WHAT’S IN THE NEW ZEALAND BUDGET?
On Thursday, Finance Minister Grant Robertson delivered the first budget of Jacinda Ardern’s second term in government. Mr Robertson has called it a “recovery budget” in the wake of the worst of COVID-19.
There’s $NZ3.8 billion in new spending next year, and $15.1 billion over the next four years in new spending. Mr Robertson says these figures strike the right balance between the need to stimulate and keep a lid on debt. New Zealand hits peak debt in 2023/24 – before Australia and at a lower level than Australia.
THE SAFETY NET
The biggest headline is a $NZ3.6 billion injection into social security over the next four years. Beneficiaries will see a $NZ20 weekly increase to their support from July 1, with additional support to flow next year. The changes come 30 years from the “Mother of all Budgets” delivered by a National government which took an axe to benefits and introduced free-market policies. Mr Robertson said the increases “right the wrongs of 30 years ago, and give each and every New Zealander hope and dignity”.
ANOTHER SAFETY NET
Perhaps one of the biggest announcement was one without funding attached. New Zealand is to introduce a social unemployment insurance scheme, which will provide laid-off workers with a percentage of their salary while they train and find new work.
HEALTH GETS ANOTHER JAB
Health spending has skyrocketed under Ms Ardern. This budget hands regional health bodies an extra $NZ675million each year, but an annual boost to Pharmac of just $NZ50 million has been interpreted as a snub. Health Minister Andrew Little says next year’s health budget of $NZ24 billion is a boost of 45 per cent from the year Labour took office.
MORE, WARMER, MORE AFFORDABLE HOMES
An already-announced $NZ3.8 billion housing package aims to get more houses built quickly to ease New Zealand’s housing shortfall. Treasury estimates the package will cool the market from around 25 per cent annual growth to just one per cent next year – many are skeptical. There’s also $NZ120 million to insulate and retrofit notoriously dodgy housing stock.
A $NZ306 million redevelopment of Scott Base in Antarctica was a surprising announcement but Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta says it overdue after 40 years without a do-up. “Our presence in Antarctica secures peace and stability in the region but also contributes to our science and conservation aspirations,” Ms Mahuta said. A peak of 170 jobs will be created, mostly in Christchurch, New Zealand’s gateway to Antarctica.
REFORMS, REFORMS, REFORMS
The government’s reform agenda has been bolstered with a number of major investments. There’s half a billion towards setting up a new national health system, $NZ296 million to establish three new regional freshwater bodies, and $NZ132 million towards planning reform.
TERROR ROYAL COMMISSION
As well as an extra $NZ7 million dollars to house the Christchurch Mosques terrorist in the ‘Prisoners of Extreme Risk’ Unit, there’s more than $NZ10 million to oversight and implementation bodies created after the Royal Commission.