Robertson has emptied the Covid piggy bank

Confirmation today that the Government has sought authorisation to spend a whopping $41 billion over and above Budget 2021 is proof that the Finance Minister is once again using the cover of Covid-19 to spend taxpayer funds on pet projects that have little to do with New Zealand’s Covid-19 response, National’s Finance spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.

“Last week, in General Debate, I bet a bottle of wine that the Finance Minister would come cap-in-hand asking Parliament for much more money this week than is normally the case in a Second Imprest Supply Bill, but nobody took the bet.

“That’s no surprise given the track record this Government has for bypassing the usual process for appropriating funds and treating taxpayer funds as their own personal slush fund.

“In the last budget period more than $12 billion from the Covid Fund was allocated to projects that had very tenuous links or no links at all to Covid-19. While the projects may or may not have merit, they should have been subject to the normal budget process.”

Examples of that spending include:

  • Three Waters reform
  • Government House Building renovations
  • Funding to Commercialise NZ Music
  • Subsidised Insulation and Heating Refits
  • Strengthening the Family Court
  • Hunting wallabies
  • Cameras on fishing boats
  • Papua New Guinea tattoo practice and revival
  • and a plethora of others that cannot be seriously viewed as Covid-19-related.

“Covid-19 has been used by the Finance Minister as cover for circumventing established practice around new spending. These practices prioritise quality projects and weed out lower quality spending,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“Instead Grant Robertson has thrown out the idea of keeping within Budget Allowances and gone on a spending spree, the likes of which we have never seen before. He just doesn’t seem to be able to stop spending other people’s money.

“Minister Robertson’s financial chickens are now coming home to roost. We know Covid-19 has created the need to support those affected by the various lockdowns, but funding for things like cameras on fishing boats and Papua New Guinea tattoo practice and revival should be put through normal budget scrutiny, not slapped on the Covid fund tab.

“Grant Robertson needs to treat the taxpayers with more respect. The Covid Fund isn’t his own slush fund for the Government’s pet projects. If, as he says, Covid is ‘the rainy day we’ve been planning for’ then he should focus on the effects of the rain, not his pet initiatives.”

You can read an analysis of the supporting information here.