Shane Jones shoulders the blame for seedlings screw-up

Shane Jones says he can't take the glory for the Provincial Growth Fund's successes without also taking the blame for its failures.

Hundreds of thousands of pine seedlings ended up going to waste after it emerged the land they were going to be planted on was choked with scrub.

National MP Matt King told RadioLIVE earlier this week Mr Jones could have avoided the situation by simply visiting the land.

"All you really have to do is have someone who knows what they're talking about go out and visit the property."

The Regional Development Minister didn't defend the screw-up when asked about it on Newshub Nation on Saturday morning. He said to the best of his knowledge, the land was ready to go.

"There was a slip-up between their advisors and the actual officials," he told host Simon Shepherd.

"But look, I could hide behind that - the reality is I led the narrative around that forestry deal. I only recently learned that some of the trees were mulched. I thought well, if I want the upside of being Government steward of the fund, then I've got to have the shoulders to cope with some of the downside, which is why I didn't hide from the issue."

He said most of the 1.2 million seedlings were planted, but not where they were originally planned to go, and wrote off the $160,000 worth of mulched seedlings as the price of taking a few risks.

"This is not eggshell territory. I just don't think it's possible to lead the Government's narrative by rehabilitating regions where there's cases of egregious neglect and not take a few risks and be bold. I'm not going to wander around as a cautious steward.

"Unfortunately we are going to encounter situations where some unponderables or unseen things strike us. In the bigger scheme of things... there's a host of other very positive things happening."

He wouldn't guarantee all projects he funds over the next three years would pay off - but that was better than doing nothing.

"If I was sort of like my Opposition member, Mr Goldsmith the teeth-grinder, nothing would ever get done."

He denied most of the $3 billion would be allocated as election-year bribes.

"No - we're going to stagger it... there might be some serendipity in 2020, but we'll wait and see."


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