Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

'Science challenges' part of Key team's action plan

Prime Minister John Key and Transport Minister Steven Joyce. Photo / Janna Dixon
Prime Minister John Key and Transport Minister Steven Joyce. Photo / Janna Dixon

Prime Minister John Key has strung together 120 promises from 33 separate policy areas as National's "economic development action plan".

Most of the policies have been announced already but a genuinely new policy announced yesterday was a science fund that will be directed towards "national science challenges".

And Transport Minister Steven Joyce confirmed that the next four likely roads of national significance that will be evaluated over the next three years are:

* The highway linking Waikato with Tauranga.
* State Highway 1 Cambridge to Tirau
* The Hawkes Bay Expressway.
* State Highway 1 north and south of Christchurch.

In the national science challenge, between four and eight scientific research projects will be funded from $60 million over four years.

Mr Key provided three examples of the types of questions that might be suitable for funding under the national science challenge:

* How could New Zealand intensify its primary industries in an environmentally sustainable way - increasing production while at the same time protecting the environment, particularly water quality?
* What cost-effective technologies could be developed for sustainable energy production through use of biomass (plant material or agricultural waste) or advanced geothermal technologies?
* How could New Zealand produce a new generation of high-value foods - for example food or food-derived products that have demonstrated health benefits, designed for the Asian market?

Mr Key said challenge funding would be proposed by the Minister of Science and Innovation in consultation with the relevant science community and the Prime Minister's chief science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman.

Among the other policy areas grouped under the action plan were the future investment fund (the proceeds from partial state asset sales), resource management, employment law, housing, rebuilding Canterbury, building and construction, electricity reforms, ACC, telecommunications, capital markets, the emissions trading scheme, primary sector, energy, transport, rail and roads.

Mr Joyce said that after the completion of three roads of national significance - Victoria Park, Tauranga eastern link and Waterview - four new projects would be evaluated over the next three years with a view to becoming nationally significant.

He also said improvements would be made on key regional urban routes including the Rotorua Eastern Arterial route, and the Waiwhakaiho Bridge in New Plymouth, and inter-regional routes such as the Manawatu Gorge and Mt Messenger in North Taranaki.

Mr Joyce dismissed a suggestion by the Greens that he had a "fetish" for motorways.

- NZ Herald

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