Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says her $400 million spending announcement for almost all schools in the country is just the beginning of what is expected to be a sizable Government spending spree.

But Ardern is giving nothing away as to which areas of the economy are next in line for a fiscal boost from the Government.

Speaking to party faithful at Labour's annual conference in Whanganui yesterday, Ardern capped off the weekend by announcing the sizable funding package.

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The overall package, which is the largest spend on school infrastructure in 25 years, works out to be about $700 per student and will benefit more than 2000 schools across the country.

"Nearly every school and community in New Zealand will benefit from this windfall investment. I'm proud that students and teachers will be the first to benefit from our infrastructure upgrade."

Schools can expect to get between $50,000 and $400,000 each, depending on the size of their role, to spend on infrastructure projects.

Jacinda Ardern and Education Minister Chris Hipkins answer questions around the recent Labour presidential election. Video / Audrey Young

That includes fixing classrooms and making them more modern, replacing roofing and guttering and resurfacing paved areas.

The announcement has been well received by teachers and principals.

Whanganui City College is receiving just over $200,000 and its principal, Peter Kaua, said the money was a "great Christmas present".

It means the school is able to bring forward projects that have been on the backburner for years, he said.

For example, the "18th-century" style classrooms will be getting a modern revamp, Kaua said.


But critics, such as National Leader Simon Bridges, said the Government was full of spin and the funding was "business as usual" masquerading as a new spending announcement.

Ardern, however, rubbished this and said it was a "significant" package.

She said it had an added economic benefit, too.

The Reserve Bank has been warning of an economic slowdown and has been calling for the Government to spend more money to boost economic activity.

Both Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson denied they were strong-armed into spending by the bank's Governor, Adrian Orr.

But Ardern did say it was "patently obvious" that the $400 million – which schools have two years to spend – would have a clear economic benefit.

Most of the projects many of the schools will use the new money for are already planned and ready to go – "this will enable those projects to get underway soon," she said.

She said the money to fund the school infrastructure spending spree would come from borrowed money.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Finance Minister Grant Robertson. Photo / Mark Mitchell

On Saturday, Robertson said the Government had a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to borrow more money while interest rates were at an all-time low to help pay for a "significant" spending plan for key infrastructure across the country.

He said the Government would reveal the full detail of the full plan at its economic and fiscal update in mid-December.

Asked for a hint as to what's next, Ardern wasn't playing ball.

"Just a handful more sleeps," she told reporters.

Meanwhile, she said she was happy with how the conference as a whole went and said it was "overwhelmingly positive".

In fact, she ranked it a 10 out of 10 when asked for a rating.

But it did not come without its challenges.

The dark cloud of how the party dealt with allegations of sexual assault and criticisms over its handling of that process loomed over the conference.

Those criticisms ultimately led to the resignation of former Labour president Nigel Haworth last month.

Ardern addressed these issues in her opening speech on Friday night – albeit not explicitly referencing the saga itself.

"We are not a perfect organisation," she said.

"We have learned some incredibly important lessons and through all of that, I know something that we must work harder at is making sure our place is one that is safe and positive for every single member to participate in."

MP Poto Williams was in charge of a "first principles" look at the culture of the party as a whole – she met with members over the weekend.

The mantle of how the party deals with the aftermath of the reports and investigations into its handling of the sexual assault allegations saga now falls to newly elected president, Claire Szabo.

Labour Party's newly elected president, Claire Szabo. Photo / Jason Walls
Labour Party's newly elected president, Claire Szabo. Photo / Jason Walls

She was coy when asked about what happens next, and how she planned to handle whatever comes next.

She did say the party was "in the process of learning" which is not unlike most organisations.

Szabo beat long-time Labour man and key party insider Tane Phillips to claim the presidency.

Phillips is the party's senior Māori vice-president and there were concerns the rejection of such a senior Māori Labour would create a division within the party.

But Ardern said this was not the case and pointed out that senior Māori council member Rudy Taylor had told the conference on Saturday Szabo had the full support of the Māori wing of the party.