Shane Jones dodges questions over jobs created under Provincial Growth Fund

Shane Jones won't say how many full-time, long-term jobs have been created under the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).

A spokesperson from Jones's office said on Thursday 900 jobs had been created to date, including 52.5 under the 'One Billion Trees' programme. But the spokesperson didn't have the number of new full-time, long-term job statistics on hand.

The National Party's spokesperson, Paul Goldsmith, said Jones's office had refused to provide him details about exactly how many jobs had been created, with job details of only 36 percent of projects provided to him.

Jones, the Regional Economic Minister, has insisted that more jobs will be created as the PGF continues throughout the year and as projects under the fund are rolled out.

Goldsmith said at select committee Jones's office had revealed in February a total of 215 jobs had been created out of 36.5 percent of PGF projects, and only six of those jobs were counted as full-time, long-term jobs - the rest were short-term, fixed-term or contractor roles.

The document obtained by Newshub showed 137 of the 215 jobs were part-time of less than 30 hours a week, while 23 were listed as full-time. It said it wasn't recorded whether the remaining 55 were full-time or part-time.  

Goldsmith said at select committee he had asked Jones's office for the total number of jobs created under all projects - not 36.5 percent - but he said Jones's office had refused to reveal those details.

Jones responded to Goldsmith: "I find when these questions come up it reminds me of someone popping pimples."

He said the jobs figures "are going to grow as we chew through the Budget allocation for this year and the year after that prior to us assuming our constitutional position in the boxing ring".

When Goldsmith asked Jones if he would like to see more jobs created under the PGF, he replied: "I'd like to see some more."

Earlier this year, Newshub revealed that the PGF, designed to create jobs and boost the regions, had only created 54 jobs and spent just $26.6 million of its $3 billion.

Goldsmith also said, while $1.8 billion of the PGF had thus far been allocated in announcements, as of May 20, he said only about $61 million had actually been given to the recipients of those announcements.

The NZ First MP argued his office had made the allocation decisions "but we have shown the necessary diligence to obey the administrative structures that are required to be observed before the money goes into a company's account".

Jones said he understood the point Goldsmith was getting at, and acknowledged there was "always room for improvement", but said the "closer we get to next year, there will be an enormous amount of projects in operation".

In a press release on Thursday, Jones said more than 160 workers had been referred to forestry employers as part of a push to support the 2019 planting season.

"Through the One Billion Trees Programme we are supporting training initiatives across the country that will help build a sustainable, domestic workforce in the coming years."