Is enthusiasm the Government’s word for incompetence?

The Herald reports:

Forestry officials working on the Government’s flagship One Billion Trees plan ordered more than one million pine seedlings for a block of land so choked with scrub and weeds planting couldn’t go ahead.

Forestry Minister Shane Jones told the Herald “ambition” and “enthusiasm” had a part to play in planting delays which struck the $32 million inaugural joint venture on the Far North forestry block.

Official documents show the Government planned to plant 1100ha with pine this year and had ordered about 1,100,000 seedlings for that.

The number of seedlings able to be planted collapsed to 191,000 as the condition of the land was revealed.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has yet to put a dollar figure on the cost to taxpayers, but market rates for seedlings put the cost of the order at about $400,000.

The deal between the Crown and the Far North’s Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust was trumpeted by the Beehive as the first Crown joint venture in the One Billion Trees programme.

This is our money being wasted. If Ministers were spending their own money they’d be damn sure that they’d checked out the quality of the land before paying for a million seedlings for it.

But the reality is that this is all a PR stunt. It isn’t actually about planting extra trees (their billion tree target now includes all the trees that industry were planting anyway) but about generating headlines for Ministers.

Documents released through the Official Information Act show Jones sealed the agreement during a May 31 ceremony on a Ngāti Hine forestry block, at which he planted a tree using a shovel engraved with his name.

We should name the block after him also. Call it Jones’ Folly.

A Treasury briefing paper also released through the OIA showed Treasury urging Finance Minister Grant Robertson to reject a $116m grant scheme because of the “the lack of detail around grants” and a $127m partnership package, again because “little detail” came with the Budget bid. In the 2018 Budget, $240m was provided for both schemes.

Maybe they should have listened to Treasury.

Jones told the Herald the Ngāti Hine deal could be said to have suffered from eagerness and too much enthusiasm. “I’ve been given a job to do. I’ve got three years to roll out planting of 23,000ha. I did not shirk from being very eager and ambitious.” He said it was known “some of the land was going to be a challenge” because years had passed since it had been planted.

Jones said he had a “clear conscience” as to the “moral purpose” behind the deal, which would see investment go into an area which needed support. “It’s a part of the north that’s been neglected too long.”

The old excuse of good intentions. All Governments have good intentions. Families can’t pay their supermarket bills on good intentions. Workers don’t pay taxes to the Government so they can waste money on good intentions.

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