National's school plan 'dressed up' policy

The Government is dressing up a "business as usual" announcement as an election policy, Opposition politicians say.

Labour Party leader David Cunliffe said the National Party's $350 million announcement to build new schools and classrooms in Auckland was an old plan "dressed up" as an election policy.

"As someone who is in the Western Springs zone, I can tell you that that project has been well known for many years," he said on TV3's Firstline this morning.

"In fact they've ceased maintaining the old school, apart from the bare essentials, because everyone knows they're working on building a new one."

Labour would make the same investments if elected, as it was "business-as-usual, baseline capital investment for any government," he said.

"The National Party is simply re-announcing something that is already being done, as somehow being National Party policy, it's ridiculous," he said.

Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye said the $350m extra funding would come from a mixture of the Future Investment Fund and existing baselines, including possible public-private partnerships already used successfully in Auckland.

Cunliffe said public-private partnerships were the "trick" of the announcement.

"Now this is creeping privatisation of the education system - there is no economic case for it, there is not enough risk to be managed in a school to justify the higher private cost of capital," he said.

"New Zealanders should be very worried about privatisation by stealth in the education system buried in the fine print of a business-as-usual announcement."

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the National Party had no new ideas, and it was "misleading" to announce something as new when it was essentially core government business.

"The Government would have had to build these schools, and I understand at least two or three of them had already been pre-announced," Turei said on Radio New Zealand's Morning Report.

Kaye said yesterday the announcement was getting ahead of projected growth in the region, which would place increased demand on school networks.