Budget 2020: Government yet to decide on shovel-ready projects as workers desperate to fill jobs

The Government added another $3 billion to its infrastructure bank account to help pay for shovel ready jobs but it hasn't picked them yet.

And industry leaders say the longer they spend deciding, the longer it will take to train up the workforce who are desperate to fill the jobs now. 

Zaphon Shelford's young family has felt the hardship of the COVID-19 lockdown - more than most. 

"[I'm] struggling for work," he said. "Not just me - me and my partner as well." 

But the first day in alert level 2 brought some hope. Along with six-year-old Roitana, he could leave home to hunt for a job in person.

"I'd go for anything to get into any job really," Shelford said.

Budget 2020: Government yet to decide on shovel-ready projects as workers desperate to fill jobs

Talk of new roading and rail projects that would pile on pressure to build a new port in Whangarei signalled new jobs. 

"Oh I'd be in there," Shelford said. "I'd be in there straight away if they got more jobs in there." 

But that optimism was shattered at 2pm. The Government's call for a "wish list" full of shovel ready projects is still just that - a wish list. 

Almost 2000 submissions have been put forward - all with a combined value of a whopping $136b and the Government now has $15b to spend. $12b of that was already in its infrastructure bank account and an extra $3b was added on Thursday.

"We will have a particular focus on regional infrastructure projects identified through the Provincial Growth Fund," Finance Minister Grant Robertson said.

But each day the Government spends on deciding is wasting time on training a workforce. 

"You can't pick up a shovel and work on day one," Connexis chief executive Toby Beaglehold said. "People require reskilling or upskilling."

And that could take 10 weeks. 

"The sooner they select the projects we know where people are needed, what skills they need and the sooner we can get the whole thing rolling," Beaglehold said.

Until then it's rail that's ready to roll. $500m is being spent on upgrading the country's oldest locomotives along with rail tracks, bridges, and tunnels.

And $400m will help replace the Interislander ferries and associated portside infrastructure.

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