Source: Taxpayers Union
18 AUGUST 2020FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEA recent Colmar Brunton poll suggests that the Hon Shane Geoffrey Jones will come a distant third in the electorate of Northland. His 15 percent result is devastating for his party, New Zealand First, who on current polling look like they need that seat in order to return to Parliament. It is also devastating for a man who prides himself on his popularity with the people. He certainly does not have any self-confidence issues, that is for sure.Jones is a self-anointed “Champion of the Provinces” and “Apostle of industry”. It is worth noting that these titles are not in widespread use outside of his office. In his political career, he has lost all four electorate battles so far (three for Labour and one for New Zealand First) and looks set to add a fifth defeat. This will be the most humiliating because Jones has sprayed so much taxpayer money into Northland in a flagrant attempt to buy the seat.His main fiscal fire hose has been the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund, a bottom-line condition of the coalition agreement for New Zealand First. In this term, $556 million of taxpayer funding has been committed to Northland. This is 20 percent of the total Provincial Growth Fund largess. In other words, one in five worthy regional development projects just happen to be in the electorate Jones is running for.The Auditor-General, in his highly critical review of the Provisional Growth Fund, diplomatically referred to Northland as a “Surge Region” for public funding. We would suggest the more accurate wording of “Splurge Region for the Provincial Growth Slush Fund.”In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession, the Provincial Growth Fund is spending over $30 million on three new racetracks. One of them is in central Christchurch, not traditionally a province. The $7 million price tag has been justified by – and I’m not making this up – the fact that some of the horses may have been born in the provinces. Four Australian horse track specialists have jumped the COVID queue as allegedly “critical workers”. They were definitely on the horse track fast track, at the expense of Kiwis trying to come home.The Provincial Growth Fund is corporate welfare for electoral gain. We applaud the sensible voters of Northland who have sent the clear message that they cannot be bought with their own money. At 15 percent in the latest poll, Shane Jones has spent $37.12 million of your money for each percentage point.We are urging both major parties to commit to dissolving the Provincial Growth Slush Fund. This will be much easier when New Zealand First is removed from Parliament by the voters of Northland and New Zealand.Jordan Williams is the Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union.