Hamish Rutherford reports:
After declaring a conflict of interest in a proposed Northland cultural centre, Shane Jones sat through a meeting when ministerial colleagues decided on its multi-million dollar funding application, even giving reassurance about its governance.
If you are conflicted on a grant, you should remove yourself entirely from the process, not use your special position to turn up to the decision making meeting of Ministers and advocate for it.
Manea, Footprints of Kupe was among the first group of projects to be awarded cash from the Provincial Growth Fund, a $1 billion a year fund secured in coalition negotiations between Labour and NZ First, which is coming under increasing criticism.
On February 23, 2018, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis announced the fund would provide up to $4.6 million, for a “cultural tourism experience” in Opononi.
Almost $5 million for a tourist centre.
An all weather centre to teach the legend of Kupe, proponents claim it will attract visitors to an largely overlooked by tourists and create around 17 full-time jobs.
You really think tourists will go all the way to Opononi just for a centre about Kupe? They must be kidding. It’s four hours from Auckland Airport. Giving Northland decent roads would be much more likely to get people up there.
He has repeatedly said he stepped back from having involvement in the project and denied advocating for it.
But documents quietly posted on the website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) showed that Jones attended what appears to be the single ministerial meeting to determine the application.
“Minister [of Finance Grant] Robertson raised his concerns about the broader management and commercial operations of the project,” MBIE official Mark Patterson wrote.
“Minister Jones provided reassurance that as the project has Far North Holding Ltd, the commercial arm of the Far North District Council, involved in its governance structures, he was comfortable their presence would alleviate any concerns on the issue.”
So Jones turned up to the ministerial meeting, and advocated for it, despite explicitly claiming he was not advocating for it.
During an interview in April 2017, Jones said “as far as I’m aware” he was not lined up to be a director of any entities related to Manea.
On Friday morning his office said he only learned that day that proponents of Manea had previously expected him to have a governance role.
Stuff has obtained a series of documents which claimed that in 2014, Jones was named as the proposed chairman of Manea Kupe Ltd, as it attempted to win funding from the now defunct Tourism Growth Partnership, a fund set up by the former National Government and administered by MBIE.
The second lie – denying he was to be involved in it, when he was the proposed Chairman.
Seymour said the documents suggested Jones “was decisive” in seeing the funding go ahead to an organisation he had a prior association with.
“He actually provided reassurance to his colleagues, which is at stark odds with his repeated assurances in Parliamentary questions that he’d recused himself from any role,” Seymour said, claiming Jones had breached the Cabinet manual.
“I don’t see how you can continue to be a minister when something as simple as a conflict of interest, you can’t manage.”
On Sunday morning, Seymour, called for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to sack Jones.
“Shane Jones not only involved himself in an application in relation to which he had a conflict of interest, he also concealed this key meeting in answer to a written parliamentary question,” Seymour said.
Of course she’ll do nothing.