Government accused of idea-stealing as reactions to multibillion-dollar infrastructure boost flood in

Reactions are flooding in about the Government's multibillion-dollar infrastructure spend as National claims ideas have been stolen while Greenpeace is livid about new roads. 

The $12 billion spend up announced on Wednesday includes $8 billion for transport across the country, along with $10 million for decarbonisation projects and $300 million for mental health facilities. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the projects are "all about future-proofing New Zealand's economy and rebuilding critical infrastructure like hospitals, schools and building transport infrastructure". 

Opposition leader Simon Bridges is accusing her of stealing his ideas and "re-announcing" the National Party's road projects from when he was Transport Minister during the previous National-led Government. 

"It's our work re-announced and I suppose I'm flattered by it in a way because as Transport Minister it is all work - projects like the Tauranga Northern Link or the highway up in Whangārei - that we did," Bridges said. 

The Government has provided a list of the road projects that will benefit from the multibillion-dollar package, and they do include projects that have already been announced by the former National-led Government. 

For example, the proposed Melling Interchange project for the Hutt Valley was put forward by the previous Government and the Opposition's transport spokesperson Chris Bishop - MP for Hutt South - has been advocating strongly for it.  

It's one of the projects that will be funded - granting Bishop's Christmas wish. The project will cost around $258 million and construction will start in late 2022 with an estimated completion date of 2026. 

You can read more about the transport projects here

Bridges also said he's concerned New Zealand doesn't have the workforce to deliver the infrastructure projects because of "the two-year pause", implying the Government wasted time holding off on its projects. 

The Prime Minister is confident the workforce is there, pointing to the Government's plan to get more young New Zealanders taking up a trade to help close the skills gap by increasing Trades Academy places.

She also highlighted how secondary students are now eligible for a $2000 prize from the Prime Minister's Vocational Excellence Awards launched last year; and how the fees-free programme makes it easier for students to get a foot in the door.  

"We've been planning for two years as a Government to make sure that we have the skills needed to rebuild our infrastructure... Remember, the industry has called for these projects, they've asked for the certainty,' Ardern said. 

Civil Contractors New Zealand chief executive Peter Silcock said contractors are keen to get started on the infrastructure projects. 

He said many of the projects announced had been 'pretty much ready to go', but any radical changes could cause significant delays. 

Business New Zealand chief executive Kirk Hope said the additional spending on roads would be positive for business, particularly in Auckland which suffers from heavy traffic congestion. 

The Automobile Association (AA) also described the funding as "vitally needed". 

But Greenpeace is concerned the road infrastructure projects will slow down the development of clean transport in New Zealand. 

"If you build more roads, people will drive more," Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner, Amanda Larsson, said. "In New Zealand, we have particularly inefficient cars, and increasing their use will only contribute to more of the dirty emissions."

David Robertson, spokesperson for Generation Zero - a youth-led organisation committed to sustainability - had a similar view to Greenpeace. 

He said the multibillion-dollar spend on roads across New Zealand is a "failure" by the Government to follow through on the Zero Carbon Bill that passed into law in 2019. 

"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." 

Despite the disappointment in the road infrastructure announcements, Robertson said Ground Zero is pleased the Government has launched plans to de-carbonise schools and hospitals. 

He also welcomed the $1.1 billion for rail.