NZ Election 2020: Greens co-leader James Shaw takes the blame over private school funding 'hypocrisy'

Green Party co-leader James Shaw is taking the blame after being accused of "hypocrisy" over signing off on millions of dollars of Government funding for a private environmental school in Taranaki.

Green School New Zealand, a privately-owned school which sits between New Plymouth and Oakura, has been given funding as part of the Government's $3 billion set aside for infrastructure in the COVID-19 recovery fund.

The school was set up by Rachel and Michael Perrett who made their wealth selling HRV systems, and its fees are up to $43,000 a year. It's getting an $11.7 million Government boost to help it expand.

Local school principals can't understand it.

"We are pretty shocked and disillusioned over this decision," Fitzroy School principal Richard Anderson told Newshub. "I'd like to say we're not angry, we're disappointed - but we're angry as well."

The 'shovel-ready' project was signed off by Shaw in his capacity as Associate Finance Minister because it ticked all the boxes, offering quick jobs in a region that needs them as part of its transition away from fossil fuels.

"This one is a green building project in Taranaki which is a region that we are trying to think of a future beyond oil and gas," Shaw told Newshub.

But it seems at odds with Green Party's policy to phase out funding for private schools, which has infuriated former Green MPs Catherine Delahunty and Mojo Mathers.

Delahunty said on Twitter "we don't need shovel-ready privilege"; Mathers replying she was "furious".

"I take responsibility for the decision," Shaw said in an interview with Newshub.

Asked whether he would do it again, he said: "I probably would have taken a second look."

Governing partner Labour is leaving Shaw to wear this one alone.

"Ultimately, that was something the Green Party advocated quite strongly for and so it was one of their wins, if you like, out of the shovel-ready projects area," Education Minister Chris Hipkins said on Thursday.

"It's not necessarily a project that I would've prioritised."

National's education spokesperson Nicola Willis blasted the decision.

"You give me $11.7 million and I will find you a queue of schools who will create construction jobs if they're given money to do a building tomorrow," she said.

The project is on the nose for Green supporters, but credit to Shaw who at least owns it. As for the Green School, they say the funding will help attract new families and create jobs.