National furious after Labour gets heads up on $350m transport fund

The National Party is accusing Labour of getting a heads up on a $350 million transport project.

Forty-six councils across New Zealand will receive funding to implement more transport options as part of the Transport Choices package 2022-24, Transport Minister Michael Wood announced on Sunday.

The package included upgraded bus stops, more cycleways, school improvements, walkable neighbourhoods and bus prioritisation lanes.

National Party transport spokesperson Simeon Brown, who requested the documents under the Official Information Act, said Labour used the funds to invest in their own electoral success with Wood designing a process that allowed him to dish the money out based on political priorities, not transport priorities.

Wood wrote to Labour MPs in June and requested his colleagues to pitch projects in their electorates to him, prior to Councils being able to put in bids for the project in August.

Brown said the outcome of the process is of the 46 councils that received funding, 28 are represented by Labour Party MPs, while only 15 are represented by National MPs.

When asked about it on AM on Wednesday, National Party leader Christopher Luxon said it sounded like "pork barrelling".
"Labour MPs got a heads up before anybody else asking them for projects in their area and it just seems deeply political and cynical," Luxon told AM co-host Ryan Bridge.

"So we'll find out more about it today, but it's obviously a slush fund created with advance notice to Labour MPs."
Luxon said it's a "worrying development" that Labour is using the funds for political gain.

"I think in New Zealand we've always kept it in the national interest and I think that's a really worrying development if actually it's about pork barrelling and about politics that actually you get projects happening in Labour seats and you actually get Labour MPs being consulted before anything else," he said.

"So it doesn't smell right and it doesn't feel right and I hope it's not true, but it obviously looks like it has happened and that's not good."

National Party leader Christopher Luxon.
National Party leader Christopher Luxon. Photo credit: AM

Wood told the Newshub all of the funding bids, regardless of lobbying from Labour MPs, were made by Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency.

Wood said the agency assessed those proposals, but the final decision on funding was left to ministers.

"Transport Choices is a Crown-funded initiative that was announced in May as part of the Climate Emergency Response Fund," Wood said.

"At the time we were clear that there would be a process in which we'd work with local communities to develop these projects."

Watch the full interview with Christopher Luxon above.