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Jones defies advice to splurge $2.4m on Kawakawa centre

Newshub logoNewshub 6/09/2018 Anna Bracewell-Worrall
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Shane Jones' $1 billion Provincial Growth Fund is under fire yet again.

The Government is pouring $2.4 million into a cultural centre in Kawakawa, Northland in a bid to create jobs and boost the local economy.

But Newshub can reveal that the centre's only expected to create three jobs and officials warned that instead of stimulating the economy, it could jeopardise other local businesses.

It's not much to look at now, but a pile of dirt in Kawakawa is set to be a fancy new art and tourism hub.

It's planned to leverage off the town's famous loos, designed by artist Freidensreich Hundertwasser, which draw tourists to the small Northland town and the region.

"I think they are going to bring more people to the area, and it will just force me to do what I'm doing really, really well," said Elaine Subritzky, owner of local cafe Elaine's Kitchen.

In June, with serious fanfare and the Prime Minister in tow, the Government announced $2.4 million for the hub from its Provincial Growth Fund.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones celebrated the funding, announcing it would create jobs and boost the economy in the region.

a screenshot of a cell phone © Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited

"Too many shops have closed down there on any day or night - there's too many listless nephs wandering around there," he said

But this won't really help those listless nephs. Newshub can reveal just three jobs will be created.

"$2.4 million for three jobs is $800,000 a job. It would be easier just to pay three people and stop wasting Government money," said ACT Party leader David Seymour.

The officials recommended Jones decline the funding, but he ignored them.

"You've got to take a few risks when you're dealing with infrastructure," he said.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment officials raised concerns about the financial future of the project, saying as well as just a few jobs being created, the cafe could cannibalise other local businesses, and raised intellectual property concerns about using the Hundertwasser name.

a close up of a sign © Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited

The group planning the centre had wanted to call it the Hundertwasser Centre. They couldn't get it across the line, and that's now been scrapped - along with the cafe.

"This is time to start calling the Provincial Growth Fund what it is. It is the Shane Jones Re-election Fund. To call it pork barrel politics would be offensive to pigs," said Mr Seymour.

The Hundertwasser Foundation in Austria - which is the guardian of Hundertwasser's work - told Newshub it would never have given permission to use the artist's name on the centre, but leveraging off the toilets and Hundertwasser memorial park is okay.

The Provincial Growth Fund was a major coalition win for New Zealand First - $1 billion to be spent in the regions every single year.

Having too much money to splash around isn't usually a problem, but Shane Jones has only managed to spend a fraction of the money so far - perhaps why he's overruling official advice


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