Prime Minister Christopher Luxon attributes classroom 'crisis' to former Labour Government

The Prime Minister claims the Government has "inherited" a school property system bordering on a "crisis", as many principals continue to wait for answers.   

It comes after news broke last week several schools were still waiting for construction to begin on newly promised classrooms - only to find out they were paused without their knowledge.   

The Government has since announced a short and sharp investigation to get to the bottom of how and why there are currently so many projects on hold.   

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon told AM it is another case of bad financial management from the previous Labour Government.  

"Since we've come to Government, what we've discovered is there's huge amounts of fiscal cliffs and holes across the finances of New Zealand," he said.  

Luxon also accused the former Government of "intentional underinvesting".  

"Things like Pharmac and school lunches - not properly funded. And we've also seen... poor delivery of projects where hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent - Auckland Light Rail, Te Pūkenga mergers [for example] - that actually haven't delivered.  

"What's happened here is, before Christmas, we heard about 20 schools, then there were 250 schools and now there's 350 schools that actually have capital works underway... and, essentially, the money put aside for those builds that have been promised to those schools - often with constructions about to start - all of a sudden, it's not there."  

This all comes after former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, upon taking office, said Labour "inherited a decade of neglect" from the previous National Government when it came to school classrooms. 

But Luxon believed schools had been promised projects that couldn't be delivered.  

He told AM the funding simply wasn't in place for many of the projects.  

"What we're doing is having a short, sharp surgical team come in... quickly get to the problem [and] have an answer in May, and actually set up a way going forward, so we don't have this problem.  

"Essentially, the Government failed to actually be on top of that capital programme and so what you're seeing now is probably what will run into several billion dollars, I imagine."  

Luxon said his Government was focused on fixing the issue and getting the infrastructure built.  

"That hasn't been a place where we've wanted to the ministry to make savings whatsoever but this is just classic Labour; bad, bad economic management... promising a lot and actually not putting the money in place to deliver it."  

However, Labour leader Chris Hipkins - the former PM and Education Minister - said the new Government's actions were "a desperate attempt to create an excuse to cut much-needed school building projects".  

As late as last year, before the election, Hipkins said Labour inherited "a rundown school property portfolio; ageing rundown classrooms that were not fit for learning and, in many cases, overcrowded".