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Integrity of Govt slush fund in serious question

Integrity of Govt slush fund in serious question

Shane Jones needs to explain what conflicts were declared before the Government gave $6 million to a trust led by a former NZ First MP, and why his slush fund is leading to private gain, National’s Regional Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“There has been a total lack of transparency about how Provincial Growth Fund projects are chosen, how that funding is spent and who is benefitting.

“But the Ngati Hine Forestry Trust has done what Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has refused to do and revealed some of that detail – and the results are concerning.

“The Trust’s latest newsletter confirms there is personal financial gain, that the terms are exceedingly generous, and that there are serious conflicts of interest.

“According to the newsletter, the Trust has received $6 million to fund the planting of pine trees and ‘the financial returns to the beneficial owners to be received from this Forestry Right upon harvest will be substantial’.

“The Trust also states that while the details of the deal are confidential, ‘beneficial owners can be assured that from the Trustees’ perspective this is an exceptionally good deal for beneficial owners and is far superior to previous arrangements’.

“And finally, one of the trustees who successfully lobbied Mr Jones for the funding is former NZ First MP Pita Paraone who was eleventh on the party’s list in last year’s election.

“This is incredibly concerning. One of the principles of the fund is there should be no private gain resulting from its investments when in this case there clearly is. It also raises questions about the value taxpayers are getting when the terms are so generous and there are serious concerns around what, if any, of the real conflicts of interest were declared.

“This highlights why all the information surrounding the decision-making process of the Fund, including the business cases and disclosures, need to be made public.

“It now appears that who you know is more important than having a proper business case. If any Minister in the previous Government had made deals in this way then heads would have rolled.

“Just because there seems to be a lower standard expected of Ministers in this Government is not an acceptable excuse for deals like this and Mr Jones needs to provide answers.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Please find a link to the Ngati Hine Forestry Trust newsletter here.

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