The New Zealand government has announced a mini-budget, setting the stage for a pre-Christmas public sector carve-up.
Finance Minister Nicola Willis said she had found "fiscal cliffs" and other surprises in the government's books since inheriting the job last week and warned of a multi-billion dollar blowout.
"I am concerned by the scale of the financial challenges left to us by the outgoing government," she said in Wellington on Monday.
"I have been surprised by the sheer number of government policy programs for which funding was due to expire.
"Risks that were referred to in the pre-election update but the true scale and urgency were not made clear ... some of those risks are now upon us and they are much larger than had been suggested."
The mini-budget will be delivered on December 20
While she withheld details, Ms Willis said Treasury had advised the total shortcomings could be "many billions" of dollars across the forecast period of four years.
Ms Willis is deputy leader of the National party which won the October 14 election, taking office last week after negotiating a coalition with the libertarian ACT and populist NZ First parties.
The mini-budget will fund some of the promises that the coalition agreed to during its negotiations, set out the government's overall fiscal approach, and, according to Ms Willis, "set out a range of new practices" to "restore fiscal discipline".
That's code for cuts to Labour government programs and the public service.
All three coalition parties campaigned on public sector cuts and Ms Willis said all three remained "resolute in their commitment to getting better value for taxpayer funds".
"We must put New Zealand on a firmer financial footing and this will require a much more disciplined approach to government spending decisions than has been the case in recent years," she said.
National campaigned on a 6.5 per cent cut to the public service, which is likely to translate to thousands of jobs.
The prior finance minister, Labour's Grant Robertson, called a snap press conference immediately after Ms Willis' announcement to respond to her claims of budgetary impropriety.
"How could we be hiding something that's literally in this document?" he said, shaking a copy of his last budget.
"Of the time I've been around, governments have used different types of funding - some funding gets base-lined, some becomes short-term time-limited funding, some of it is for a specific project and then it lapses.
"All of that is normal practice.
"This is a desperate diversion."
Ms Willis also foreshadowed amendments to the Public Finance Act on December 20 so "future governments are more upfront" about the fiscal state of government books.
She said Mr Robertson had followed the "letter of the law but not its spirit".
Prime Minister Chris Luxon was adamant the state of the books would not stop the government from delivering on its signature budget promise - income tax relief.
Australian Associated Press