Infrastructure grumbles: Govt is chided for ignoring climate change, neglecting the poor and being too slow

Several Ministers were given an opportunity yesterday to bray about infrastructure spending and try to persuade voters what a splendid job they were doing.

National brayed, too, that the government was implementing its investment programme while quibbling about a two-years pause.

Oh – and Chris Bishop took credit for having some of the government’s spending being directed to the Melling interchange.

The flood of press statements started with a grand announcement from the PM and two of her ministerial colleagues (here), followed by statements from Infrastructure and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones (here ),   Finance Minister Grant Robertson (here), Deputy PM and State Owned Enterprises Minister Winston Peters (here), Education Minister Chris Hipkins (here),  Climate Change Minister James Shaw (here),  Health Minister David Clark and Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter (here), and Transport Minister Phil Twyford (here).

A  quick costing for households from the Taxpayers Union found

“Grant Robertson just spent nearly $7,000 per Kiwi household in a single announcement.

“However, we have to say the quality of spending is better than we had feared. Most of the transport funding has been allocated to highly-demanded roading projects. And even the rail expenditure is targeted at urban areas where the population density means the investment is more justified. This is far more sensible than the resuscitation of closed regional lines that money has previously been wasted on.”

“Let’s not kid ourselves however that this is a free lunch. The Government needs a greater focus on cutting wasteful spending to pay for infrastructure, rather than relying solely on borrowing.”

Then – inevitably – came a barrage of bleats about the spending being not enough or wrongly directed.

  • Low-income families left out of $12billion infrastructure package (here) .

The Government has spent the largest portion of its infrastructure package entrenching projects greenlighted by the previous Government, instead of prioritising low-income families who are living in infrastructure deprived neighbourhoods and poor-quality public housing. Auckland Action Against Poverty is calling on the Government to inject more cash into the build of state homes, health clinics in low-income neighbourhoods, as well as making all new and current builds more energy efficient.

Social Credit (remember them?) similarly grumbled that Government’s infrastructure plans rob poorest kiwis (here).

But the statement essentially was pitched at denouncing banks, bankers and investors.

New Zealanders waiting for hip and knee surgery and other medical procedures, families struggling to put food on the table, and the rural sector, will be funding increased profits for banks and corporate investors following the government’s $12 billion infrastructure announcement today.

Those banks and investors will be rubbing their hands with glee over the gold plated gift they’ve been delivered which will be funded by fancy borrowing structures like PPP’s and SPV’s.

Oh, and Social Credit’ reminded us of its enthusiasm for monetary reform.

The 1956 Royal Commission on money and banking declared that “the Government has itself adequate powers to create money through the Reserve Bank”.

That means that the government sector could access all it’s funding from the Reserve Bank at zero interest.

Instead of a $12 billion one-off spend, the government sector could have more than $6 billion each and every year to invest in health, education, infrastructure etc, without increasing borrowing at all, if it simply drew on the funding capacity the Royal Commission confirmed it could use.

Some critics of the government’s infrastructure spending programme were bothered about the implications for climate change.

  • Roading announcement undercuts clean transport development (here).

The Government’s plan to spend $5.3 billion on building new roads will slow down the development of clean transport in New Zealand, according to Greenpeace.

The environmental organisation’s climate and energy campaigner, Amanda Larsson, is disappointed by this morning’s announcement, which she says misses an opportunity to clean up New Zealand’s transport system.

  • School Strike AKL horrified at 4 billion spend on roads (here)

School Strike 4 Climate Auckland is incredibly disappointed with the Labour Government’s transport announcement to spend 8 billion dollars on short-term fix and environmentally destructive motorway extensions in unnecessary places.
To spin a plan for four-way highways in low-transit areas as transformational, sustainable, or as climate action is utter rubbish.
We congratulate them on the 200 million for decarbonisation. But 4 times as much is being spent on the Otaki to North Levin bypass alone.

And:

It appears that this Government’s Minister of Transport Phil Twyford is either unwilling or unable to deliver on Labour’s promises and is instead delivering National’s environmentally backwards plan for them.

  • Infrastructure spending will accelerate climate change (here)

“The new $5.3 billion spend on roads across New Zealand is a failure by the government to follow through on the Climate Change Response Amendment Act,” says Generation Zero spokesperson David Robertson. “If climate change were a priority for the New Zealand government, then it would not be spending billions on encouraging car dependency and increasing road transport emissions.”

But:

The silver lining of the government’s disheartening announcement today is that it shifts hundreds of millions off the Auckland Council’s books. “Given that $3.48 billion of the budget will be spent in Auckland, we now call on Mayor of Auckland Phil Goff, the Auckland Council, and Auckland Transport to reallocate this spending on fast tracking improved bus priority infrastructure, better bus services, and new cycleways.” It is crucial that the Council chooses to spend this money on public transport and active transport to reduce Auckland’s transport emissions.

Then there were the statements from those who are grumbling they were overlooked:

  • Dry dock is not part of infrastructure announcements (here)

“It is deeply disappointing that today’s infrastructure package does not include a dry dock,” says Clive Glover, NZ Shipping Federation President.

“The government really needs to stop talking about coastal ships and actually do something substantive to show their support.”

“A 250 metre dry dock is the missing piece of the transport infrastructure jigsaw.”

“Having dry dock in New Zealand would save fuel which is obviously good for the environment. It would also save time and money for ship operators. It will mean that ships hulls can be easily inspected, repaired and cleaned without having to make a long and costly trip to Singapore of Sydney.”

Criticism from the National Party was to be expected in an election year.

But hey – the  Nats  perhaps were preoccupied with the activities of the Serious Fraud Office  and the arrests of four people alleged to have been involved in some how’s-your-father with party donations. 

National leader Simon Bridges said  …

  • Government dusts off National’s plan, two years too late (here).  

After failing to deliver on its infrastructure promises, the Government has seen sense and restarted the previous National Government’s plan that was put on ice in 2018, but National will go even further if elected this year, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.

“After two and a half years Jacinda Ardern’s Government has realised it has no infrastructure ideas of its own that it can deliver on, so it has copied the plans I put in place when I was Transport Minister.

“It’s quite flattering, really. It’s just a shame that an entire term of Government has been wasted by tearing up these plans and putting them back together again.

“Unfortunately, the damage has already been done. The two-year pause on starting these roads has seen our construction workforce go overseas in search of work. We’ll struggle to get them back now.”

Oh – and Hutt South MP Chris Bishop enthused  …

  • YES! Finally Melling funding secured (here)   

MP for Hutt South Chris Bishop has welcomed today’s announcement that funding for the new Melling Interchange has been included in the government’s infrastructure package.

“This is a massive victory for people power. Melling was all go under National, so when the new Labour government cut $5 billion from state highways in 2018 and delayed Melling to 2030 or later, Hutt people said that wasn’t good enough.

“Over 9000 people signed my petition to reinstate funding and hundreds came to my public meetings and rallies for Melling. In recent days scores of people have been emailing government Ministers urging them to fund Melling now.”

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