$3 billion unspent: Infrastructure announcements 'absolutely' coming before election - Grant Robertson

Finance Minister Grant Robertson says infrastructure announcements are "absolutely" coming before the election, as the Government sits on $3 billion of unspent funding.

The Government's $50 billion Budget 2020 recovery fund set aside $3 billion to finance infrastructure projects in New Zealand, in efforts to stimulate the economy - but no announcements have been made. 

Robertson says the Government has not made any announcements yet because of the large number of requests made to the Industry Reference Group (IRG), which was given the task of identifying projects to be progressed quickly. 

"We haven't made those announcements yet but that's because we were dealing with such a large number of projects - we didn't get a final list from our independent group until towards the end of May, but those announcements are forthcoming," he told Magic Talk. 

The $3 billion to fund infrastructure in Budget 2020 was in addition to the Government's $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme announced in January.

The projects funded by that $12 billion are underway, Robertson said. A whopping $8 billion was allocated for infrastructure, with the majority of it going to the North Island - and it included rail, roads and public transport upgrades.  

But we're yet to find out what the latest $3 billion boost will cover. 

When Budget 2020 was unveiled in May, Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones said ministers would "soon" decide which projects to progress and consider advice from the IRG which received a total of 1924 submissions with a combined value of $136 billion. 

Robertson thinks Kiwis will understand why the Government hasn't announced anything yet. 

"It was a matter of being able to reduce the number of bids down to what we had set aside with that $3 billion and that will be announced in the very near future," he said. 

"I think everyone would appreciate when we get 1800 bids it takes a bit of time to go through those and do the due diligence to make sure they all do stack up."

Robertson defended the Government's record on infrastructure after two of Labour's flagship projects - KiwiBuild and Auckland light rail - had to be reset or abandoned until after the election, respectively. 

Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced on Wednesday that Cabinet had agreed to end the twin-track light rail planned between Auckland CBD and the airport for now as Government parties "were unable to reach agreement".  

Robertson said it wasn't Twyford's fault. 

"I think Phil's done great work to lift our transport spending. Yes, light rail hasn't bounced his way, but that's really to do with the politics of this place."

He also defended the Government's failure to meet its initial KiwiBuild targets.  

"Yes we've reset that, but at the same time we've built a record number of state houses - over 6000 state houses - which is a huge effort and an amazing result for us."

National MP Judith Collins has been critical of Twyford as Economic Development Minister for the time it's taken to get infrastructure projects up and running.

He announced on April 1 he was on the hunt for shovel-ready projects that could get underway as soon as people could get back to work after the lockdown. 

"With an abundance of infrastructure needed, there seems to be no good reason why projects aren't underway already," Collins said earlier this month. "This is disappointing for the industry who are desperate to get to work."

The Government recently revealed 11 initial fast-tracked infrastructure projects that will largely bypass the Resource Management Act (RMA) consenting process, to help boost the sector during the current economic slump.  

The infrastructure sector is approximately 13 percent of GDP and employs well over 500,000 people.