10 Broken Budget Promises

Labour is big on promises but short on delivery. Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s Budget Day speeches make for sobering reading when it comes to the scale of failure to deliver under Labour.

Here are just a few examples from Labour’s previous Budgets:


Labour promised KiwiBuild in 2017’s ‘mini-Budget’ with a $2.1 billion allocation to get it started. The scheme was supposed to build 16,000 houses in its first three years and 100,000 over ten. In reality Labour has delivered just 871 KiwiBuild houses and scrapped the targets promised to New Zealanders.

Stuff projected last year that, at its rate of construction at the time, KiwiBuild would take more than 400 years to reach its target.

KiwiBuild – Labour’s flagship policy – has become the biggest public policy failure in New Zealand history.


Robertson also used the 2017 mini-Budget to describe Labour’s ‘fees free’ policy as:

“one of the most transformative policies for the productivity of the New Zealand economy that we will see in many, many years.”

Despite being what Labour described as one of the most transformative policies ever, fees-free attracted less than two thirds of its projected student numbers and Labour dumped the promised extension of the scheme last year.


While these days Labour might like to blame the murky Provincial Growth Fund on former coalition partners, Grant Robertson was pretty glowing when he was allocating funding to it as Minister of Finance.

In 2017’s mini-Budget debate, he went as far as to say:

“When we look at the criteria in that Provincial Growth Fund, it says everything about what I want this Government to be marked out for.”

This is the same Provincial Growth Fund criticised by the Auditor-General for having vague criteria that often wasn’t met by projects it funded.

Labour went on to axe the Fund but not before spending $100 million on a marae upgrade programme promised to create more than 3000 jobs. With half the money spent, it has created just 158.


Grant Robertson made sure to use his Budget 2018 speech to trumpet Labour fulfilling its promise to “stop the state house sell-off.”

The only problem? It didn’t.

Newshub reported just last month that Labour has sold or demolished almost 2000 state houses since Robertson’s speech and the number of state houses managed by Kāinga Ora has actually fallen.


Robertson also used his Budget 2018 speech to announce funding for Labour’s Chief Technology Officer. Labour said the Chief Technology Officer would play a ‘key role in our technology future’ and develop a ‘digital strategy for New Zealand.’

The recruitment process turned into a massive trainwreck and the Government ended up dumping the whole thing, failing to deliver on yet another promise.


Budget 2018 also saw Robertson claim the Government wants to be “a leader in urgently reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases.”

In the year following Robertson’s speech, emissions increased by 2 per cent and last year, New Zealand imported more coal than in any year since 2006.


Robertson set aside $100 million in 2018 for the Green Investment Fund which he said would “kickstart investment in assets and technology to reduce carbon emissions.”

17 months later, the Fund had not invested a single cent.


Jacinda Ardern has described child poverty as the reason why she got into politics. Grant Robertson has also mentioned the issue in his Budget Day speeches, including the various measures and targets Labour will use to hold itself accountable.

In his Budget 2019 speech, Robertson reaffirmed the Government’s promise to halve child poverty over 10 years, a back-down in itself given Labour promised Kiwis it would lift 100,000 children out of poverty by 2020. This original promise would have been a 63 per cent reduction over three years.

Using the same measure Ardern based her promise on, her Government has actually overseen an increase of 1,500 children living in poverty between 2017 and 2020 according to official Stats NZ child poverty data.

Promised a 100,000 reduction. Delivered a 1,500 increase.


Grant Robertson stated in his Budget 2019 speech that “it is time to finally take mental health seriously” and said “the investment in our mental health priority is worth $1.9 billion.”

Despite this, a report from The Guardian notes mental health outcomes have worsened under Labour. And Stuff revealed in April that the Government had underspent on several mental health initiatives announced in 2019 and “had not yet spent a single dollar of a $25m fund for student mental health announced in 2020.”

A lot of promises, not much delivery.


Labour has failed to deliver on pretty much every infrastructure promise it has made. Don’t forget Jacinda Ardern’s first major announcement as Labour Leader: that she would build light rail from Auckland’s CBD to Mount Roskill by 2021 and that she would start it “straight away.”

It is now 2021 and not one centimetre of light rail has been built.

The Finance Minister used his Budget 2020 speech to refer back to the “significant start” Labour had made on infrastructure with the $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme announced a few months before.

The Programme included several of the roading projects that were underway under National and cancelled or delayed by Labour.

But now that the election is out of the way, Labour is refusing to say if these projects will even go ahead.

Like Labour’s other budgets, this year’s is full of more promises to deliver ‘transformative’ policies that won’t be delivered.