James Shaw says approving $11.7 million Green School grant was 'an error of judgement'

Green Party co-leader James Shaw has today apologised for approving the $11.7 million funding grant for the Green School in Taranaki and says a solution is currently being sought.

Last week there was widespread dismay about the funding for the school, including from Green Party members and the National Party.

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The Associate Finance Minister says he believes it would be best to convert the grant to the Taranaki school to a loan. Source: 1 NEWS

Even Education Minister Chris Hipkins refused to defend the project.

“My understanding is that the Green School has approached representatives of the Crown to find a solution," Mr Shaw said today.

But, the Associate Finance Minister says as a minister he cannot intervene in the negotiations.

“Ministers cannot insert themselves into commercial negotiations, but I hope everyone involved will take the time to reflect how strongly people feel about this and take those views into account in those discussions.”

He says his personal view is that support for the school should come in the form of a loan, rather than a grant which “would ensure the money is paid back in full”.

Last Wednesday it was announced the Government would be supporting the school, which Mr Shaw dubbed a “shovel ready” construction project.

Mr Shaw says he had viewed the project as an infrastructure and construction project rather than an education one, an opportunity to boost the local economy through construction jobs.

New Plymouth school leaders angry over Government's $11.7 million Green School funding - Judith Collins

“But no excuses. It was as I said an error of judgement in my part.”

He says he has since taken the time to reflect on the concerns of many, including teachers and parents and the school community in New Plymouth.

“Progress towards our better future demands tough choices, not every one is going to be the right one.

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Students there will spend most of their time in the great outdoors. Source: Seven Sharp

"So again I apologise. I apologise to parents, to teachers, to unions. I apologise to Green Party members who have been working tirelessly in their communities to make sure that the Green’s are a party the next Government and have felt demoralised by this decision.

"I apologise to the schools in Taranaki who quire rightfully want the best for their children. And I want you to know, all of you, that I have listened to your concerns."

Judith Collins this morning condemned the Government's approval of the Green School grant. The National leader met with a number of New Plymouth school heads yesterday, and said they had felt "absolute anger" over the decision. 

The blunder has shaken the Green Party a month out from the opening of the polls prior to the October 17 election.

It will also see the party recall the horrible memories of the 2017 campaign when co-leader Metiria Turei admitted to welfare fraud prior to her political career.

The revelation saw her resign a month out from that election - with the Greens nose-diving from double-figure poll results to record 6.3 per cent on election day.

With the Greens hovering around the five per cent figure for the past few months, Mr Shaw admitted there was a chance the party could be out of parliament after the election.

"It's no secret that we are hovering around the five per cent threshold. So there's a risk (we will leave parliament)."

Mr Shaw said he hadn't considered standing down, calling it short of "an resignation-level event".