Provincial Growth Fund marae upgrade announcement massively fails to deliver on jobs

Newshub can reveal a major Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) announcement made just days out from the election has massively failed to deliver on jobs.

Almost $100 million was earmarked to upgrade marae across the country. It was meant to create more than 3000 jobs, but with half the money already spent, it's managed just 5 percent of that: 158 full-time jobs. 

Marae say the investment has still been an invaluable lifeline. As well as fixing up marae, those upgrades are also getting people out of work due to COVID-19 back into mahi. 

"It's just been wonderful being able to see our marae look as nice as they should be," Karen Vercoe, chair of Te Pumautanga o Te Arawa, told Newshub. "It's really given our people hope."

The $100 million fund to upgrade marae was the last hurrah of the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund - the darling of New Zealand First. The money got out the door in the nick of time - one week before the election.

The cash splash caused a major backlash at the time.

National leader Judith Collins said it was "extraordinarily arrogant, but worse than that, it's absolutely verging on corruption of the system", suggesting NZ First was trying to buy votes.  

"Don't you think it's racist to be making that allegation?" NZ first leader Winston Peters responded at the time. "They never said that about museums, they never said that about the council buildings, they never said that about churches."

The money was destined for 351 marae in dire need of repair, with the $96 million fund meant to create more than 3100 jobs. 

All the money has been allocated but only half has been spent - and instead of creating thousands of jobs, Newshub can reveal only 266 people are employed. Of those, just 158 are in full-time jobs.

"I think it's shameful that marae - which are special places to Māori people and indeed all New Zealanders - have been used as political fodder in the run-up to an election on a programme that clearly wasn't thought out. It was an afterthought," says ACT leader David Seymour. 

It works out to $610,000 per job.

"I think it was one of the best things we did," said Stuart Nash, the minister responsible for regional development - aka the new Shane Jones. He reviewed every single project funded by the now defunct PGF. 

"They all had a degree of rigour and integrity that I think New Zealanders expect when we're spending taxpayer money," Nash told Newshub. 

When asked if he's haunted by the ghost of NZ First's PGF failures, Nash said: "Who?"

Seymour said it was "unacceptable to spend nearly $100 million and get almost nothing that was promised out of it".

Ask around the regions and the $3 billion PGF was mana from Heaven, and many of the country's marae were in serious need of support.

But this is on the Government - it promised those thousands of jobs and was happy to take credit for them, at a critical time on the election campaign.