Bill English says $1b region fund is 'pathetic'

Amy Diamond, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thursday, 23 November 2017, 10:26a.m.

Bill English made his first visit to Tauranga on Wendnesday as Leader of Opposition and slammed the Government's new $1 billion Regional Development Fund.

More than 200 people packed into the Tauranga Yacht Club to hear the leader of the National Party reflect on the election and speak about how the party plans to keep the Government accountable.

English said the Government's $1b a year Regional Development Fund was "pathetic".

"This huge fund, I can tell you, is going to waste the time of your local council and economic development people for years now.

"It's a bit pathetic to see the sheer enjoyment of our government ministers who are sitting there with their billion-dollar bag of lollies watch everyone line up and waiting to be the Father Christmases who hand it out."

English said instead of trying to find ways to spend the fund, Tauranga needed to focus on transport.

"What you need here in Tauranga is to continue with the roading programme that [former Transport Minister] Simon Bridges outlined. As of now that is quite uncertain." 

English said he had heard "various things" in the new Government saying they would not build any more roads.

"You may be able to get a commuter train to Auckland but you won't be able to drive 15 miles out of town without getting caught in the traffic," English said.

Bridges, who is also Tauranga's MP, said transport was still of high importance to the area but said he was "worried" about some roading projects.

"We will hold the Government to account because we do need the Tauranga Northern Link right out through to Katikati, given the safety issues and efficiency issues that are incredibly important for this area."

Labour list MP Jan Tinetti said she had received "good feedback" about the Regional Development Fund.

"It is an exciting fund, people who have contacted me about it locally and regionally are interested in it."

Labour list MP Angie Warren-Clark did not want to comment.

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