Election-year promises top $5.5b... so far

By Paula Oliver

All eyes are on the Budget this week as struggling households look to see what Finance Minister Michael Cullen will hand them - but a surprising amount of money has actually already been promised in election year.

A quick tally of the spending commitments the Labour-led Government has announced this year shows it has already promised almost $4 billion for new health initiatives, a research fund for the food and pastoral sectors, buying the national rail system back and boosting the country's foreign affairs presence overseas.

Other big-ticket Labour items include an injection to help community organisations and changes to keep young people in school or training until they turn 18.

National, conversely, has announced very little in the way of fresh funding commitments so far in election year.

Its $1.5 billion on broadband infrastructure is the single-biggest item announced by anyone, but outside that National's policies so far obviously don't cost anything or haven't been officially costed.

As election year winds on, the Herald will keep a tally of the cost of promises and commitments Labour and National make.

In many cases the commitments will apply to spending over a number of years.

In these instances we will use the full figure covering all of the years because this is the amount of money the party is putting towards something that cannot then be used for another promise.

And the full figure is also the amount that political parties typically use to impress voters when they try to sell a policy.

In the tradition of pork-barrel politics, we will call the gauge the Porkometer.

Pork barrelling, for those not familiar with the phrase, refers to the practice of political parties supplying funds for things designed to ingratiate politicians with certain constituents or financial backers.

It appears to originate from the US, when slave-owners apparently gave pork in barrels to slaves.



* $750 million in new health spending (includes first year of $160 million announced over weekend for elective services).
* $700 million for Fast Forward Fund investing in food and pastoral sector research.
* $665 million to buy the national rail operations.
* $621 million in total over five years to boost Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
* $446 million over four years to boost funding for community organisations.
* $251.9 million in total over four years on revamp of Mt Eden Prison.
* $164.2 million over five years for a cervical cancer immunisation programme.
* $150 million a year on educational changes to keep young people in school or training until they are 18.
* $72.1 million over 10 years to clean up Rotorua lakes.
* $46.5 million over four years to providers of home-based support for injured people.
* $35 million for a shared-equity pilot scheme for homebuyers.
* $33.5 million over four years for Canterbury transport.
* $22.4 million over four years for state house insulation.
* $13 million to upgrade flood protection in Milford Sound.
* $9 million over three years to lift horse-racing prizemoney purses.
* $8.8 million over four years to develop and maintain an electronic medicines reference book.
* $8.4 million over two years for Search and Rescue.
* $1 million to the newly established Rutherford Foundation.
* $840,000 to help tourism businesses improve environmental sustainability.
* $600,000 over four years to fund a new European Union/New Zealand exchange programme.

Running total: $3.999 billion


* $1.5 billion over six years for ultra-high-speed broadband infrastructure.
* $100 million over three years on new youth training and youth offender programmes.
* $35 million over five years, doubling solar water heating grants.

Running total: $1.635 billion

- NZ Herald

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