Everyone loves the annual school fair. Kids, teachers, parents and the community all have great fun and it makes the job of fundraising more enjoyable.

But what if I said your school fundraising efforts didn't have to rely on a fair for the next 40 years?

Yes, for some schools, it's true. Jacinda Ardern has announced the biggest investment package in school buildings and facilities for a generation.

The principal of a bustling Wellington primary school with around 260 pupils said their funding is equivalent to about 40 fairs.

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Our family has been sending kids to Napier Central School for five generations. I reckon we might have come close to 40 school fairs in that time. It's a huge figure and represents an immense effort on behalf of each school community.

So what does this investment in school infrastructure look like in our region, the wider Hawke's Bay? Brace yourself. We're talking about 91 schools. Around 25,000 students. And $16 million in cold hard cash.

I've visited plenty of schools and I find it hard to identify one that didn't have a building or maintenance job waiting to be done.

It could be upgrades to classrooms, to make the spaces more modern and flexible.

It could be new roofing and guttering. It could be improved stormwater systems and drainage in playing fields.

It could be new energy-efficient heating and lighting. It could be resurfaced outdoor courts and paved areas. It could be recladding the leaky walls. It could be a new shared garden space to grow fruit and vegetables.

Is there a catch? No. Just get cracking! Schools will have to spend it over a two year period.

I have one request for every school. Please, spend local. Hire the local tradies. Use the electricians, plumbers, builders, painters, roofers, tilers, landscape gardeners who work in the community. Buy local.

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Make the best use of small businesses in our area. Whether it's building supplies, a plant nursery, design works, or other retailers, we are supporting schools to do all they can to keep the local economy thriving.

The investment in school facilities is just the first step. The Minister of Finance will soon announce more details of a bigger programme across the wider economy.

We inherited neglected infrastructure when we took office, including run down hospitals, the infamous ghost roads and bridges that had been announced but not paid for, overcrowded classrooms and a state housing shortage.

Public assets and facilities have been neglected for far too long. We have a long thin mountainous country divided in half by water, with scattered population centres.

It's up to us to show leadership on infrastructure. It makes sense to take advantage of low debt levels and record low interest rates to make investments now, which will benefit generations to come.

I can't finish a column about capital investment without mentioning that most valuable asset of all, people.

I hope you've heard that the Ministry of Education made a new offer to settle the negotiations on a collective agreement for school support staff.

If accepted it will see teacher aides and other support staff receive at least the living wage. The Ministry of Education will also extend the living wage offer to all non-teaching staff in schools including cleaners, caretakers, and grounds people.

We are making progress.

Oh and by the way, don't ever ditch the school fair. They're far too much fun!


Stuart Nash is the MP for Napier and the Minister of Police.