So when did Shane Jones first learn about NZ Future Forest Products’ bid for a $15 million government loan from the Provincial Growth Fund.?
According to a Radio NZ report today, when NZFFP applied for PGF on 8 April, 2019, the company was asked whether the project had been “previously discussed” with the government.
The application form shows NZFFP ticked the ‘yes’ box and said it had made a “presentation to the Minister” about its forestry and wood processing plans “including descriptions of the applicant”.
Jones, a New Zealand First MP who is forestry minister and the minister responsible for the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund, has consistently claimed he first heard about the NZFFP bid on 14 October last year.
The forestry company is described as having close links to New Zealand First.
NZFFP’s directors include
- Brian Henry, lawyer to New Zealand First Party leader Winston Peters, judicial officer of the party and one of two trustees of the New Zealand First Foundation, and
- NZ First leader Winston Peters’ partner Jan Trotman, who joined the company in August 2019.
Jones seems to relish dishing out PGF funds and drawing public attention to what he has done.
On this matter he is showing he has a shy side.
RNZ said he refused to be interviewed over the latest revelation but in a statement said the presentation never happened. “There was no presentation as described by the applicants,” he said.
The statement said Jones “did not have any Ministerial meetings to discuss the application”.
After being asked if he had any meetings at all with any NZFFP representatives in 2019, he responded in a statement “no”. He went on to say he was “not involved in PGF-related conversations with the Henrys under the guise of NZFFP”.
But wait. There’s more.
In an interview with RNZ, David Henry, who is Brian Henry’s son and the NZFFP director who signed the application form, said the presentation was a 15-minute meeting he and Jones had in Wellington.
“We had a discussion with Shane. I think it was about a 15-minute chat. Whether you want to call it a briefing or a presentation – it was a short discussion generally about the New Zealand wood supply chain and what we personally believed.”
Henry said he couldn’t recall when the meeting was, where it was, who else was at the meeting or who set the meeting up. Nor could he recall whether this was the first meeting he’d had with Jones or whether he mentioned the name of the NZFFP company.
But he did recall that the Provincial Growth Fund application was not discussed. “It wasn’t a discussion about NZFFP.”
On the PGF application form Henry wrote that “following this presentation the applicant was referred to Crown Forestry … to continue detailed discussions” about its strategies.
In the interview with RNZ Henry said he could not recall whether it was Jones who referred him to Crown Forestry. Jones denied doing this.
Point or Order suggests readers go to the RNZ report to learn more (but not necessarily everything) about the matter.
The Nats are saying Jones has serious questions to answer and their Regional Development spokesperson, Chris Bishop, wants the Auditor-General to investigate his involvement in the bid by NZFP for $15 million of PGF funding.
Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams has similar thoughts:
“It’s time the Prime Minister stepped in or appointed someone to get to the truth of the matter.”
We await a rejoinder from Jones, perhaps to the effect that Williams is just another killjoy.