30 Nov 2023

NZ First's new provincial fund won't be a 'slush fund' this time - Chris Bishop

8:27 am on 30 November 2023
Shane Jones and Chris Bishop

Shane Jones and Chris Bishop. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Chris Bishop, the new minister for infrastructure, is promising the new Provincial Growth Fund - now dubbed the Regional Infrastructure Fund - will not be a "slush fund" for New Zealand First pet projects.

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) was a $3 billion project to invest in the regions. It was created in 2018 as part of Labour's coalition deal with New Zealand First.

Bishop, then in opposition, called it "Labour's reward to NZ First for supporting the coalition", a "a slush fund that lacks transparency", and accused NZ First of using it as a "campaign chest" for the 2020 election.

He also called it a "giant waste of money", accused the minister responsible Shane Jones of "spending cash without making sure business cases stack up", and implied it was better at creating roles for well-paid bureaucrats in Wellington than jobs in the regions.

National's deal with NZ First to form the new government included the Regional Infrastructure Fund (RIF), worth $1.2 billion, which Bishop will work on with Jones.

"There were definitely issues with the former Provincial Growth Fund and I think minister Jones would accept that as well," Bishop told Morning Report on Thursday. "I don't want to speak for him, but I think he would accept that as well."

The PGF was useful in that it spent "capital money in the regions on projects that would otherwise have missed out on funding", Bishop said.

He said the RIF would "be different" however, set up "up in a way that is ministered well and diligently".

Just how - such as whether Jones will be part of the decision-making - remains to be seen.

"We're taking advice on that and minister Jones and I will be making announcements about that, but yet to be determined exactly how it will work… But we're going to make that different. It's going to be great fun and I'm looking forward to working with Shane Jones on it."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs