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Climate funding coming in New Zealand

New Zealand government leaders are relaxed about a lack of new spending to aid a transition to a low-carbon economy in Thursday’s budget.

Among the $NZ50 billion ($A46.4 billion) spending frenzy, there was new money for Defence aircraft, wallaby-killing, ferry-building and weed-pulling.

But look as you might, there was nothing specific for new decarbonisation projects.

Given the Kiwi government’s climate credentials – including the fresh establishment of an independent commission to help meet a lofty zero-carbon target – this was a surprise.

Not to insiders.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pointed to an as-yet-unallocated $NZ3 billion ($A2.78 billion) infrastructure fund.

“Over the coming weeks ministers will be considering projects within that … and look to invest in areas where we have goals going forward like reaching 100 per cent renewable,” she said.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw missed out on big new projects to trumpet from the splash, but expects plenty to come in the third phase of New Zealand’s post-coronavirus strategy.

“The first phase is finding the virus and cushioning the blow so there’s things like the wage subsidy, and health measures that got us through the last seven weeks or so,” he said.

“The second phase is on jobs. And that’s really the phase that we’re in at the moment because we know we are going to see a short term spike in unemployment and that’s why we’re investing directly in jobs.

“The third phase … we have further decisions to make (and) choices that we have to make to spend that stimulus on things that solve for long term challenges.”

The Greens are already claiming one major win; a $NZ1 billion ($A930 million) package of environment-based jobs including land rejuvenation, pest control and conservation projects they say will put 11,000 Kiwis in jobs – though at least some will be short-term.

And on top of Ms Ardern’s infrastructure nod, there’s also $NZ20 billion ($A18.6 billion) left to allocate in the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, which both Mr Shaw’s Greens and fellow government minority partner NZ First will have their eyes on.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, of NZ First, has long-campaigned for the relocation of Auckland’s port to Northland, a vast legacy project for the 74-year-old.

“Watch this space,” he said.

Mr Peters said he wanted the remaining pool of money to help fund a Scandinavianisation of New Zealand’s economy.

“This time we’re going to diversify, be smarter, add value here, have a pathway to wealth export strategies and make more money per person, like the Nordic countries do, like, Iceland does,” he said.

“We need to learn from them and not have some of these outdated political ideology approaches that have never worked anywhere in the world at any time in history.”

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