Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Government say they want to make New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child.

So in the "Wellbeing Budget" improving child wellbeing was a major focus.

Social service leaders in Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty have welcomed the move, but say the extra money still needs to reach those working on the frontline in this region.

Budget 2019 allocated more than $1 billion over five years to improving the wellbeing of Kiwi kids, including increasing funding to decile one to seven schools so they do not need to ask for parental donations. This will cost $265.6 million over four years.


Finance Minister Grant Robertson said that amounted to a saving for parents of $150 per pupil per year across 1700 schools, benefiting half a million schoolchildren.

Another key initiative was indexing benefits to increases in the average wage (instead of inflation) and removing punitive sanctions.

This is expected to put up to $17 extra every week into beneficiaries' pockets by 2023 and is estimated to lift the income of almost 340,000 people. The policy will cost $320.2m over four years.

Today's Budget was also the first to report on child poverty reduction.

Tommy Wilson, from Tauranga's Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust, said Budget 2019 was a budget "for the people who need it the most".

He was encouraged by what he saw, but the big question was: Will the money get past the gatekeepers, the likes of Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Children), the Ministry of Social Development and Whanau Ora.

"It's going to be up to them to make sure the resources get to the frontline."

Tommy Wilson from Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust. Photo / File
Tommy Wilson from Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust. Photo / File

Wilson said he, like other local organisations, will be taking the Government to task to ensure the new funding reached those working on the ground in Bay of Plenty communities.


Another big Budget initiative was a $320 million package across four years that will pay for five initiatives to combat family and sexual violence.

Hazel Hape, the manager of Tauranga Women's Refuge, said domestic violence, child abuse and sexual violence statistics were "appalling" in Tauranga and the Western Bay "and we have a lot of work to do across all levels of society".

"Like many others, I am hopeful that the Budget makes it to frontline communities and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) who are on the ground holding space so children, families, whanau and communities can be well, healthy and thriving."

Liz Davies, general manager of local social sector umbrella organisation SociaLink, said the money allocated to mental health (another big Budget 2019 focus), as well as addictions, housing and Whanau Ora, would also impact children.

"I think they all build on each other to help support child wellbeing."

She said her organisation's main concern was local social service agencies not receiving any funding increases for years, despite dealing with an increasing population and more complex cases and becoming "more and more stretched".

Liz Davies, general manager of SociaLink. Photo / File
Liz Davies, general manager of SociaLink. Photo / File

Davies said SociaLink had done research around waiting lists in Tauranga and found some people were waiting weeks, months, or even years to access services.

"It's often kids who are desperately needing services that just aren't being seen."

Ardern, who is also the minister in charge of reducing child poverty, said today that evidence showed children in poverty were more likely to get sick, leave school without a qualification, sometimes struggle to get food, and fall through the cracks.

"We know that to improve New Zealanders' wellbeing, so much depends on the early years," she said.

"Improving outcomes for our children is central to the objectives of the coalition Government and is at the heart of this Wellbeing Budget."

Other Budget 2019 highlights


•Money for homeless – Some $200m over four years has been provided to tackling chronic homelessness to provide a "wraparound" service.
•Transition Support Service – $153.7m over four years to support young people to transition from the care system to independence.
•Ethnic communities – $9.4m has been made available over four years to promoting social cohesion in ethnic communities.
•Transitional housing – $283.3m in capital and operating investment to increase the supply of long-term and relocatable transitional housing places to approximately 2800, and provide support services.