Mt Albert street and AT train

PoliticsJanuary 29, 2020

Epic infrastructure spend announced: what you need to know

Mt Albert street and AT train

A massive, whopping, ridiculous amount of money has been announced by the government today for infrastructure upgrades. So, what’s in the package?

What’s all this then?

$12 billion bucks, that’s what this is. Or at least, $7 billion in today’s announcements, out of a wider $12 billion package. The government has taken a giant swing at the country’s infrastructure deficit by promising to fund and deliver a massive range of projects in road, rail, public buildings, and climate change in particular.

It’s an effort by finance minister Grant Robertson to get much more movement going in the economy, while also putting the future of the country in much better shape. “What I can say is that this is a significant boost for the New Zealand economy, which is needed at this time.” He said it was in contrast to the last government that had “a lot of talk, but not a lot of walk.”

So how are they going about doing that?

A lot of it is going into roads. $6.8 billion is going on transport, with $2.2 billion of that for Auckland roads alone. Rail is getting $1.1 billion for three projects in Auckland and one around the Wellington region, because as PM Jacinda Ardern put it, modern transport infrastructure requires more than just roads. One interesting detail of it all came from Green co-leader and climate change minister James Shaw, who noted that more kilometres worth of cycleways than roads were being funded in the package. Overall, the big spending in transport will take place around six high-growth regions.

What about health?

There will also be an additional $300 million in new capital spending for DHBs, spread across the country. Child and maternal health will get $83 million, mental health and addiction services will get $96 million, and upgrading ageing hospital infrastructure will get $75 million.

And what about schools?

They’ll be getting $400 million to upgrade facilities, but that was announced last year. It is however already underway, with $1.5 million in spending now approved for schools that have made applications. Grant Robertson said that he had seen tradies at work in a school with his own eyes, in fact.

Sounds pretty political.

It is. Deputy PM Winston Peters used his speech to shout about Simon Bridges, in particular lambasting him for being minister of transport while the rail network was run down, and announcing roading projects that didn’t actually have funding attached to them.

When will it get started?

Some of it will start immediately, but a lot is still many years away from shovels going into the ground. The Northern Pathway – effectively a rebranded Skypath with extensions up to Takapuna – will get construction going on it next year. Others aren’t expected to be completed until at least 2028.

What are other parties saying?

ACT are pretty dismissive of what has been announced. David Seymour says the government is “playing politics with infrastructure,” adding that “Labour announced it would spend $12 billion on infrastructure before it even knew which projects it would fund. That should tell voters all they need to know about Labour’s motivations.”

The first comment from National’s transport spokesperson Chris Bishop though was actually in support of one project – the Melling Interchange in his Hutt South electorate. “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.”

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