PM promises funding for Auckland - but the city has to decide what it wants

Reported by: Denise Piper

Prime Minister Bill English has promised funding for Auckland's infrastructure, as long as the rapidly-growing city can decide what its priorities are.

Speaking to about 250 business people at an event hosted by Business North Harbour on Tuesday, English outlined the Government's plans to tackle big issues facing New Zealand.

New Zealand faced the "right sort of problems" of having to invest in infrastructure to cope with growth, he said.

Central Government was working closer with Auckland Council than ever before, agreeing to share the funding for things like the City Rail Link, English said.

It was up to Auckland to decide what its priorities were for infrastructure, he said. 

"Money is not really a constraint. The government is in a position, as long as Auckland is doing it's bit, we're willing to supplement work to a greater extent than any other city."

English gave the example of $1 billion funding that the Government had set aside for housing infrastructure in Auckland. Auckland had to decide where best to invest this money to create areas for new housing, he said.

"We said to the council 'show us the projects that could happen sooner if you had the money'." Auckland Council was thinking about a response, he said.

English said New Zealand was in a uniquely positive in the western world due to its low unemployment, low government debt, rising government surplus and stable government, he said.

But he admitted New Zealand faced some challenges, including the risks to China's economy and whether President Donald Trump could meet the expectations he had created in the US for tax cuts and increased infrastructure spending.

English said increased tariffs in US would be bad "for everyone" including US consumers.

But he said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who is in New Zealand, had been positive about Chinese-US relations.

"This is not because they love each other but, as he understands better than anyone else because he's an economics expert, their economies are interdependent; they need each other."

English also talked about using government money more efficiently and business-like, including investing in children's education.

He spoke of his visit earlier on Tuesday to Paremoremo Prison, and lamented how different the lives of the prisoners would be had they learned to read and write at an early age.

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