Tuesday 12th March 2019
|Text too small?|
It would have been "helpful" if the minister responsible for the Provincial Growth Fund, Shane Jones, had not been in the room when a decision was made to fund a Far North District Council Maori tourism initiative with a $4.6 million PGF loan, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.
But while Jones had not managed "perceptions" of a conflict of interest well in a final meeting on the proposal, Ardern insisted that he had taken all appropriate steps to inform the Cabinet Office and to ensure that another minister - in this case, Finance Minister Grant Robertson - had decision-making authority rather than himself.
"It would have helped for him not to be in the room" at the time other Cabinet colleagues on the PGF funding decision sub-committee made a call on the Manea Footprints of Kupe project, Ardern said under questioning at her post-Cabinet press conference. She had spoken to Jones about the "perception issue" created by his providing advice on the project to Cabinet colleagues at the decision-making meeting.
Jones declared a conflict of interest when the PGF received a funding application in November 2017, ensuring that any PGF funding decisions be made by other ministers. He had lobbied for the project in 2014 as a Labour MP and knew a prime mover in the project who had since died.
Jones was also reportedly being promoted as a possible chairman for the entity that would run the new enterprise, although Jones claimed that was just a hope, not a prospect.
"After all, everyone wants Sonny Bill in their team," he told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report. "That doesn't mean I was the chairman or director. It means I was at a random meeting five years ago."
Jones claimed to RNZ that Stuff business journalist Hamish Rutherford was only aware of the potential for a conflict because he had accepted Jones's hospitality and stayed at his home in Northland while reporting issues in the Far North.
No comments yet
NZ dollar rides Australian dollar coat-tails higher
Electricity switching at four-year low amid high wholesale prices
S&P lowers Asset Finance's credit rating to
Trade Me halts sales of semi-automatic firearms
NZ service sector expansion slows in February
Synlait and Fonterra to report diverging earnings
Metroglass downgrades profit again
18th March 2019 Morning Report
NZ 4Q GDP growth likely muted
NZ dollar rangebound; focus on domestic GDP and US Federal Reserve