OPINION

I do hope the Provincial Growth Fund isn't another bust.

This is supposedly the Government's year of delivery, which is perhaps one of the great political ironies.

Here we are in May, and this is not a government festooned with good news delivery stories. Perhaps there is a lesson for the Prime Minister on going around just giving names to things.

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Speaking of which, "next year's on me", the push for fee-free study. No, it wasn't, and that's why we have $200 million clawed back from a failed, hopelessly idealistic idea.

Add to that the now granddaddy of cock ups, Kiwibuild. And already in 2019 you have a couple of spectacular failures in a year that was supposed to be the exact opposite.

Which is why I hope the PGF isn't going to get tossed on the heap of hopelessness where bad ideas go to die.

The PGF is having a bad week. The Auditor General is now involved. The job numbers as quoted smack of a lack of delivery, if they're not a joke.

And now we have broken down the numbers to show what potentially is an alarming amount of money going to a comparative handful of people.

To be fair to the fund, I accept Winston Peter's explanation to me earlier in the week that none of this happens overnight. It could be a slow burn.

But over half the money - $1.7 billion - has been allocated and $750 million of it already spent. The bulk has gone to the West Coast, the East Cape, and Northland.

What's potentially frightening is that already the coast has over $4000 per head of population, and the East Cape has $3000. Double that for the $1.7 billion allocated, and it's $8000 and $6000 respectively. If the trend continues, by the time the entire $3 billion is handed out next year, it's $16,000 and $12,000.

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That's $16,000 per person on the West Coast. For a family of four that's $64,000. That's more than the average wage. Is that a growth fund, or welfare? We give similar amounts per head to the Pacific Islands and call it aid.

It's much less in Northland, but that reflects a greater population base.

The point though is how much is enough? And if it's more than the average wage to an average house, are we giving a helping hand, or have we just created a giant welfare net from which there is no escape?

Also complicating matters is confusion. A regional theatre wants help; and someone texted me saying a bridge in Southland could be fixed. This is a growth fund, not a stop-gap for regional council failure.

And this is the worry for me. I like the idea, I've always liked the basic premise of this.

There is no doubt parts of this country have been under-funded or ignored, there is no doubt there are a lot of good ideas that could use a helping hand, there is no doubt sometimes it's really only a government that will provide the initial spark.

But at 550 jobs after $750 million has been spent, and the queue of questions growing by the day - not to mention the government's failure to actually get stuff off the ground - the PGF of today doesn't look as flash as the idea that came out of the box just 18 months ago.