The Opposition is taking aim at the Provincial Growth Fund for employing more than twice as many bureaucrats in Wellington as jobs it has created in the regions.

The Provincial Development Unit, which is part of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, currently has 118 staff. Eleven of those staff are based in the regions, the rest in Wellington. 

This contrasts with the 54 jobs National says the fund has so far created in the regions, according to information obtained by the party’s Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith. 

“It stretches credibility if it’s creating twice as many bureaucrats as new jobs,” Goldsmith said. 

The Provincial Growth Fund is a $3 billion policy aimed at stimulating the economies of New Zealand’s regions. Administered by Regional Development Minister Shane Jones, it has faced criticism for allocating funding to projects that are not economically viable.

Goldsmith had queried the number of jobs created by the fund. During Question Time last year, Jones used a report from the New Zealand Institute for Economic Research to say the fund would create up to 9,000 jobs in the regions. 

But Goldsmith used written questions to compile his own list of jobs created by the fund thus far, which came to 54. 

He said the fact the fund had so far created twice as many jobs in Wellington showed Jones had a credibility problem. He said Jones was banking on jobs indicated by feasibility studies, which might not even emerge into final projects. Goldsmith also said that only 38 of the 135 announced projects had received their funding thus far. 

The Government disputes Goldsmith’s job creation figures, saying they are wrong and that it does not know how he arrived at the number.

Jones’ officials say the fund could create more than 12,000 jobs from the projects announced thus far.

The Provincial Development Unit released its own number on Tuesday, saying over 10,000 jobs “may be created as a result of PGF investment”.

Jones could not respond to media inquiries due to commitments, however on Tuesday morning he told RNZ in an interview that some of the largest projects had yet to get started. 

He said projects like the Tairawhiti/East Coast roads projects had yet to start, but would eventually create hundreds of jobs. He also said promised jobs in forestry would only materialise with the coming of the planting season later this year.

Goldsmith said New Zealanders were growing impatient to see the fund deliver on its promises, while the Government sketched out its long-term vision. He pointed out that the Government’s flagship housing policy had been “recalibrated”, removing the previous annual targets and replacing them with a single goal of 10,000 homes to be built across the programme’s ten-year lifespan.

“New Zealanders might not be that patient when it comes to economic development projects,” Goldsmith said. 

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