It's been called a political slush fund, a billion bucks a year over the next three years to give a shot in the arm to the regions.

The custodian of the cash is Shane Jones, who has the responsibility of doling a dollop here and a sweetener there. It's no accident that this fund is in the hands of New Zealand First - and it was certainly no accident that Northland got the biggest handout last week: $17 million to help create jobs in the seat that Winston Peters lost last year (and where the Whangarei seat that Jones is after).

Few would argue that the regions could do with a hand-up but the danger here, with so much of our money at stake, is that it doesn't become a corporate welfare fund.

Now the idea of turning the country's rubbish into energy on the job-deprived West Coast sounds great so a company called Renew Energy was in for a slice of the action and was allocated $350,000 for a feasibility study to put its plan into action.


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Trouble is one of the company's directors, Gerald Gallagher, is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for allegedly using his former position on the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority for financial gain - so the grant's been put on soak and hold.

National's new leader Simon Bridges made great play of it in Parliament, which less than 24 hours into his job, was a big mistake.

Bridges was asked on his way into Parliament's bear pit whether as Regional Development Minister he'd ever given the company money.

He was adamant he hadn't - but then he did remember the company putting its hand out. It was investigated, Bridges proudly proclaimed, but it was rejected after a "bunch of concerns" were raised and they didn't feel the economic case stacked up anyway.

As to the Ardern Government, well he said they didn't make the appropriate checks to ensure the taxpayers' money was being spent wisely.

Yeah well when it comes to wisdom, Bridges was left gulping when Jones produced evidence that under his watch around $45,000, in two tranches, was paid to the company for the same feasibility study.

Not a good first day for the leader of the new generation Nats - but then neither was it a good one for Jones.


Both are now sponging the egg off their faces. It was also bad for the taxpayer - but could have been much worse if it wasn't brought to Jones' attention by the media.