge blow to regional New Zealand which is facing an increasingly uncertain future as a result of this Government’s raid on our regions.
“This summer alone saw six regions declared in drought as dry weather hammered primary producers right around New Zealand. These irrigation projects would have given them the certainty they could deal with future dry spells but that certainty’s now been ripped away.
“This Government claims it wants to help grow our exports and support our primary industries to add value but instead of standing behind regional New Zealand it’s taking its taxes and turning its back.
Mr Goldsmith says the Government’s regional growth strategy is a mess.
“It’s Jekyll and Hyde and seems to come down to which of Labour’s two support parties wins the day.
“One day Shane Jones sticks his finger in the air and doles out taxpayer cash for pet projects, the next day four ministers announce the Government will rip $5b out of regional road funding but tax motorists more and the next it is stripping millions out of important and demonstrably effective regional irrigation projects.
“That’s on top of seriously undermining future foreign investment, making it increasingly difficult to find staff and putting potential free trade agreements at real risk.
“It just shows the Government has no clear strategy.
“It says it supports regional New Zealand but it continues to put the boot in. Axing irrigation projects makes it harder for farmers and growers to do their jobs, harder for them to create jobs, harder to grow our exports and harder for New Zealanders to get ahead.”
Shane Jones has been rolled by Labour and the Greens on transport policy and as a result regional New Zealand will miss out on much needed roading developments, National Party Regional Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“Regional New Zealanders are being told to suck up a big increase in fuel taxes, coupled with a big decrease in regional highway investment, all to help pay for new trams in Auckland,” Mr Goldsmith says. “How did Shane Jones let this happen?
“Mr Jones cynically pointed to an increase in the regional roading improvements fund as a boost to the regions. Nobody will fall for that.
“The increase amounts to around $35 million a year to local roads, a drop in the bucket compared with the $5 billion being taken away from state highways.
Mr Goldsmith says that the previous Government’s plans to upgrade key provincial highways were critical to improving regional development and road safety on main arterials.
"Transport Minister Phil Twyford dismisses those projects as white elephants and about ‘provincial cities’ not regional New Zealand.
“Shane Jones should point out to him that cities like Whangarei, Tauranga and Napier/Hastings are very much in regional New Zealand. He should take Twyford to places like Katitkati, Whangarei, Levin and Tokoroa and tell them their roading projects are white elephants.
“The Green Party was yesterday trumpeting the transport policy as a big win for them and no wonder. The transport policy renders the Government’s regional economic development policy totally incoherent.
“The reality is Shane Jones has been completely dealt to by the Greens. New Zealand First’s claim to support regional New Zealand has been exposed as a sham.”
Regional GDP figures out today from Stats NZ provide a further benchmark for the new Government to live up to, National Party Regional Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
Growth figures of 9 per cent in the Bay of Plenty, 8.2 per cent in each of the Waikato and Northland, 7.9 per cent in Southland and 7.1 per cent in Otago in the year to March 2017 are clear proof that the regions have been thriving and not struggling as the rhetoric would have it,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“For New Zealand’s sake, we need that growth to continue. The challenge for the new Government is to keep these numbers up and not do anything to stuff them up.
“The previous Government’s consistent sensible economic policies have encouraged investment in the regions and brought in skilled people to work for growing regional companies.
“The new Government clearly needs to stay the course with that approach and not head down the haphazard inconsistent path of Shane Jones which will only discourage private sector investment.
“Regional GDP growth has now averaged 26.2 per cent over the last five years while Northland has grown at 30 per cent.
“The figures also contain a warning for the anti-oil and gas crowd. They show that Taranaki is our wealthiest region but also hasn’t grown much recently. It would only take a continuation of the sort of rhetoric we’ve seen in the last week to send Taranaki backwards.
“Regional development is all about applying predictable coherent economic policies that businesses can base their investment decisions on, and building the infrastructure that people actually use.
“If the coalition Government still says the regions are struggling I look forward to seeing their growth figures exceed these in the years ahead.”
While some regional New Zealanders may share Mr Jones’ frustration with air services, Shane Jones is going too far indulging in personal attacks on business leaders, National Party Economic Development Spokesman Paul Goldsmith says.
“Attacking public companies is a strange approach to economic development,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“It is up to Air New Zealand to defend its record in regional New Zealand, and it’s perfectly appropriate for politicians to raise questions of performance, as my colleague Nathan Guy has done.
“What’s not acceptable is a style of politics based on attacks on businesses and their leaders.
“Mr Jones made his name in opposition attacking Countdown. Now he is attacking Air New Zealand. Next he’ll move on to banks and other companies. It’s nothing but economic vandalism for political gain.
“While this may give Mr Jones the attention he craves, this style of politics undermines business confidence and investment that improves the services to the public he says he’s concerned about.
“If he genuinely cares about economic development he’ll get some discipline and engage constructively with businesses – businesses who employ thousands of hard-working Kiwis.”
Shameless Shane Jones is not just rolling out the pork for Northland, but focusing that pork in his own close neighbourhood to help him get around, National Party Regional Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“Today’s announcement that there will be a Government subsidy for the Kerikeri airport expansion just over the fence from Shane Jones house follows the $9 million announcement of the Waipapa roundabout which is just up the road from the same house,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“And once again, no criteria, no process by which the money is assessed, just a Minister writing out taxpayer cheques when he feels like it.
"The Kerikeri airport upgrade was listed in the previous Government's regional action plan for Northland - but it was clear it was the responsibility of the airport owner, Far North Holdings.
“In this country airports pay for their upgrades out of their own pockets. Why is Kerikeri airport different, beyond it being the airport Shane Jones uses?
“It’s the same with the Waipapa roundabout project. Why was that chosen to be able to dip into Shane’s fund over the myriads of other roading projects around the country?
“Is there a plan now for all airport expansions to be subsidized, or all roundabouts? How do airport companies and councils apply? What are the criteria?
“This announcement comes hard on the heels of the news that Defence Minister Ron Mark was using the Air Force as his private taxi service, and the decision to use an Air Force Hercules to take eight Ministers to the Chatham Islands to open the new wharf.
“This behaviour is quite shameless,” Mr Goldsmith says. “It would be laughable if it wasn’t about the serious use of taxpayers’ money.
“The Prime Minister needs to enforce the rules around the use of public money and put some proper disciplines around the allocation of money from the Provincial Growth Fund.
“If she doesn’t, her Ministers will think they have an ongoing right to put money into whatever takes their fancy and take hardworking New Zealanders for a ride.
"The National led Government was very focused on a comprehensive action plan to grow Northland. We just took the view that Northland was bigger than an area within a 5 kilometre radius of Shane Jones’ place."