The Press reports:
Regional Development Minister Shane Jones says he was unaware of official advice warning him off funding a West Coast rubbish burning scheme.
This is despite an email provided by his office suggesting the warning from the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) was raised with him before the funding was announced.
On February 21, the MfE told the Provincial Growth Fund the proposed waste-to-energy project on the West Coast had serious economic and environmental flaws.Two days later, Jones announced a $1 billion regional development package including $350,000 for a feasibility study into the project.
So MfE said it did not add up either economically or environmentally but Shane still gave them $350,000.
When the MfE advice was referred to Jones on Wednesday, he said he had not seen it.
However an email dated February 21, from regional development director John Doorbar to MfE counterparts, said their concerns had been raised “with Minister Jones and we’ve come up with a pretty good compromise that ensures that the MfE issues are addressed and that we don’t stop all hope on the West Coast”.
So did he not read it or did he not recall it?
He said the MfE’s concerns would have made no difference to his decision.
“I don’t recall the advice but I’m prepared to stand by the fact that John did tell me but the fact I can’t recall it bothers me not one jot. The prospect of it embarrassing me is inversely related to the truth. It takes a hell of a lot more to embarrass me.
Can anything embarrass him?
“If the thing dies as a consequence of a feasibility study that’s why private sector and public sector should do feasibility studies,” Jones said.
The MfE advice, released under the Official Information Act, warned the project relied upon “unrealistic expectations”.
Its backers did not understand the South Island waste market and had insufficient material to keep the plant running, it said.
A business case and budget was inadequate and backers showed misunderstandings of the New Zealand context including the “erroneous assumption all landfills are required to close by 2040”.
The waste-to-energy scheme would undermine other waste reduction measures and increase carbon emissions, the MfE experts said.
Just because something is a feasibility study is not a good reason to waste $350,000 on it. The feasibility study itself needs to be sound.
You’d hope that if someone asked for $350,000 for a feasibility study into proving the earth is flat it would be turned down. But maybe not.
UPDATE: It turns out that not only doesn’t Shane read his advice, he doesn’t even listen to it!
One News reports:
Regional Development Minister Shane Jones says he simply forgot a briefing warning him away from a project funded by the government’s $3 billion-dollar provincial growth scheme.
Asked why he backed the project despite the ministry urging against it, Mr Jones originally said he had never been briefed, telling RNZ it was probably just part of a “Darwinistic bureaucratic debate”.
However, questioned about it in parliament on Thursday night, the minister admitted he had been told about the matter.
“During the preparation of the announcements, of which the West Coast waste project was one, it has been pointed out to me that my officials did brief me – which I have acknowledged obviously happened,” he said.
Remember this is our money he is spending – on projects that his officials say is a waste of money.