Vote2020

The Opportunities Party is promising to boost local government infrastructure budgets by $2.5 billion annually through GST returns.

Under the policy, local councils would be returned GST on investment in all new developments to help fix decades-old issues like wastewater pipe failures.

TOP leader Geoff Simmons announced the party's infrastructure policy by Wellington's Mt Victoria tunnel this afternoon.

The tunnel has been the subject of controversy leading up to the election with National promising to double it as a priority and Labour leaving it where it is for now in the $6.4b Let's Get Wellington Moving Plan.

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But Simmons said people would be better off putting the money for that project in a pile in the middle of the street rather than spending it on the build.

TOP's plan would basically allow councils to claim back GST for any residential or commercial construction project it issues a consent for.

But this money would be ringfenced and controlled by central government. Councils would have to apply for the money and make a case for its use.

"Not only would this give councils the funding they need to invest in infrastructure, it also gives them the incentive to allow that development to take place."

Simmons was open to it being spent on either maintenance or new infrastructure.

"Sadly we do have this massive infrastructure deficit of which the three waters is a good example.

"How do you draw a line between the need to maintain that infrastructure, and increase its capacity to deal with medium density housing on the likes of Adelaide Rd in Wellington?"

The Opportunities Party leader Geoff Simmons. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The Opportunities Party leader Geoff Simmons. Photo / Mark Mitchell

It comes on the same day as a new report by Sense Partners prepared for the Association of Consulting and Engineering estimated the country's current infrastructure deficit may be as high as $75 billion.

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Infrastructure for the long haul also warned local government may be "tapped out".

"For fast-growing localities, the cost of keeping up with infrastructure is outstripping the social licence to increase rates and borrowing."

TOP would also implement a benefit-cost-ratio (BCR) framework to assess all infrastructure investment in order to "remove power from vote-buying politicians".

Any national infrastructure projects that failed to reach a BCR of 1 would be discarded.

Simmons cited controversial projects like the second Mt Victoria tunnel in Wellington or the proposed Second Waitemata Harbour Bridge crossing in Auckland as examples of vote buying promises.

"The reality is that both of these projects have been proposed by politicians in advance of the election, and neither of them provide long-term transport infrastructure solutions.

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"Politicians have no right putting their filthy mittens on our infrastructure spending."

Wellington's Mt Victoria tunnel. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Wellington's Mt Victoria tunnel. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Simmons said the Mt Vic tunnel was promised by both parties, yet the benefits were less than what would be spent on the actual project.

Meanwhile, Local Government New Zealand released its 2020 General Election Manifesto this morning.

It called for councils to be more involved in decision making up front over housing, transport, local democracy and the environment.

LGNZ president Stuart Crosby said it was more important than ever that New Zealanders got the best outcomes when top down policymaking met bottom up operational experience.

"This is particularly so as the generational challenges in the form of population growth, climate change, housing shortages and infrastructure deficits get more challenging in the post-Covid-19 environment."

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Simmons said he felt for local authorities who were struggling to come up with funding.

"They [central government] can gain political points by whacking local government over the head for being useless... sure, the quality of local government politicians is certainly variable, but it's blimmin' hard to run a decent council when you're getting more responsibility chucked at you without more money to actually do anything about it."

"The politics sadly play to central government keeping the money to themselves, because they get to cut the ribbons. The Provincial Growth Fund is a great example of that."