The government’s multi-billion dollar provincial growth fund will make big money for one of its benefactors.
1 NEWS has learned that the Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust will profit hugely from the taxpayer investment and critics argue that it’s not a good look.
The trust will be receiving $8 million from the government to plant trees and create 60 jobs for the people of Northland.
1 NEWS has learned in a letter from the chairman to trustees that this is an “exceptionally good deal” that is “far superior” to previous arrangements, and financial returns will be substantial.
The trust will not reveal the exact figure involved.
“It's not what the scheme is supposed to be about and it does make it very very dangerous if you've got a minister wandering around the countryside handing out very large sums of money and certain groups are getting real financial returns out of it” says National Party MP Paul Goldsmith.
“That's a very dangerous situation.”
One of those trustees set to benefit is former NZ First MP Pita Paraone, who has told 1 NEWS he was not involved in negotiations as it would not look good.
Goldsmith said “of course it turns out that the acting chief executive of the trust and a trustee is none other than Pita Paraone, recently retired NZ First MP. It doesn’t look good”.
Regional Economic Minister Shane Jones gave nearly $5 million to a group he was involved with before he was a minister.
He was funding a cultural tourism project in Opononi, although he declared a conflict of interest.
He was further given $7.5 million for a prisoner rehabilitation programme run by a former Labour Party president who knows the minister well.
“There are far too many deals on handshakes from this government already,” says ACT Party leader David Seymour.
Jones says all the deals are scrutinised by officials. He's is in charge of a very large pot of taxpayer money with a billion dollars a year to spend and so far he's only up to $126 million
He promises to tread carefully with millions more to spend.