COMMENT:

This Government's fast becoming a hall of mirrors, with no one in the maze quite sure of what direction they're meant to take.

Throw in a cloud of smoke and you'd be getting pretty close to the mark.

Forget the on-again-off-again Capital Gains Tax which could be on again, but is more likely to be off again, forget the KiwiBuild targets that the Beehive most certainly have forgotten - and don't even mention the billion trees that they can't find anyone to plant.

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Turn your mind to the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund that's splashing the cash around the provinces... or is it?

It was with great fanfare that the hoi polloi turned out in Westland in late November to fawn over Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.

As always we were told they were going to make a significant announcement and on the face of it they did.

Jones put out a press release saying the Government's helping to future-proof a critical West Coast Industry with a loan of $9.9m from the growth fund for hi-tech dairy company Westland Milk Products.

The hyperbole from Ardern flowed and the applause was thunderous.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during her post-Cabinet press conference at Parliament, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during her post-Cabinet press conference at Parliament, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell

'First Citizen of the Provinces' Jones declared that with suppliers from Karamea to the glaciers and 430 employees in Hokitika, it was an investment in the whole of the West Coast.

There was little applause back in the Treasury offices across the road from the Beehive in Wellington though.

They'd told the Government, revealed in papers just released under the Official Information Act, that the milk company couldn't get a loan from their bank that was acceptable to them which means the Crown was acting as a lender of last resort.

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It was setting a precedent, Treasury warned, and the proposal should be deferred and more consideration should be given to it.

But the announcement had been made, the loan was issued, or was it?

Despite all the fanfare, and the adoration of the generous politicians in far flung Westland, the loan actually hadn't been made.

That was only discovered when Jones was asked to respond to the Treasury's view of it and his response came through last night.

The only loan the fund's made, explained Jones through a spokeswoman, is for another ten million bucks for Ruapehu Alpine Lifts!

Terms of the Westland loan was still being negotiated, his office tells us, with loan announcements always being made in principle.

Not a mention of that on the day of the announcement three months ago though.

And what about all the other loans they've announced through the Provincial Growth Fund? Despite being announced, if you take Jones at his word, none of them have yet been issued.

So what was all the brouhaha down on the Coast about then?

Well presumably to make the Government look good - as all the other announcements have been.