Pork barrel regional handouts during election year

Tourism Minister Paula Bennett has thanked Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) for its tourism wish list worth $1.4 billion but rejects that most of these should be funded by Government.

LGNZ yesterday revealed details of a survey commissioned by Tourism Industry Aotearoa, which identified $1.4 billion of local infrastructure projects that might potentially be useful in responding to ongoing tourism growth.

“I absolutely agree that there are some areas of tourism infrastructure that need to be addressed and that some of these will need help from central Government. However, the list the LGNZ has referenced includes things like town halls, council facilities, airport runway extensions, airport upgrades and expressways,” Mrs Bennett says.

“These are either already funded by other areas of Government, are not considered a priority or should be funded by local councils. My priority is to support smaller councils with low rate bases with essential facilities. I am currently working with officials to establish how best to do this.

“Government is working with local councils to help with tourism infrastructure. Today we opened another round of the Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Grant Fund of $5.5 million to help co-fund things traditionally funded by local councils like public toilets, car parking facilities and freedom camping facilities. This comes on top of the $12 million announced in last year?s budget.

The National government has been very successful in getting tourism as well as immigration to boil over, but the regions aren’t keeping up.

Sadly, $5.5m isn’t going to make much of a difference, but you can be assured it will be spent in the most strategic places for the government.

Expect more of these slush fund kind of pork barrel bribes for the regions between now and the election. ?No matter who is in government, this is always what happens.