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.”
Small businesses continue to be treated with contempt by the Ardern-Peters Government with the Revenue Minister today exposing the lack of representation of small business owners on the Tax Working Group, National’s Revenue Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith and Small Business Spokesperson Jacqui Dean say.
“Apparently small business owners who are worried that their views won’t be heard at the table of the Government’s Tax Working Group need worry no longer,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“When asked by a member of his own party what input small business had had to the Tax Working Group, Revenue Minister Stuart Nash thought for a moment before telling the Select Committee that one of the members of the group has a wife who owns a pharmacy.
“It would be funny if it wasn’t true or about such a serious matter.
“Mr Nash’s comments are another example of the contempt with which small businesses continue to be held by this Government – the same Government that is adding labour costs at every turn and piling on uncertainty with its plethora of committees and working groups.
“I’m sure all members of the Tax Working Group will do their best for all New Zealanders, including a broad business perspective from Kirk Hope of Business NZ, as Mr Nash noted.
“But the Tax Working Group is simply the cover this Government is using to introduce its capital gains tax.”
Ms Dean says any such tax would be levied on businesses as well as properties.
“So a small business owner can spend their lives building up a business, perhaps have it grow into a medium-sized business, and when they eventually go to sell it, they’ll have to pay a capital gains tax on the value they have worked hard to create.
“It looks as though they’ll have to rely on some home truths being delivered by one of the Tax Working Group’s member’s spouses.”
Shane Jones’ arrogant assertion that businesses struggling for workers should just invest in automation, rather than look for skilled immigration, is just the latest in a long list of unhelpful suggestions from an out-of-touch Government, National Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
Speaking at the National Party’s Lower North Island Regional Conference in Masterton this morning, Mr Goldsmith says business confidence is falling because the Ardern Peters Government has no positive economic plan and its leading Ministers demonstrate little understanding of business realities.
“Mr Jones might not ‘lose any sleep’ over firms struggling to find workers, but Kiwifruit growers, for example, certainly are,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“If there was a robot on the market that could reliably and efficiently pick the fruit, they’d use it, Mr Jones.
“The previous Government invested substantially in a Regional Research Institute based in Tauranga to advance progress in robotics in horticulture, to follow that example. But it will take years to perfect.
“Yet Mr Jones stands up and blusters away that we have too many immigrants, he doesn’t want them, and business should just lump it and invest in automation.
“This follows Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway’s suggestion that firms worried about the labour market reforms just aren’t resilient enough, and Economic Development Minister David Parker’s well-known contempt for farmers.
“Meantime the Budget showed plenty of spending, much of it poor quality, plenty of borrowing, increased taxes, and virtually nothing about how as a country we’ll earn more.
“Aside from an R&D tax break, which is likely to be a poor substitute for Callaghan grants and will be no use to start-up companies, there is nothing that is pro-growth.
“What businesses see is a Government that has been piling on anti-growth policies and working against them non-stop since the election.
‘They are down on oil and gas exploration, most farming, international investment, decent regional highways, 90 day trials, welfare sanctions that get people into work, faster resource management decisions, and tax policies that reward people for working hard.
‘New Zealand needs a Government that works with companies, not against them, one that is serious about economic growth.”
Yet another negative business confidence survey out today shows it is time for the Government to start listening to small and medium sized businesses, National’s Economic Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“The Staples Rodway survey out today tells a damning story of loss of confidence, with more than half of respondents saying that they expect New Zealand’s economy to slow in the next year, and a similar number expecting the budget this week to be negative for the economy,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“That’s a big warning to this Government. New Zealand should be growing faster over the next year as the world economy picks up, not more slowly.
“Labour’s spin is that the drop in business confidence was temporary following the change of Government. Six months later and businesses are just as pessimistic.
“You only have to look at Iain Lees Galloway’s interview on employment relations from Sunday to see why. He showed no concern that some of the Government’s policies will drive people out of business and cost jobs.
“His arrogant high-handed approach to businesses is symptomatic of a Government that either doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to understand that so many of its economic policies are anti-business and anti-growth.
“Loss of confidence is an early warning sign for lower investment, fewer jobs, and less tax money for Government services.
“New Zealand is a small country where nearly every business is a small business by world standards. Our companies need strong economic management to survive and prosper.
“The Government needs to understand that you can’t have a successful economy and a successful country without a strong small and medium sized business sector.
“It’s time it started listening.”
The Government risks serious damage to New Zealanders’ livelihoods by replacing the real productive economy with wishful thinking, National’s Economic Development Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“On TVNZ’s Q&A this morning, Economic Development Minister David Parker spoke of his wish to reduce the number of livestock in this country. He said horticulture, such as growing apricots, would be better for the environment.
“He said the problem was that it was too expensive to pick fruit in New Zealand. But, no worries, we’ll invest in robotics. Robots will pick the fruit and the economy will surge.
“This is wishful thinking on a grand scale and it fails on so many levels.
“Mr Parker also admitted that the Government hadn’t done an analysis of what the economic impact of his proposed shift away from current land use.
“We all agree with Mr Parker’s desire to improve our environment, but it’s much easier to stop doing things than it is to find viable replacements that will provide a good standard of living, to people living in our regions.
“His comments this morning were similar to the Government’s wishful thinking over oil and gas. We’ll trash a big part of the economy but don’t worry we’ll develop a clean energy industry that will more than make up for the losses.
“Real economic development is about more than flinging around loose ideas to make up for stopping significant parts of the economy.
“It’s actually amazing how carelessly and callously Government Ministers talk about playing with people’s jobs and livelihoods.
“For the sake of our regions in particular, this Government has to get its head out of the clouds and start being real.”
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.”