Labour will kick off its election year Congress today by promising an upgrade programme for ageing school buildings to ensure all schools have modern facilities by 2030.

It is understood education spokesman Chris Hipkins will announce the policy at Labour's Congress in Wellington, including developing a 15-year plan for upgrading school buildings and to account for expected population bulges due to a "baby boom" from 2007 to 2012. It is anticipating the age of most schools will mean government having to spend hundreds of millions a year on school buildings.

Labour is expected to announce a further education policy tomorrow - tipped to be laptops or iPads for all students.

Mr Hipkins is expected to point to the Ministry of Education's finding that more than half of the country's 2300 schools need some upgrading to allow effective use of technology.


Prime Minister John Key used his campaign launch in 2011 to announce National's school building programme, a five-year programme which also promised to deliver technology and "flexible teaching spaces" using $1 billion from the proceeds of asset sales.

After a boot camp for candidates today, Labour's conference will move to the Michael Fowler Centre tomorrow.

Labour's counter to National's "Team Key" and "Working for New Zealand" slogans will be revealed tomorrow.

Leader David Cunliffe said Labour would not follow the National Party.

"The Nats are trying to make it all about their leader. We're trying to make it all about our policy and our team, and most of all about New Zealanders. It's not going to be about cult of personality, I'm there to do a service job for Kiwis and that's what I'll be trying to present."

It is effectively an admission Mr Cunliffe cannot beat Mr Key on personal popularity given his position in the polls. However, the party will not go as far as it did in 2008 when it did not have photos of its then leader Phil Goff on its billboards at all.

5 Jul, 2014 9:00am
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Mr Cunliffe will deliver his speech to the conference of Labour faithful tomorrow, and is expected to focus on his background and what has driven him and his values. Mr Cunliffe said his message to delegates at Labour's election Congress will be that the party still has a chance of winning despite the polls, which have Labour's left/centre bloc about seven points behind National's.

Mr Cunliffe is likely to escape strong criticism for his performance as leader and the polls, given it was the strong support from the party membership that elected him into the role. He said his message to delegates would be that Labour could still win "and we are going to do it with a combination of strong values, positive policies and really good organisation on the ground".

Speaking to members yesterday, party strategist Rob Salmond said on the rolling average of the polls, the centre/left group of parties was seven points behind the current Government bloc but a four-point swing from one to the other would be enough to get it in.