Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Shane Jones starts to splash from his 'big risk' fund

The head of the new panel advising on the $3 billion regional development fund has donated to Shane Jones and David Parker in the past, but both said it was not a factor in his appointment.

Rodger Finlay, an accountant and company director who spent much of his career overseas in investment banking, will head the independent advisory panel for the $3 billion Provincial Development Fund.

Finlay donated $10,000 to Economic Development Minister David Parker's unsuccessful campaign for the Labour leadership in 2014 and has donated for general election campaigns as well. They are old friends.

He also gave an undisclosed sum to Jones' unsuccessful leadership campaign in 2013, which Jones said was 'several thousand.' He has also donated to Megan Woods' campaign in Wigram.

Finlay said he had donated to politicians of all hues over the years, both in New Zealand and out, but had never been a member of a political party.

Of Parker and Jones, he joked he was "the kiss of death."

"Every time I've supported a candidate in a leadership campaign they've failed."

He was old friends with Parker and admired Jones' oratory and ability to "walk in both worlds".

"As a general position, my support of politicians across the spectrum is based on a realisation these people work incredibly hard for relatively modest reward. If I can help people I've met and think they are right-minded politicians, that's what I've done."

NZ First MP Shane Jones is overseeing a hugh regional development programme. Picture / supplied
NZ First MP Shane Jones is overseeing a hugh regional development programme. Picture / supplied

Jones said Finlay was appointed through the usual Cabinet process and his credentials were beyond question.

"He's got a wide range of skills."

Based in Canterbury, Finlay was a director for Oil and Gas and Landcorp and is now on the board of Rural Equities Ltd, a land-owning company, NZ Thoroughbred Racing and Radio New Zealand.

Parker said Finlay's background meant he was perfectly qualified for the role. He had also done work for the former National Government on the Public Trust.

"The amount he gave me is never going to influence me."

Parker had not been on the committee that signed off on the appointment.

Finlay said he had taken the job because he was passionate about the regions, growing up in Dunedin and returning to Canterbury when he returned from overseas.

"New Zealand's economic prosperity grew in the regions. Whether it was the gold miners in Gabriel's Gully or the gumdiggers in the North.

So the chance to assist and advise on the capital development that was talked about today is an enormous opportunity and a real experience."

He agreed with Jones's description of the fund as a "big risk" because of its size and the speed with which Jones wants to deliver on it.

Finlay said there would be due diligence for the individual projects involved. He said the fund would also deliver a diverse range of investments - and diversification was also a form of risk management.

Jones launched the fund in Gisborne yesterday, including announcing $61.7 million worth of projects across four regions. A further tranche of funding is due in April.

He also provided further details on the 'One Billion Trees' programme over 10 years, saying the Government's share of that was expected to cost about $180 million.

The fund is the cornerstone of NZ First's coalition agreement with Labour - and NZ First is pinning some of its hopes on it helping to boost its vote in the regions.

The $3 billion will be spread over the next three years and Jones said he had put the bureaucrats on notice to work "at pace."

National leader Bill English said the announcement was a let-down for the regions after all the "hoopla" around it. It amounted to a reheat of National's own regional development programme.

Act leader David Seymour described it as NZ First's "re-election fund."

- NZ Herald

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