Education Minister Chris Hipkins is struggling to keep up with his ever-changing story about so-called funding ‘holes’ in the Christchurch schools rebuild programme, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Last week, Mr Hipkins told The Press newspaper that he only found out in October last year that the Christchurch schools rebuild programme was funded through tranches and that there was further funding required in the programme.
“This week, he is denying he ever said it despite the story reporting his assertions that there was a $215 million ‘hole’ in the programme.
“What’s clear is that Labour’s story is rapidly changing and that it failed to account for some business-as-usual spending and existing programmes like the Christchurch schools rebuild.
“Mr Hipkins has realised it is not credible to claim he didn’t know that the Christchurch schools rebuild programme was being appropriated in tranches over successive years – there were Cabinet papers, business papers, press releases, and news stories explaining this approach.
“He now appears to be backing down, admitting that he knew about the tranche funding for the rebuild – even stating today in Parliament that he believes Labour accounted for this in its pre-election costings.
“But the fact is, there was no line item for the rest of the Christchurch schools rebuild programme in Labour’s Fiscal Plan.
“Labour has previously manufactured ‘holes’ by labelling spending for business-as-usual or existing programmes as such, so now we have this farcical situation where Labour’s own policies, that it claims to have costed, are ‘holes’.
“Mr Hipkins has a bit of digging to do to get himself out of this one.”