Scepticism at Shane Jones' claim new spend-up will create 800 jobs

A new $60 million package for regional projects will create at least 800 jobs across the country, according to Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.

The money will come out of the Provincial Growth Fund, and be mostly spent on roading and rail projects. A small part of it will go towards the Ministry of Social Development to support workers into training for the new jobs.

The jobs aren't glamorous but they're necessary, Jones told Newshub.

"Infrastructure is not just the pursuit of light rail in Auckland - it represents fixing up our essential infrastructure - roads, rail, but most importantly training people."

Just over $27 million will be spent on roading projects in the Bay of Plenty, Manawatu, West Coast, Wairarapa, Taranaki, Waikato and the upper South Island, including cycle trails, road safety, tree clearance and maintenance.

Opotiki District Mayor Lyn Riesterer says the $4 million being spent in her region will have flow-on effects.

"It'll keep quite a few of the businesses going, and also [create] new jobs for people who have been losing their jobs for COVID-19 reasons."

She says the footpath and cycleway projects will create 130 jobs.

"We'll get - in quite a few places - new footpaths and wider footpaths, and also they'll meet the moden mobility standards. Very excited about that - trying to keep people off the side of the road." 

Independent economist Cameron Bagrie told The AM Show he was sceptical whether the spending would create the 800 jobs promised by Jones, but it's a "small nudge in the right direction", with the COVID-hit economy needing new jobs and stimulus from central Government.

"Fiscal stimulus is going to be here for the next two to three years, creating a lot of jobs, creating a lot of growth. What we're seeing on the other side of the ledger is local authorities are winding things back. Part of that is because they're up against their debt constraints, but we're seeing a fair bit of substitution here in regard to local authorities dialing back, dipping into the central Government chequebook - and the central Government chequebook, it's open."

Riesterer concurred.

"It doesn't sound like a lot, but being able to take something out of our 10-year-plan and have it funded, and be able to do it in the next year is just magic for our district." 

Unemployment is tipped to hit almost 10 percent this year, the highest in nearly 30 years, thanks to the pandemic.