26 Apr 2017

NZ's McCully 'wasted money' in Pacific - aid researcher

6:03 pm on 26 April 2017

An aid researcher and former official says New Zealand's outgoing foreign minister is leaving a number of white elephant projects in the Pacific.

Murray McCully is retiring from parliament at September's election, and his replacement, Gerry Brownlee, will take up the job on Tuesday.

During his eight years as minister, Mr McCully oversaw dramatic changes, including folding the formerly separate NZ Aid into the foreign ministry.

Terence Wood, who used to work for NZ Aid and is now at the Canberra-based Development Policy Centre, said the aid focus also shifted from poverty alleviation to economic development.

no caption

Wood is critical of some of the aspects of Murray McCully's tenure as NZ foreign minister Photo: ANU

He said while there had been positive projects, such as solar power development, the new approach also involved vast sums of money wasted on unnecessary infrastructure projects.

Mr Wood said this was exemplified in what he called an arrogant decision to upgrade an airport in Munda, Solomon Islands to international standard.

"That came from a decision that came directly from the minister," he said.

"It had been a project that the Solomon Islands government itself was looking for funding for, however no one in the aid world was willing to touch it.

"It didn't look like good value for money and it didn't look like something that would succeed. However, it took the minister's eye and there we are - $20 million," Mr Wood said.

He said some Pacific countries were unlikely to be able to maintain infrastructure projects being carried out with New Zealand aid money.