Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she did not want to "predetermine" work done by MBIE regarding its investigation into the America's Cup saga.

She had seen a "range of different reports" and feedback, but declined to address questions on the topic until after the investigation was completed.

"This is a demonstration that the checks and balances are in place," she said.

"The fact there have been allegations and they are being investigated.

Advertisement

"We need to let due process take place, and let MBIE carry out its audit, before providng answers."

The Government was still committed to hosting a successful America's Cup, she said.

"We have commitments, and it is only right we continue to fulfill them. There are economic spinoffs from hosting, and also the event itself, and in the future ensuring New Zealand is on the world stage."

The investigation needed to be conducted independent of politicians, she said.

When asked about what he was doing to find out what was going on with the America's Cup investigation, National leader Todd Muller said that was for the Government to sort out.

"Of course I'm concerned about it but that's a question for the Government. They're in charge of that commercial relationship.

"But they do need to get to the bottom of it and quickly because there's a lot at stake."

On Kiwis in quarantine

On the topic of people who had been living in New Zealand but were now trapped overseas returning here, Ardern said the focus was on citizens and residents.

Advertisement

There was limited space in quarantine.

"But those who have built their lives here and are caught offshore will be the next group."

Ardern was also asked about a conversation paper released today, produced by former chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman, former prime minister Helen Clark and ex-Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe, which said an extended delay in opening the borders would cause huge damage to the country's economy and social wellbeing, and it was now time change the goals.

"Of course we all want our borders open, but only when it is safe to do so. Right now is not the right time," Ardern said.

When asked about the need for more skilled migrants, Ardern said there was a need to increase skills and trades training in New Zealand.

The Government had been increasing support for businesses through training and apprenticeships to address this, she said.

Advertisement

An advantage of New Zealand's approach was that New Zealand did not need to enforce social distancing and could open up schools and hospitality - the downside was the borders needed to remain closed.

There was a lot of work under way, but the most important factor was safety, she said.

Schools' upgrade

The Government has announced $126 million to redevelop four schools - the first in a decade-long programme to upgrade the country's ageing classrooms.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Education Minister Chris Hipkins made the announcement this morning at Auckland's Northcote College, which will receive $48.5m as part of the package to refurbish buildings, build a new gym and upgrade 20 classrooms.

"Families rightly expect their children to be able to learn in warm, dry and comfortable classrooms, and we are working hard to make that happen as a major contributor to New Zealand being the best country in the world to bring up a child," Ardern said.

The schools are part of a new National School Redevelopment Programme bringing projects together in one co-ordinated plan to upgrade about 180 schools over the next decade, representing more than 93,000 student places.

Advertisement

The first wave included around 40 schools and had a budget of up to $1.3 billion.

Today's announcement included $33.5m for Wanaka's Mt Aspiring College, adding to $13m received in 2017 to continue a project to replace poor condition relocatable classrooms, and better configure the site to accommodate future growth.

READ MORE:
Revealed: 2000 schools to get $400m bonus - what yours will get
Budget 2020: $278 million funding boost for early childhood education centres with 100 per cent qualified teachers
Covid 19 coronavirus: Hipkins announces $20m fund to help tertiary students to learn online
Covid 19 coronavirus: Education TV channels and free computers to boost home learning

Twizel Area School will receive $21m for a rebuild, including replacing existing relocatable classrooms that are up to 49 years old and in poor condition.

Spotswood College in New Plymouth would also receive $23m for a redevelopment, including replacing poor condition classrooms.

The Northcote funding added to $11.5m it received in 2018 to replace old, end-of-life buildings with weather-tightness issues.

Advertisement

Design work at Northcote will start soon, and construction early next year.

Hipkins said the four projects, and the $32m for Lower Hutt's Taita College announced recently, would also be a "major boost to regional economies".

"The investment is vital to improve learning through higher quality classrooms. But there is another huge benefit from today's announcement.

"Critically, this funding and our approach to look 10 years ahead sends a strong signal to the construction sector that we've got a full book of work lined up, and we'll need a skilled workforce to do it."

The five current projects alone would need hundreds of workers, and so the Government was working on offering free apprenticeships and training courses, and providing support to firms to keep on their apprentices through Covid-19, Hipkins said.

More information would be available in August for the remaining schools in the programme, which is funded from a mix of depreciation funding and future roll growth, Hipkins said.

Advertisement

Last year the Government announced a $400m funding package to bring forward urgent, smaller-scale school property improvements.

Each eligible school would receive $693 per student, up to a maximum of $400,000, for work ranging from classroom upgrades to stormwater and drainage systems.

Hipkins was yesterday announced to be taking over as Minister of Health, at least until the September election, after David Clark resigned on Wednesday following a tumultuous few months in the role.

That leaves Hipkins holding two of the largest ministerial portfolios, including the one most directly involved with dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Northcote College announcement comes after the Government also today opened an urgent response fund to support schools and early learning services to get children and young people back on track after the Covid-19 lockdown.

Ministry of Education data showed attendance rates in schools sat at about 85 per cent, and 50 per cent in early childhood education centres.

Advertisement

Schools will be able to get additional resources such as more teacher-aide hours to work with students at risk, funding for home-visits including for people with a history of poor attendance, and social workers to work with refugee families as part of the $52m Urgent Response Fund.

A further $16m would go to workplace assistance and counselling support services for the education workforce and their families benefiting 10,000 additional teachers and other school staff by 2022.