By Matt Cowley
This week's Budget announcement is shaping up to be something extraordinary. It will complete a busy week of announcements after the Government's decision on entering level 2 restrictions and the Reserve Bank monetary policy statements.
This is all in the looming shadow of the election, which is just four months from now.
The enduring legacy from the Covid-19 pandemic should be the intergenerational infrastructure that will be funded over the next five years.
The Government raised expectations by calling for infrastructure projects across the country; it received applications totalling $100 billion.
There are a number of worthy local projects that are set to go upon funding. I would like to see the Government take a balanced approach to making its infrastructure investment decisions.
Each region should receive some infrastructure funding to inject money into local economies. But there is a risk that the regional lolly-scramble will not achieve long-term goals that would benefit New Zealand strategically.
I would like to see a large portion of funding go towards advancing New Zealand's long-term goals.
For example, the Government was due to make its announcements on the future of the Ports of Auckland this month. If the Government wants to achieve good outcomes for New Zealand, it should be looking at both north and south of the Auckland region.
Infrastructure investment within the golden triangle makes sense on the back of a flourishing relationship between Port of Tauranga and Tainui in the Waikato region. Improving the connectivity between the nation's exporting gateway to the world (Port of Tauranga) with NZ's inland port (Hamilton) should be a focus for both local and central government.
After Priority One's chief executive Nigel Tutt highlighted to me the city's significantly low proportion of public housing stock compared with other areas, I too support the Government's investment in social housing stock locally. It would boost the construction sector and provide more affordable housing supply.
Small businesses would benefit from better financing options for paying business tax. Provisional tax obligations can be a big hurdle for small businesses after the Government's restrictions have reduced their trading. There should be some hardship payment options for provisional tax that is similar to local government rates deferral options.
I applaud Finance Minister Grant Robertson for his quick approach to releasing the staff wage subsidy funding to businesses in March. A targeted approach is now required to extend the wage subsidy beyond June 30.
I suggest that the wage subsidy extension is targeted at businesses with fewer than 50 FTEs and those sectors who still have significant restrictions, including tourism and entertainment businesses.
Tauranga's ratepayers will be left with a significant burden if Bay Venues, our largest venue provider, faces enduring restrictions on its gatherings and events.
Given Tauranga's population make-up, I am positive that the region will receive its fair share of health spending to address the backlog of postponed non-essential surgeries. The local health sector makes up a significant part of the region's economy and it benefits everyone.
Buckle up; this week's series of announcements will (hopefully) be a once in a lifetime experience.
Matt Cowley is the chief executive of the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce.