Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones will no longer be required to report to Cabinet every eight weeks on the performance of the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund, but every three to four months.
His first report is not due until the end of August, six months after the fund's launch. The fund has already attracted $1.6 billion worth of applications and expressions of interest, with $120 million already committed by the Government to regional projects.
A Cabinet paper released by Jones' office today said that, originally, he was to report to Cabinet's economic development committee every eight weeks.
"After further consideration, I propose greater flexibility around reporting back to Cabinet," he said in the paper.
It would be more appropriate to report every three to four months, including reporting on funding decisions made and the performance of the fund.
"I propose to present the first such report before the end of August," Jones said.
Speaking at the launch of a guide to the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) today, Jones said anything above $1m would have to go through consultation with other regional economic development ministers - Finance Minister Grant Robertson, Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Economic Development Minister David Parker.
"I'm confident I'm not short-changing the public by asking for a longer period of time for these periodic feedbacks because I can't personally make any decision unless it's agreed to by the Treasurer and the other two ministers," he said.
The guide, released a full five months after the $1 billion a year fund was launched, aims to give regions greater clarity on the Government's priorities for the PGF and how to tailor their applications.
Asked why it had taken so long to formulate a set of guidelines for the fund, Jones said bedding down all the "bureaucratic detail" would have eaten into the time the fund was up and running.
"I'm an ambitious politician from an ambitious Government and part of taking a risk is getting a better balance between risk averseness and ambition."
Under the refined rules for the fund, senior officials from the Provincial Development Unit are able to sign off on applications worth under $1m and decline applications that do not meet the PGF's criteria.
The delegated ministers can make decision on applications between $1m and $20m, and those over that amount will go to Cabinet.
Regional outcomes were not a measure of the fund's performance as it was itself a factor that contributed to those outcomes.
Cabinet noted that it would be at least two to three years before improvements in those outcomes would be observed.
A set of baseline measures have been developed to track how well regions are performing across a number of areas, including increased economic activity, increased utilisation of Māori assets, increased productivity, employment and earnings and lower rates of youth not in employment, education or training.
As part of the guide's launch today, an investment statement was also released.
The statement outlines a number of aspects of the fund's operation, including defining which areas are eligible, the role of regional action plans and how the fund would work for different types of proposals.
"The PGF represents an enormous opportunity for our regions and we intend to make the most of it. The guide provides potential applicants with clear direction on the PGF's ambitions, structure and what good projects can look like, without being completely prescriptive," Jones said.
"Regions are already showing huge interest in the PGF but I am keen to see the potential of the private sector harnessed further to ensure we're backing ambitious and innovative proposals going forward. This could include co-investment with private investors and businesses," he said.
National's economic development spokesman Paul Goldsmith said the Government should have created a way to measure the fund's performance earlier.
"It's amazing to me that 10 months into Government they're still developing a plan to evaluate the performance of the fund."
He also said it was dangerous for such a "heavily politicised fund" to be involved in commercial ventures.
"So far he's been highly secretive about the deals have been done and refused to release any details about them. It's very difficult to anybody to assess the extent to which taxpayers are subsidising any such deals," Goldsmith said.