30 Jun 2014

National denies roading 'election bribe'

10:10 pm on 30 June 2014

The Government is denying its regional transport package announced at the National Party annual conference amounts to pork barrel politics.

Prime Minister John Key announced $212 million from the partial asset sales programme would be used to fast-track several regional transport projects.

John Key and Gerry Brownlee.

John Key and Gerry Brownlee. Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said that was an election bribe to be paid for by the asset-sales "slush fund", and was an insult to people in the regions.

"Lets remember the asset sales were done against the wishes of the majority of New Zealanders. It was supposed to be for health and education and now National are using it for whatever happens to be the election bribe they want to give out."

Labour says the Government's is back-tracking on its previous decision to take money out of the regions, to pay for its roads of national significance.

The party's leader David Cunliffe said it was not even a particularly compelling bribe.

"It puts back about half of what they've previously taken out. It is a bit of a U-turn, yes, you can say it's pork barrel, but frankly it's a very small tin of beans."

Prime Minister John Key told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme the funding is part of measures to improve infrastructure and not an electoral bribe.

"The building of infrastructure's been a big plank of this Government - it's been everything from basically rolling out fibre to the home for ultra-fast broadband through to reinvesting in the electricity grid.

"We believe that having strong infrastructure builds economic growth, improves the quality of living of New Zealanders."

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said voters could decide on the merits of the policy and the use of asset sales to fund it. He said it was the first time the Government had had a bit of extra money for such projects.