by Christopher Ruthe

No, it’s not a literary award.  The $600 million Special Provincial Growth Covid Fund was announced on 3 June 2020. This is fast-tracked funding. The criteria are

1. jobs

2. Timelines

3. Visibility.

The Criteria for the main PGF funding¹

PGF

The Government quite rightly had a concern to create employment and avoid large scale unemployment due to the Covid-19 Lockdown. These funds are to be given out before the election. The Fund website states the focus is getting grants approved “on the next two to six months”. The fund says projects will need to be contracted and underway as soon as possible. Rights under the Resource Management Act have been removed “to ensure projects can progress quickly”.

The Governments Rules result in the following:

  • The loss of affected landowners to any right, or affected parties to object
  • Totally secrecy where only PGF (and the applicant) can know the content of an application.
  • The Fund’s duty to accept all “Facts” as true and accurate
  • The Fund refusing to accept any evidence that could point to significant inaccuracies in the application

Facts emerging about the KCDC Gateway application

The Kapiti Coast District Council saw the Covid Fund as a great way to get partial funding for Guru’s Gateway. This Gateway is primarily a transit station allowing passengers to Kapiti Island to be bio-security checked in a shelter, rather than outside. A $4.46 million building is to be built on reserve land for commercial gain. KCDC provides the land for free.

KCDC filed the application, but refused to publish details of the application. The facts in this article have been sourced from KCDC records and leaked e-mails [see the originals below]. The article examines what KCDC has told the PGF and what the PGF cannot know because of the Ardern Government’s directives.

Jobs and need for a business case

The fund requires some evidence jobs will be created. KCDC has told PGF that two permanent jobs will be created, by personnel manning the facility. What PGF does not know is that ratepayers will be subsidizing these jobs at $77,000. pa, yet the Gateway threatens the financial ability of one of the two ferry companies, affecting 5 people with real jobs.

KCDC bolstered its application by saying the number of tourists visiting the Island would grow to 58,000, and with that number of visitors, the Gateway project is viable and requires no subsidy.  KCDC asks the PGF to draw the inference 58,000 visitors will generate an unspecified number of jobs.

What KCDC did not say, and are “facts” the PGF refuses to know is that the figures are pure fiction. Firstly, the effect of Covid 19 on tourism is totally ignored. PGF has been told Kapiti is exempt from tourism downturn and the Island will have 30,000 visitors in 36 months. KCDC excluded from its application the fact given by a major ferry operator who had written,

“The assumption that we build a gate way and numbers will increase by 300% is absurd and shows an extreme lack of commercial acumen of the report writer.  There have been small increase in numbers since 2007 some of which is in line with international tourism numbers.
…. for the foreseeable future with most our internationals American, English, German, Dutch and French [growth] is many years away.  Coupled with a recession and a ….in expendable income surely these numbers must be seriously looked at if they are at the basis of the business analysis!”

(From: Glen Cooper : Sent: Tuesday, 26 May 2020 10:44 Subject: Kapiti Island Gateway-Kapiti Island Eco)

An advisor at PGF was spoken to and asked what the process was for ensuring the making of grants from the fund were based on facts, when it was known the Fund had been supplied with misinformation. That person was told it was impossible due to the Governments rules expressly forbidding the Fund from considering anything other than the information contained in an application.

As a result, PGF will make a decision in defiance of the fact that the “facts” it has been supplied with have been deliberately manipulated to create a false “as rosy a picture of the future as possible” [these being the words of a KCDC staffer, see the original below]:

 “In order to make this investment fly at all we are going to, have to show growth and by some margin”. To make it fly KCDC said “Investment [by KCDC ratepayers], ongoing running and maintenance costs, are going to be a big investment. Of course we will try and justify that on increased visitation…we’re going to have to paint as rosy picture of the future as possible!”

The rosy picture painter realized that 58,000 visitors was so implausible even the PGF would not be taken in. Hence this was the next step:

“Taking the average growth in island visitors over the last 5 years³,and applying that to the next 5 years (optimistic in the current climate, granted) gets us to nearly 30,000  pa. While it is well shy of the theoretical 58,000 pa with product development such as Dawn and Twilight chorus trips, means it is possible.” [emphasis added].

