Winston Peters responds to National Party's calls to 'release the list' of shovel-ready projects

Winston Peters has responded to the National Party's repeated calls to "release the list" of shovel-ready infrastructure projects, saying unveiling them early would "impede commercial negotiations".

The National Party has been attacking the Government for not announcing all of the projects set to be financed by the $3 billion infrastructure fund included in the $50 billion Budget 2020 COVID-19 recovery package. 

Earlier this month Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones announced that $2.6 billion worth of projects had been agreed in principle, but only $750 million worth of those projects were unveiled. 

The Government set aside $400 million from the fund to be kept as contingency in accordance with responsible spending and can be used in the case of cost escalations, for example. 

The projects announced so far can be found here. The National Party wants to see the full list of projects that have been approved.

"Release the list, Mr Peters. Release the list, Prime Minister. Release the list," National leader Judith Collins said in a speech on Wednesday. "We've got contractors all over the country waiting, waiting for this work to begin. We've got councils waiting, waiting."

Collins released two press statements over two days this week, one titled 'Release the list, Ms Ardern', and the other titled 'Release the secret $5 billion list to get Kiwis working'.

"More than three weeks ago, Grant Robertson and Shane Jones announced the Government had approved $3 billion of funding for more than $5 billion worth of shovel-ready projects, which it says will create 20,000 jobs," Collins said.

"Jacinda Ardern confirmed the projects were signed off on June 29 and her deputy, Winston Peters, told the Wellington Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday he has the whole list. But Labour is keeping the list of projects secret for political reasons."

She quoted Peters telling the Wellington Chamber of Commerce he has the list, after an attendee told him the list should be released so companies can start planning. 

"We got this big Government announcement about shovel-ready projects, yet we can't find out where those shovel-ready projects are or get ready for us to be able to give tenders because every time we phone or ring or ask, we just keep getting the run-around."

Peters responded, "I have the list, the whole lot. Why they are not telling you, I don't know, but I'm going to go back and find out. How can you tender if you don't know?"

Peters gave a more cautious response in Parliament about releasing the list too soon. 

"Releasing them early would impede commercial negotiations, and that's clear if you know anything about commercial transactions," Peters said on Thursday during questions from National deputy leader Gerry Brownlee.

"The Government will announce the projects when it's appropriate to do so. This programme is a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic situation and the impact on the economy, and is proof that we have listened to our businesses and communities about their needs."

Ardern said earlier this week the Government doesn't want to get ahead of itself.  

"We already have $750 million worth of projects announced. We are moving quickly, but we are ensuring due diligence as well."

Collins unveiled last week the National Party's 10-year $31 billion transport infrastructure plan to "smash" congestion, by enabling NZTA to better leverage its balance sheet to borrow more, and using up the Government's COVID-19 recovery fund. 

The Finance Minister blasted National's plan to use up the recovery fund for its infrastructure ambitions, and announced that $14 billion had been set aside from it in case New Zealand gets a second wave of COVID-19.

"The fund is not there to be used for any old project in the never-never," Robertson said. "It is to provide support and stimulus to recover and rebuild from COVID-19."

Collins says the Government is not moving quickly enough on infrastructure.

"This is not some political game," she said. "The construction industry says Labour must release the list to avoid company closures and more redundancies, but Labour wants to keep it secret until closer to Election Day."