The Insider

What they're whispering about in Parliament...

The Insider: Shaky Foundations

The report says there is concern about "the rebuild of the vertical infrastructure".
The report says there is concern about "the rebuild of the vertical infrastructure".

The National Infrastructure Report is dry stuff, full of positive statements about the state of the nation's infrastructure. Seen in this context, its comments about the Christchurch rebuild should be setting off alarm bells. The report says there is concern about "the rebuild of the vertical infrastructure" and "we are on track for sub-optimal outcomes unless co-ordination can be improved and a well-sequenced pipeline of prioritised projects is developed and available". In layman's talk, that means no one can agree on what buildings to construct and when the work should be done.

The report notes that the Government is paying for at least 25 per cent of the rebuild and maybe it should use its "market power" to get things going and drive down costs. For the rest of New Zealand, the worry is that Christchurch, plus the Government's bid to build more houses in Auckland, means unless there is some organisation about the sequence, there isn't the capacity to do the work. All of which will boost the price of building and do nothing to help the push for "affordable housing".

FRIEND AND FOE

The Greens and Labour have lately been quick to point the finger at the Government for ignoring Treasury advice on issues such as asset sales and the Reserve Bank's mortgage controls. It will be interesting to see whether the two parties remain such fans of the Treasury if they win the next election. In office, their praise for the mandarins of No 1, The Terrace, might be rather more muted, as not much of the Treasury's policy advice is in step with the parties' wider policy programme.

COST-CUTTING BANKSIE

John Banks has made his share of mistakes, but at least he's parsimonious with the ministerial credit card. The only expense claim noted on his latest card statement was $16.50 for a copy of the Herald's e-edition.

FAREWELL DRINKS

Anyone wondering when Parliament will rise this year should note that the Press Gallery Christmas party is on December 11. In recent times, it has coincided with the House adjourning for the summer, so it seems MPs will be getting an early Christmas break. Those wishing to break bad political news will probably be saving it for December 12 - though dropping a mass of documents on tired and emotional Gallery journalists can be a risky strategy.

MONEY IN THE LANDBANK

If John Key is looking for more assets to sell, he might cast his eye over the Government's farming company, Landcorp. To say the SOE is underperforming is an understatement - with total assets of $1.7 billion, it returned a $5 million dividend in its latest financial year. Sure, it struggled with the drought and has to make the best of some poor land, but it is hardly a stellar return. There are problems in the way of any sale - some land is being held for potential Treaty of Waitangi settlements and Ngai Tahu has first right of refusal on any South Island land. Problems aside, a Government worried about the lack of supply driving up land prices - residential and rural - might have an answer staring it in the face.

WELCOME WORDS

John Key's speech this week to the Wellington Employers Chamber of Commerce was eagerly awaited by many who wanted to quiz him on his view (later retracted) that Wellington was "dying". Key drew one of the biggest lunch crowds seen at the forum, and quickly disarmed critics by observing that he had meant only to point out how many corporate head offices had upped sticks for Auckland, but "it didn't come out quite like that". Any lingering resentment was dispelled by the announcement that the Government would proceed quickly with the hugely expensive Transmission Gully motorway to create another route in and out of Wellington, a move welcomed by many of the Capital's businesspeople.

NEW BEST FRIENDS

Most media have focused on Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman's attempt at stand-up comedy at a Pentagon press conference during his Washington visit. But behind the scenes Coleman got a welcome unseen by his predecessors since the end of the Anzus treaty. Extended time with Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon as well as meetings with the Secretary for the Navy, Ray Mabus, and Daniel Russel, the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Russel is a former Obama adviser who has been part of the push for the US to look more towards the Pacific and Asia.

- NZ Herald

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