The next step was to put to show the fund how it was possible to prove a genuine business case. The KCDC memo said if we got to 30,000 [visitors] pa. If 40% stayed a night [i.e. 40% of visitors to the Island would stay at Paraparaumu motels etc. overnight — a figure conjured up by the report writer and not supported from any data] If every person paid $200 a night [That is $400.00 for a couple]:

That is $1.2 million back into the local economy, p.a.”

The PGF is forbidden from being told that evidence from accommodation websites indicate the average advertised nightly rate for accommodation for 2 people is $132.00 and not $400.00

The PGF is forbidden from being told currently 15% and not 40% of day tripping Island visitors stay overnight. Nor are they to know as a significant proportion of Island visitors are children on school trips.

The PGF is forbidden from being told the Dawn and Twilight trips to Kapiti Island mentioned by KCDC are inventions of Council staff and both ferry operates consider them unworkable currently, and a biosecurity building will make no difference.

The PGF is forbidden from being told that though the application from KCDC says all affected landowners were communicated with and were in favour, five landowners directly affected have made statements they were never contacted.

Abuse of legal process

In order to get their application in KCDC made application to itself for consent to the project, and accepted that application one week before Councillors met to decide if such an application would be made. The Mayor, whose project this is, ensured the majority were happy to be mere rubber stampers. This maneuver goes against the very heart of democracy, but so be it. (The PGF is forbidden from being told that).

The second abuse. The plans and applications were doctored so no one would be notified.

On 9 April  2020 a staffer wrote “I have just come from our first resource consent team meeting…The Tower is a problem. Its height requires resource consent and it is likely to raise objection. Athfield’s advice was to leave it out and keep it for phase 2….do the tower once the dust is settled”…Would this group be happy to remove the tower from the plan now and revisit as part of..stage 2”

The PGF is forbidden from being told the application for funding has been deliberately manipulated to ensure property owners are deprived of their RMA and other rights, and that there is an undisclosed stage 2 known only to the CEO and Mayor, and costing another $1.8 million — a figure that will cause a political storm.

“Visibility – PGF projects need to be visible to give people in regions confidence economic recovery is underway.”

People who thought that the idea of the Government spending in the provinces was to create genuine jobs have buried their heads in the sand. The PGF website is clarion clear  the project need to be visible to create the illusion of economic health :“visible to give people in regions confidence economic recovery is underway.”  Psychological illusion making is precisely what Jacinda has ordered and the PDF is delivering.

Illusions become delusions. Delusions are a well known symptom of mental disorder. Harvard states “Delusional disorder, previously called paranoid disorder, is a type of serious mental illness called a psychotic disorder.”

Conclusion

For those Kiwi’s that still adhere to the belief that we can only succeed if we apply reason to our decision making, the above facts may raise some alarm bells. For those who are firm believers in the Government’s written PGF policy that demands the making of psychological illusions of economic success, the disclosure of the PGF wanting to avoid facts will be nothing of concern.

In fact it is safe to surmise they will write off this journalist as a pre-Covid freak who deludedly believed hard facts mattered. “Swing with the transcendental moment man!”

So I am off to see my psychiatrist now.


  1. Jobs – investments must create immediate redeployment and new employment opportunities and income growth. This adjusted criteria will see investments in skills programmes, sectors and infrastructure which will support regional economies as they change in the wake of COVID-19.
    Timelines – The special Resource Management powers made available during the recovery will be used to ensure projects can progress quickly.
    Visibility – PGF projects need to be visible and active to give people in regions confidence that our social and economic recovery is underway.
  2. No references cited, or source identified

 

Below are extracts from e-mails sent by a KCDC staffer tasked with preparing the case for Guru’s Gateway to a number of parties including DOC, from whom they were obtained under the Official Information Act.  Although they are Public Domain, because of the potential for reprisals by the Mayor and his CEO, we are not naming the author. —Eds

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