Prime Minister Chris Hipkins doesn't believe taxpayer money wasted on ditched Government policies

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has denied the scrapped TVNZ-RNZ merger was a waste of taxpayer money, saying it's an unfair "characterisation". 

Last week, Hipkins unveiled the first set of changes to the Government's policy agenda, including axing the TVNZ-RNZ merger, halting work on the social insurance scheme this term, putting the torch to the planned biofuels mandate and throwing hate speech legislation to the Law Commission.

The changes were an acknowledgement the Government has been trying to do "too much too fast", Hipkins said at the time.

Hipkins told AM on Monday he didn't have an exact figure on how much money was spent on the TVNZ-RNZ merger before it was scrapped.

But he doesn't believe any money was wasted as the media landscape has "changed significantly". 

The Ministry of Culture and Heritage said the total cost of the proposed merger from the time it was conceived in 2019 until the end of December last year, added up to $16.1m.

But Hipkins said "that doesn't mean that's all money wasted".  

"We have to consider what the future of Radio NZ is going to be. They're a broadcaster that relies exclusively on the Government for their revenue and the media landscape's changed significantly," Hipkins told AM co-host Ryan Bridge.

"So we did need to actually take some time to make sure that we're investing in the right area to prepare Radio NZ for the future. 

"Television New Zealand is in a slightly different position in the sense that some of the worst-case scenario forecasts around commercial revenue haven't eventuated and they're actually in a reasonably good position at the moment." 

But when pressed by Bridge about the money spent on investigating the merger, Hipkins said it'll help with decisions in the future.

"I'm not looking backwards on this ... the work that's been done includes things like looking at what the future needs are when it comes to public media content, what needs to change in the way our public broadcaster TVNZ/RNZ operate in the future," Hipkins said.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: AM

But Bridge pressed Hipkins again asking if he stands by his belief that money hasn't been wasted on the merger. 

"My view and the view of the Cabinet is we can resource RNZ to make sure it can preserve at least the status quo and potentially add some additional content to its offering," the Prime Minister said. 

"Television New Zealand's in a reasonably stable position at the moment and so it should continue in that way."

When asked by Bridge how much taxpayer money has been wasted on Government policy that has now been ditched, Hipkins believed a lot of money was "well spent". 

"I don't agree with the characterisation that you're making there. There are some difficult decisions that we've got to make as a country and making sure that we get those decisions right involves some upfront investment," Hipkins said. 

"So if you look at Three Waters, for example, we're talking about $130-$180 billion worth of investment required in our water infrastructure over the next 30 years. 

"Spending a bit of money to make sure that we're investing that in the right places in the most efficient way possible, I think will be money well spent. We've got to make sure we get this right."

Watch the full interview with Chris Hipkins above.