This story was originally published on RNZ.co.
nz and is republished with permission.
RNZ revealed last week that Future Forest Products spent six months in discussions with government officials over its Provincial Growth Fund bid and also wanted up to $95m in funding through the One Billion Trees programme.
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The Provincial Growth Fund bid was eventually rejected by Labour ministers after Shane Jones recused himself from the process.
In a statement released this afternoon, New Zealand Future Forest Products said it was “aware that two of its directors have personal links to the New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister” and would be maintaining a higher level of transparency than required of it as a private company.
The statement follows comments Peters made earlier today, labelling journalists’ questions about Future Forest Products “narrow, myopic dirt” and saying the proper process had been followed when the funding bids were made.
Future Forest Products said its application to the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund – which was negotiated as part of the Labour-New Zealand First coalition agreement – was for a $15 million loan to carry out a feasibility study for a new engineered timber operation in Gisborne.
Jones was at the meeting but excused himself for that agenda item, after receiving Cabinet Office advice that his relationship with Brian Henry posed a potential conflict of interests.
In a presentation sent to senior forestry officials in July, it proposed the government join it in that scheme as a joint shareholder of a company it proposed to set up, Future Forest Products Afforestation Limited.
It had finalised an acquisition of Northland timber company North Sawn Lumber, and that company‘s directors, Garth Mortenson and Grant Syminton, would also be appointed as Future Forest Products directors.
The limited partner and their investment or shareholding is not publicly available.
Overseas investment would be capped at 24.9 percent, enabling it to make acquisitions without Overseas Investment Office approval.
Peters condemns questions over funding bids
“In the case of myself and Shane Jones – well, I didn’t even know about it and nor did Shane Jones to the best of our knowledge, because it was handled by the process,” Peters said.
“What on earth would the auditor-general investigate?”
A spokesperson for Jones said the material outlining the company‘s proposal never came to the minister or his office and he was not involved in any decision because it was rejected by officials before reaching him.
Situation ‘dealt with appropriately’ – PM
When asked if Peters had personally declared a conflict of interest with her, Ardern repeated it had “been dealt with appropriately”.
Ardern also said language used by senior New Zealand First MPs to both a journalist and at a farmers’ protest last week was not language she personally would use, but it was not breaking any ministerial rules.
This story was originally published on RNZ.
co.nz and is republished with permission.