Southland businesses accuse Government of playing favourites with Provincial Growth Fund

Source: 1News

A group of Southland businesses says the Government is 'screwing the scrum' with The Provincial Growth Fund and not spending taxpayer's money fairly.

One of the business owners says he was told by an official, the Government overspent in Northland, so needed to 'even things out' in Southland. 

The Provincial Growth Fund is designed to create jobs and grow businesses across the regions but now these Southland engineering companies says the government is playing favourites. 

"It's all our taxpayer money that's being paid with here and we should all have the option of getting use of it, the idea of it to increase the growth in the area, I mean it's a good idea, but it's just ridiculous the way it's been played out," says Colin Hitchen. 

Mr Hitchen withdrew his application but says officials tried to get him to rush it through, filled out the form for him and told him to ask for more money because they'd pumped too much into Northland. 

"They said they'd come to Southland because they'd overspent in Northland and they were down here to even the score." 

Shane Jones is the minister in charge of the fund and is one of the ministers who is signing off on the spending, he's also set to stand for New Zealand First in Northland. 

He's had $3 billion to spend over three years and Northland have always had a big slice of The Provincial Growth Fund pie but he denies officials are being pushy in other areas to even out the numbers. 

Shane Jones denied it, calling to the allegations ridiculous. 

"That's a load of rubbish being said down in Southland that we're splashing cash." 

While National MP Chris Bishop, who is party spokesperson for regional development, says there has been favouritism towards Northland when it comes to spending. 

"There has been a clear bias towards Northland for political reasons for Shane Jones and a real political desire to just shovel money out the door as quickly as possible." 

All players are mindful of the looming general election this September.