National MP slams Shane Jones for 'handing out cash'

The AM Show 12/12/2018

Shane Jones has been compared to notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar by National MP Paul Goldsmith.

It comes after Newshub revealed the Regional Economic Development Minister has been ignoring Treasury advice. Millions of dollars has been pumped into projects despite warnings the investment wasn't worth it and "double or triple dipping" might have been going on.

National's Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says "hundreds of millions" has been wasted.

"This is what we expect from Shane Jones. He wanders around the countryside like Pablo Escobar handing out cash wherever he goes," he told The AM Show host Duncan Garner on Wednesday.

"It's just another example of that loose spending that we're seeing from Shane Jones."

Mr Goldsmith believes the money has disappeared into "the great bucket that is the Provincial Growth Fund". He accuses Mr Jones of operating under a "to the victors go the spoils" system where money is funnelled to Northland.

"He's determined to shovel the whole $3 billion out the door as quickly as possible," he says.

"That means that if he sees a project and there's a big number attached to it he goes 'yes, let's do it'."

Nicknamed 'The King of Cocaine', Mr Escobar used the money from his drug trafficking to fund the construction of houses, schools and football fields in Colombia.

Mr Jones and his Provincial Growth Fund handed $150 million to Gisborne, the poorest region in New Zealand, back in September.

But Newshub can reveal Treasury warned the Minister not to fund up to $11.5 million worth of the projects. It told the Government not to give $5.5 million for the Gisborne Airport revamp, as well as another $6 million for a tourism project at Mt Titirangi.

"They only need $4.75 [million] based on my back of the envelope, not six [million]," one Treasury official wrote.

Mr Jones said in this case he prefers advice from his other officials at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

"Treasury is not the only cock in town that we hear crowing," Mr Jones said.

"I'm a political creature imbued with instinct and savviness and I'm not changing."

And Mr Goldsmith admits National also ignored Treasury's advice while in power.

"You don't always take Treasury's advice, but when they say 'actually we can't make up the numbers - it's worth at least looking at," he says.

Watch the full interview with Paul Goldsmith above.

The AM Show with Duncan Garner, Amanda Gillies and Mark Richardson, weekdays 6-9am on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.

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