National will spend $1 billion from asset sales on "modernising and transforming" New Zealand schools over the next five years, John Key says.
In an election campaign launch interrrupted by Poverty Action Group protesters in Auckland, Key said National stands for a "prosperous, safe and ambitious New Zealand where all Kiwis have the opportunities to get ahead under their own steam, no matter where they are born or what their parents do."
He said: "National is committed to investing more in our kids to build that brighter future".
Selling up to 49% of Air New Zealand and the four energy companies is controversial and National is trying sweeten the policy by explaining how it would use the money, said ONE News political editor Guyon Espiner.
ONE News will host the first televised debate of the campaign between National leader John Key and Labour leader Phil Goff tomorrow. The debate begins at 7pm and will be held in front of an audience.
Key said a National-led Government will use the $5-$7 billion proceeds of the "mixed-ownership model" for state assets to set up a Future Investment Fund to buy new productive infrastructure for New Zealanders.
The first priority will be putting $1 billion into modernising and transforming New Zealand schools over the next five years, the National leader said.
"The environment in which teachers teach, and kids learn, is hugely important to their future. We want New Zealand children studying in modern classrooms that meet their learning needs and let them use the most up-to-date technology.
"That's a crucial component in lifting achievement, which in turn is vital to building a faster growing economy with more exports and more real jobs."
Key said as things stand now, the existing money for school building projects will be needed simply to maintain the existing school network and to help address health and safety issues like earthquake proofing and leaky buildings.
"The mixed ownership model will allow us to increase the total amount spent on school building projects each year by more than 50%, without extra borrowing."
As well as schools, the Fund will be used to pay for high quality projects like major hospital redevelopments and transport projects, he said. More projects would be confirmed as decisions are made.
"We will be very transparent about the proceeds that go into the Future Investment Fund and very transparent about what assets it is used for.
"In this way the public can be assured that the proceeds of mixed ownership are not being lost. Far from it - the money we raise from mixed ownership is being used, in its entirety, to pay for valuable new assets that will benefit New Zealanders.
"And because we will have the money already there in a Fund, we don't need to go out and borrow that money from overseas lenders, increase our debt, and pay higher interest payments offshore. That's a win-win for New Zealanders," Key said.
Labour leader Phil Goff says it makes no sense to lose half the dividends which come in from the five state owned companies.
"The nearly billion dollars that comes back from those assets each year are already used to pay for the cost of health services and schooling. Once you've sold the assets they've gone. It's a dumb idea, Goff said.
The Greens are also unconvinced by National's plan.
"We need to keep our state owned assets. And we can use them to drive innovation and renewable energy technologies which is a trillion dollar global market that New Zealand can get a piece of," said Metiria Turei, Green Party Co-leader.
But National says the investment in new assets makes the asset sales worthwhile.
"We would rather as a Government own 51% of Meridian and have a world class educational facilities for our 800,000 youngsters than we would to own 100% of it," Key said.
Polling has showed voters are worried about the asset sales policy and National hopes linking it with health and education spending will increase its appeal, Espiner said.