Green School previously turned down for Provincial Growth Fund cash

Newshub can reveal the nearly $12 million of taxpayer money netted by the controversial Green School wasn't the first time they'd tried to dip into the public purse.

The difference is that their first attempt - for far less funding from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) - didn't pass muster and the school was refused.

The Green School - now one of New Zealand's most well-known schools for all the wrong reasons.

The school hosted a 'sacred ceremony' run by a school parent who believes COVID-19 is a manufactured natural disaster.

And it scored millions of dollars of Government funding signed off by Green Party co-leader James Shaw in his capacity as Associate Finance Minister - a decision at odds with the Green Party's policy to phase out funding for private schools.

Shaw has described it as "an error of judgment for which I apologise".

It turns out Shaw's error of judgment - demanding the green light for the Green School's request for cash - wasn't the school's first rodeo.

"The Green School made an application to the Provincial Growth Fund. It was rapidly nixed," says NZ First MP Shane Jones, who oversees the PGF as Regional Economic Development Minister.

Green School previously turned down for Provincial Growth Fund cash
Photo credit: Newshub

A document obtained by Newshub under the Official Information Act shows the school had a crack at getting far less funding last year but failed.

It wanted just under $1m - that was declined. But when it applied for 12 times that - the funding was approved.

"James got his nose out of joint and fought for it to be restored through the shovel-ready money," Jones says.

The application was refused partly because it wouldn't create sustainable new jobs. The school's now promising to create 200 jobs.

In the 2019 application - for a fraction of the funding - the school was promising in excess of 100 new jobs.

Documents say: "the applicant estimates that the project will bring in around [redacted] in economic benefit on annual basis and will create at least 100 jobs linked to the project."

It was an attempt by the school to market it as a tourism attraction like its counterpart in Bali. The documents outline the school's proposal "to support the building of tourist amenity infrastructure (visitor centre and café)".

But officials in the Provincial Development Unit which determines PGF funding were sceptical.

"The success of the Bali operation may not be an appropriate indication of the likelihood of success for a venture based in Taranaki. There is insufficient market research to justify that it will be successful."

Green School previously turned down for Provincial Growth Fund cash
Photo credit: Robin Martin / Supplied via RNZ

Shaw told Newshub he couldn't remember how many ongoing jobs the school was likely to create, although he believed it was "in the order of 120 or something".

The Greens want to talk about anything but the Green School. The opposite goes for New Zealand First, which perhaps has something to do with Saturday's declaration of war.

Jones declared on Newshub Nation he was determined to kill off his Government sibling.

"I'm going to do everything in my power to ensure the Greens do not survive," he said.

Shaw says this talk doesn't spook him.

"Not at all, that's just Shane Jones' election campaign smack talk."

The Green School was set up by the uber-wealthy co-founders of the HRV ventilation company.

Newshub contacted the school to find out why they needed the funding - and why they came back for seconds - but heard nothing back.