A $500m package to fast-track road upgrades, build new schools and improve state housing will preserve jobs, Prime Minister John Key said today.
Among the projects announced today is a $32 million Kopu Bridge replacement which was scheduled to start in mid-2011 but will now begin in July. Work on the 480m bridge is estimated to take 18 months.
Other projects to be fast-tracked are the Matahorua Gorge Realignment in Hawkes Bay, the Hawkes Bay Expressway Southern Extension, Muldoon's (Rimutaka Corner Easing) in Wellington and the Christchurch Southern Motorway.
Five new schools will be built: Mt Wellington primary in Auckland, Papamoa primary and secondary in Tauranga, Kerikeri primary in the Far North, and Hingaia primary, near Papakura, in South Auckland.
The projects have a "geographical split" aimed at "getting New Zealanders back to work and into work quickly", Mr Key told reporters.
"The aim of these projects are very much projects the Government wants to complete, wants to complete quickly, they've been brought forward. Many of them are consented.
"I think it's a good first step at making sure that the construction industry, which is suffering badly from the recession, will have extra work on its plate."
He added: "These projects will get under way quickly - in many cases the next few months - and will keep more New Zealanders working as the global economic crisis is felt here."
The projects are expected to soak up some of the skilled tradesmen in the building and construction sector which has been hard hit by the recession.
But Mr Key stressed this was not the Government's only plan for infrastructure.
Further announcements will be made in relation to broadband, housing, roading, schooling, he said.
Two groups predictably happy with the Government's infrastructure spend-up are the Contractors' Federation and the Construction Industry Council, both of which have issued press releases praising the move.
Construction Industry Council chief executive Richard Michael, said the "well thought out" packages for roads, schools, state housing and public projects would stimulate the economy and provide social benefits.
"Extensive thought has clearly gone into spreading this investment widely across the country and this will provide work for contractors of all sizes across the construction industry," said Michael.
He said it would also help New Zealand retain skilled workers. "The wide variety of work planned also provides an excellent opportunity for our experienced workers to pass on their skills to trainees, on site," he said.
"New Zealand's construction industry is ready and able to take on this and future work and we are very pleased that a large proportion of the projects are being fast tracked and will start before June 30 this year."
The Contractors' Federation congratulated the Government on its "timely and positive package" of infrastructure initiatives to stimulate the economy."
"The money is going into the areas where they will get good bang for their buck both in terms of economic return and retaining skilled workers," said Michael - who is also chief executive of the federation.
"The fact that the projects are ready to start immediately is very positive and will further add to the benefits," he said.
Today's announcements include:
* Education - $216.7 million of spending, including five new schools, school refurbishments and maintenance and ICT infrastructure improvements.
* Transport - $142.5 million of spending, spanning five large state highway projects and a programme of smaller, regional roading improvement projects.
* Housing - $124.5 million of spending, allowing Housing New Zealand to upgrade and renovate 10,000 more state houses, and build 69 new state houses over the next six months.
The 94km Waikato Expressway from Mercer to south of Cambridge is not part of the package and will be among the very large infrastructure projects the Government will consider for fast-tracking.
Mr Key did confirm an insulation programme for state houses.
He said on Monday that expanding it to private sector housing was a later possibility. Upgrades of some school properties that have already received planning consent will also be included.
CTU Secretary Peter Conway welcomed the announcement, saying it was important to take advantage of relatively low public debt to invest in infrastructure.
"The investment in schools and housing are exactly what is needed at this time," he said.
However, Mr Conway said there should be more investment in people and the environment.
Finance Minister Bill English said the package would help New Zealand through the economic downturn.
"Infrastructure is an important part of our Jobs and Growth Plan and this is just the first announcement about bringing forward worthwhile projects that will help us through the current economic challenges and contribute to driving up New Zealand's long-term economic competitiveness," Mr English said.
Transport: Five major state highway projects will get an immediate $42.5m boost, with $142.5m worth of funding to be fast-tracked overall.
* Kopu Bridge replacement, SH25 Waikato, $21.7m fast-tracked (total $47m), due to start June; * Motahorua Gorge realignment, SH2 Hawke's Bay, $5.4m fast-tracked (total $40m), due to start October;
* Hawke's Bay Expressway southern extension SH50 (total $50m), due to start October;
* Rimutaka corner easing, SH2 Wellington, $11.7m fast-tracked (total $20m), due to start October;
* Christchurch southern motorway, SH1, $3.7m fast-tracked (total $180m), due to start March 2010.
About $100m will be used for maintenance and renewal work, with $34m to be spent on projects starting before June 30 and the remaining $66m over the following two years.
Housing: $124.5 million to be spent on state housing.
This includes $104.5m to upgrade 10,000 existing state homes over the next 18 months and $20m to build 69 new state homes within six months.
The new four-to-five bedroom state homes will be in:
* West and North Auckland (seven houses at a cost of $2.1m);
* Central Auckland (three houses, $1.1m);
* South Auckland (14 houses, $4.9m);
* Waikato/ Coromandel/ King Country (six houses, $1.1m);
* Bay of Plenty (six houses, $1.6m);
* East Cape/ Hawke's Bay (11 houses, $3.3m);
* Wellington/ Hutt Valley (five houses, $1.5m);
* Canterbury/ Nelson/ Marlborough (10 houses, $2.9m);
* Southern (seven houses, $1.6m).
The renovation money will be used to upgrade houses ($95m) and ensure they are healthy ($9.5m).
The upgrade will include insulation, ventilation, heating, redecoration, kitchen and bathroom upgrades, strengthening and roofing.
Education: $216.7 million to be allocated to schools to accelerate construction and renovation and the role out of broadband.
The projects include:
* $68.7m to build five new schools -- Mt Wellington Primary, Papamoa Primary, Papamoa Secondary, Hingaia Primary and Kerikeri Primary.
* $30m for 64 schools to build new administration buildings, halls and libraries.
* $9m for expanded facilities at special schools and satellite units.
* $34m to upgrade ICT infrastructure at schools to make them broadband-ready.
* $30m to improve four Upper Hutt schools -- Upper Hutt College, Heretaunga College, Fergusson Intermediate and Maidstone Intermediate.
* $11m to replace outdated and rundown buildings in seven schools -- Pt Chevalier School, Manurewa East School, Cambridge High School, Karanui School, Somerfield School, Christchurch South School and Lyttelton Main School.
* $6m to establish a trades academy on Mangere's Southern Cross Campus.
* $28m to help schools accelerate existing building projects that are stalled.
- NZ HERALD STAFF with NZPA