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On a roll, Jacinda Ardern starts election spending spree with schools

On December 11 at the half-yearly economic and fiscal update, the government will release its spending shackles, announcing new projects aimed at stimulating the economy.

New Zealand certainly has the cash to do so. In October, Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced a NZ$7.5 billion surplus – the best fiscal result in a decade.

NZ PM Jacinda Ardern, centre, and delegates in the audience at the Labour Party conference. The party goes to the next election on a high.

NZ PM Jacinda Ardern, centre, and delegates in the audience at the Labour Party conference. The party goes to the next election on a high.Credit:Getty Images

“We have the lowest borrowing costs in New Zealand’s history, so it is time to invest,” Robertson said.

“In terms of where we are in the economic cycle, in terms of the good shape that the Government’s books are in; now is the time to take the next step forward in our legacy of building New Zealand.”

Ardern said she hadn’t visited a state school during her time in office that didn’t need maintenance work.

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“The bonus of focusing first on schools and education is that it will affect every community, every city, every town in New Zealand and have a really positive impact,” she said.

“It’s for those extra things that schools often defer out of desperation, and now we’re giving them a significant boost.”

Ardern’s announcement came at the Royal Whanganui Opera House, a tired but stately centrepiece of the North Island regional city.

She was preceded by a comedian and traditional singing performance, where Maori MPs joined artists on stage.

The mood among the many Labour members, volunteers and supporters was vibrant and celebratory, in line with Ardern’s saintly reputation in the party.

NZ PM Jacinda Ardern, right, with Claire Szabo, the new Labour Party president during the Labour Annual Conference on Saturday.

NZ PM Jacinda Ardern, right, with Claire Szabo, the new Labour Party president during the Labour Annual Conference on Saturday.Credit:Getty Images

The Prime Minister was feted during a half-hour address, enjoying her best reception during a recount of climate change legislative achievements and the new education spending.

A closed-door session focused on “creating a safe and inclusive party” in response to a damaging sexual assault scandal which drew the resignation of previous president Nigel Haworth.

In his place, multi-talented Aucklander Claire Szabo was elected on Saturday to lead the party’s organisational wing in an election year.

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With a war chest to spend, a popular Prime Minister and favourable economic indicators, in a country that doesn’t turf first-term governments – Labour supporters are confidently heading into the poll, expected in Spring 2020.

AAP

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