The Point of Order Trough Monitor was triggered today by the announcement of a $9 million handout for Southlanders – sorry, some Southlanders.
The news came from the office of Grant Robertson who, as Minister of Finance, prefers to invest public money rather than give it away – especially when it is borrowed money which taxpayers eventually will be called on to repay.
Accordingly, wearing his “Infrastructure Minister” hat and in the company of Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatane, Robertson announced the Government is investing $9 million “to upgrade a significant community facility in Invercargill, creating economic stimulus and jobs”.
The only other news from the Beehive came from ACC Minister Carmel Sepuloni, who announced the appointments of three new members to join the Board of ACC on 1 February.
“All three bring diverse skills and experience to provide strong governance oversight to lead the direction of ACC” said Hon Carmel Sepuloni.
Of course they do.
But back to Grant Roberson who – having banged on about “investment” – used the word “grant” to describe what he is doing with $9 million.
The grant for Waihōpai Rūnaka Inc to make improvements to Murihiku Marae comes from the $3 billion set aside in the Government’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.
The funding will be used to complete a new wharekai (dining hall), associated infrastructure, replace the administration and services hub and phased completion of papakainga housing for kaumatua.
And the employment prospects?
Not as compelling as Robertson would have us believe.
He says 33 jobs will be created during the construction phase and eight new permanent jobs will be created when the project is complete.
This works out at $219,512 a job – and most of the jobs are only temporary.
So what gives?
Let him explain:
“Marae are important centres for Māori. They are the culture and are focal point for people to meet, discuss and provide visible leadership for their community.
“Much-needed renovation of marae around the country creates vital work opportunities for local tradespeople and contractors displaced by the economic impact of COVID-19.”
Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene says the funding is a huge boost, not just for locals but for the region.
“Murihiku Marae is a central hub for this community, providing a huge number of social services and hosting many events. This construction work will enable the marae to continue to provide its current level of service and increase its role as a social services provider.”
As part of the Government’s plan to stimulate regional economies and create jobs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reminded, it announced in October last year the upgrade of more than 350 marae throughout the country with a $95.6 million investment.
A list of the projects announced from the $3 billion tagged contingency for infrastructure can be found here.
Fair to say, Robertson and Tirikatane are unlikely to please everybody with their handout.
And sure enough, the Taxpayers Union promptly challenged the notion that a $9 million spend on a marae facility in Southland will create 41 jobs. Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says:
“This kind of spending does not create jobs. The money is borrowed. In other words, future taxpayers from Kaitaia to the Bluff will pay for it plus interest. Those taxpayers will then have less to spend on businesses that provide goods and services that people actually want. When those businesses lose revenue, they’ll be less able to employ New Zealanders.”
“The best way to stimulate the economy is to leave money in the hands of New Zealanders, who will spend that money on productive businesses that won’t rely on continuing government handouts.”
Houlbrook uncharitably insists we don’t need an economics qualification to see that the real point of spending $96 million on marae is political: the government gets to do a favour for a particular voting bloc while dumping the cost on future taxpayers and hoping they won’t make the connection.
He reckons this is classic pork-barrel politics dressed up as a COVID-19 response.
Pork with puha, dare we suggest?
Latest from the Beehive
26 JANUARY 2021