The controversial $11.7 million grant for an exclusive private school is not a "pig in the poke" says the Infrastructure Minister amid continued demands for the funding to be pulled.

Shane Jones has backed Finance Minister Grant Robertson's position that the Government had a good faith obligation with the Green School after approving its application to be a shovel-ready project.

"I understand that there are members of the Green Party who are warning of buyers' remorse but quite frankly this is not a situation where it's a pig in the poke."

Meanwhile National is calling on the Government to get Crown Law advice about whether it can get out of the agreement so taxpayers don't have to "swallow the rat".


The decision to give the Green School - which charges up to $43,000 a year in fees for international students - almost $12m has faced significant backlash from schools, unions, the Opposition and members of the Green Party.

The application was among 150 shovel-ready projects signed-off from the $3 billion infrastructure pot in the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

Greens co-leader James Shaw advocated as Associate Finance Minister for the school's expansion project because he saw it as a green infrastructure opportunity.

It also promised 200 jobs and to inject $43m into the local economy which would help move Taranaki away from depending on oil and gas.

But Shaw signing off the project upset a number of Green Party ex-MPs and members who saw it as a betrayal of one of the party's key promises to end public money going to private schools.

On a Zoom meeting with members on Friday night, Shaw apologised and said he would not make the same decision if given another opportunity.

Greens co-leader James Shaw has apologised to Green Party members for signing of an almost $12 million grant to a private school. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Greens co-leader James Shaw has apologised to Green Party members for signing of an almost $12 million grant to a private school. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The country's largest education union is calling for the nearly $12m funding to be pulled and instead directed back into public schools.

Education Institute Te Riu Roa national secretary Paul Goulter said despite the Finance and Infrastructure Ministers ruling it out, which he said was "fairly definitive", they weren't giving up on that call.


"I know the principals and the schools in Taranaki aren't giving up on it either. We'll be pressing that point as hard as we can wherever we can."

But Jones said Robertson was the Matua as Finance Minister and stood call the Government didn't intend on doing a U-turn on the funding

"This project has proceeded in good faith with the applicants. It was always an infrastructure project and we should step aside from the ideological tantrums and focus on the fact it was proceeded with on both sides in the spirit of good faith.

"Jobs will be created, infrastructure will be improved."

National's education spokesperson Nicola Willis said there needed to be transparency on whether there's any room to get out of the agreement or if the contract has been inked.

Willis said there were also questions around what undertakings the Government had made on behalf of the taxpayer and what obligations were on the Green School in order to get the "extraordinary sum of money".


"It's a disgraceful use of your money and if the decision can be reversed without a breach of the Crown's obligations then it should be."

Willis said the Government should be asking Crown Law for advice on whether it was too late to back out or if they were locked into a contract which they had to honour.

"In short, taxpayers may be forced to swallow the rat. A rat born of the Government cavalier approach."

Crown Infrastructure Partners and the Green School did not respond to the Herald's requests for comment yesterday.