26 Jul 2019

Locals getting jobs through PGF not tracked by officials

11:51 am on 26 July 2019

Shane Jones has long talked about getting people off the couch but officials are not keeping track of how many local workers are actually getting jobs created by the Provincial Growth Fund.

Shane Jones

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The $3 billion fund is about half way through its designated three-year allocation.

One of the Provincial Growth Fund's objectives is creating jobs, leading to sustainable economic growth.

On the fund's official Grow Regions website it repeatedly references the importance of locals in particular gaining employment.

It states: "The Provincial Growth Fund will get local people into local jobs through funding initiatives that support pathways to work, or Te Ara Mahi."

It also said the PGF opens up opportunities to invest in projects that bring local working people and employers together.

For food and beverage industry, it said it would welcome proposals and applications that "reduce reliance on migrant labour and support young people into employment."

The Provincial Growth Fund is not looking keep data on how many locals are getting the jobs, however they have set aside $82m to get more locals trained for work.

It is estimated that 10,000 jobs could be created through the fund.

As of the end of May 1023 people were employed by PGF-supported projects as a mix of 730 full-time and 293 part-time workers.

Sectors like forestry, which have been allocated funding through the PGF, have already indicated they want to hire more migrant workers to meet their obligations.

RNZ also requested under the OIA the number of migrant workers being employed in these jobs through the fund, but the Provincial Development Unit (PDU) does not keep these figures.

PDU head Robert Pigou said they did not monitor who were actually getting the jobs once the money got to those projects.

"We don't keep track and the contracts don't require applicants to provide us with the details of where they're getting their workforce from.

"In many cases the applicants might be a local organisations like the district council and they would then go and contract with a third party."

Mr Pigou said many locals would be hired for projects and extra businesses had been set up thanks to investment in the regions.

But First Union president Robert Reid said it should not be up to those receiving the funding to make sure locals were hired.

"The fund should have its own labour market principals of what it's trying to do."

Mr Reid said a lack of performance data was not a problem unique to the PGF.

"All we seem to get is a bald figure of how many jobs are going to be created by this project or that project and the other parts of whether they are good jobs.

"We always seem to be missing out or being left in the dark on that question."

National Party regional development spokesperson Chris Bishop agreed specifics have been thin.

"The whole point about the Provincial Growth Fund is a complete lack of transparency about what projects are being funded."

But Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said getting useful data needed to be measured against its practicality.

"Getting high quality data about the number of employees and how they're benefiting from the three billion fun is important, but I would say employment stats are not static and tracking people … can become very murky," he said.

Mr Jones said his priority was still to train locals.

"I'd like to see other New Zealanders leave Auckland and come to the regions and take on these other opportunities as well."