Yes, there’s lots of money in the PGF – but keep an eye on all the other troughs

The Point of Order Trough Monitor has drawn attention to a fresh batch of handouts from the public purse, reminding us that the Provincial Growth Fund isn’t the only trough in the capital.

Fair to say, in the case of Education Minister Chris Hipkin, the press statement which triggered the trough monitor related to the government’s spending on tertiary fees in the past year.

The statement was deftly crafted to camouflage the cost to taxpayers.  Rather, it brayed that first-year students have been spared the repayment burden that would have resulted from hundreds of millions of dollars in loan borrowing.

On the other hand, Winston Peters unabashedly has announced fresh handouts from a fund in his Racing ministerial bailiwick and encouraged racing clubs to apply for a place at the next serving from this trough.

News of taxpayer spending on two new initiatives for “the creative sector” came in a statement from the PM, in her capacity as Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage.

Jacinda Ardern signalled there will be more servings from troughs still being designed, without which (she hinted) artists might have to go and earn a living doing other things:

“These two new Budget initiatives and other initiatives being developed will establish the foundations for change and ensure our creative community can continue to work and thrive in their specialist fields,” Jacinda Ardern said.

The actual announcement was made by the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Grant Robertson, at a Creative New Zealand gathering, described as “the annual capability building hui for the arts sector, Nui te Kōrero 2019: Weaving the threads.”

Yet another announcement comes from Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods – $14.4 million of investments for scientific research programmes. She said:

“Science and innovation are major drivers of economic growth and international competitiveness. These partnerships will see lasting benefits for New Zealand’s economy.”  

The trough monitor does not distinguish between prudent spending and the bad or wasteful stuff.  Readers can make their own judgements.

Here are the latest handouts:

12 JUNE 2019

First year of the Fees Free policy

Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced that students have saved hundreds of millions of dollars in loan borrowing as a result of the Coalition Government’s first-year Fees Free policy.

More than 30,000 fewer students borrowed to pay tertiary fees last year, compared with 2017, saving them $194.2 million, he said.

“That’s a sizeable chunk off the cost New Zealanders face when embarking in in post-school education and training, and it means that once they’ve finished they’re much better placed to get on with life without a huge debt burden weighing them down.”

Final figures show that over the first year of fees-free tertiary education and training, 47,019 students and trainees received tertiary education that was fees-free.

Of that total:

  • 36,116 attended tertiary education institutions (universities, institutes  of  technology and polytechnics – ITPs, and wānanga).
  •   6,973 attended private training establishments.
  •   4,845 undertook training through industry training organisations.

Some learners enrolled in more than one place, which explains why those figures add up to 47,934.

Hipkins said the government is working on the reform of vocation education “and reprioritising $197 million from Fees Free to support the process”.

Ministerial briefings and other relevant documentation can be found herehere and here.

13 JUNE 2019

Government invests in cancer research, vertical farm science

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods announced the Government will invest $14.4 million into transformative new scientific research programmes including cutting-edge cancer treatment and vertical farming.

The funding has been made available through the 2018 Partnerships Investment Round to four new sector-led research partnerships. The scheme has a focus on long term, innovative research with potential for transformative impact. More information and the full list of successful projects can be found on MBIE’s website.

The research grants Woods announced have the potential to:

  • deliver breakthrough immunotherapy treatment for that uses a patient’s own T-cells, modifying them to recognise and eradicate cancerous cells with a high degree of precision.
  • develop new applications of UV light to seeds and seedlings to increase plant productivity and resilience to crop stresses such as drought or disease.
  • rapidly improve the availability and quality of improved Pinus radiata tree stocks through the development of mass propagation techniques using bioreactors
  • improve livestock growth and health, and reduce insecticide use, through genetically improved endophytes that live symbiotically with perennial ryegrass.

13 JUNE 2019

 Budget 2019 funding recognises creative community

Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Jacinda Ardern publicised the Budget’s provision of $11.157 million over four years for two new initiatives for “the creative sector”.

  • Fairer Wage for Artists and Arts Practitioners – this provides $4 million to improve incomes for arts practitioners receiving funding through Creative New Zealand’s arts grants programme. This Budget funding is being matched by Creative New Zealand funding and a total of $8 million will be delivered.

A fairer wage for creatives funded through Creative New Zealand will support their wellbeing and put their careers on a more sustainable footing.  It will also help build a more resilient creative sector.”

  • Creatives in Schools – this will invest $7.157 million through Vote Education in a new programme being run by the Ministry of Education. It extends the former Artists in Schools programme and complements existing arts programmes in schools. The new programme will see artists and creative practitioners partnering with schools and kura to share their specialist skills and knowledge with students in creative learning experiences which will benefit both students and artists.

13 JUNE 2019

Racing Safety Development Fund recipients announced

Racing Minister Winston Peters announced the Government has invested $389,351 in 17 projects to improve safety at racecourses.

The grants are made available through the Racing Safety Development Fund which provides $1 million annually to racecourse safety across two funding rounds.

This year’s second funding round has supported a range of infrastructure projects including track maintenance equipment, mobile barrier vehicle upgrades, replacement running rails and a greyhound track LED lighting upgrade.

The next funding round opens for applications on July 31 and closes on September 25.



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