Northland leaders are cautiously optimistic Budget 2020 will benefit the hardest-hit sectors of the economy, but say the benefits should trickle into the region.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced $50 billion more for the Covid-19 response plan in a bid to save almost 140,000 jobs nationwide.
• Budget 2020: Budget at a glance - the big Covid 19 package and how hard has it hit
• Budget 2020: Live - What's in store and what we know so far
• Budget 2020: Live: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Covid 19 recovery and Govt's $50b response: 'It will be painful'
• Budget 2020: Government's Covid 19 wage subsidy scheme extended by 8 weeks, now up to $14b
About $16 billion of that is a jobs package, including a further wage subsidies package and infrastructure boost.
Other big-ticket items include an eight-week extension of the wage subsidy scheme to cost the Government $3.2b, an extra $3b for new infrastructure projects including building 8000 state and social houses, and $400 million in the Tourism Recovery Fund.
A further $3.3b has been set aside for health and education, $1.6m for a free trades training and apprentice package, $1.2b for rail, and $900m for Maori.
Northland Inc chief executive Murray Reade said the $50 billion was a "good chunk of money".
"It appears the Government is living up to what they said they'd do. It's big-picture stuff, but the devil will be in the detail.
"We'll be asking, how does it translate to the region and how we can deliver projects on the ground?
"Now we need to work with Government to see exactly within those broad categories, where that funding is going to land."
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Reade said "we need to be mindful" of Māori economic development, which was important given higher Māori unemployment rates in Northland.
Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stephen Smith said he hoped the region got its fair share of shovel-ready projects covered under the Budget, as that would help recruit and retain jobs in the local economy.
"There has been a lot of criticism of local government for the sheer volume of projects that have leaked outside the region. The Government has done what it could in the Budget and it has been a pretty reasonable effort but we must get the multiplier effect and capture the value of benefit to Northland."
On job creation, Smith said he hoped people were steered towards vocational training and other forms of upskilling rather than recruiting them for lower-paid jobs.
The Northland District Health Board has welcomed a record investment in DHBs of nearly $4b, including additional funding to deliver about 153,000 more surgeries and procedures, radiology scans and specialist appointments to help clear the Covid-19 backlog.
Northland DHB chief executive Dr Nick Chamberlain said the Budget allocation looked promising for the region financially.
"As the largest employer and funder in Northland, we will be able to contribute significantly to our local economy, and it will also allow us to continue to lift the health of Northlanders, particularly those that are disadvantaged.
"The investment in an effective, well-resourced public health system have proven to be hugely beneficial over the past months, and this Budget recognises this," he said.
Northland Housing Forum convener Tim Howard said the construction of 8000 state and social houses was a step in the right direction but questioned an absence of welfare support.
"I haven't seen a strong indication of capital expenditure provided to social housing providers and that side has been seriously lagging in the last five years. Other social housing initiatives like rent-to-buy need to be ramped up as well," he said.
Apart from the $220m expansion of the school lunches initiative, Howard said, targeted assistance towards the care for the most vulnerable was sadly lacking in the Budget.
Meanwhile, Kaipara Mayor Jason Smith said it was a budget with "very large numbers with few specifics".
He said he was concerned about rising unemployment after hearing it was set to peak at 8.3 per cent by June next year and 7.5 per cent the year after.
"We know Northland's unemployment is higher than the national average and that's a concern. We know Maori are proportionally vulnerable as are youth. So, there's a very long tail on this for Northland."
Smith expected further announcements in the coming days to reveal more detail but was particularly happy that Kaipara catchment got a mention in yesterday's announcement concerning the $1b environmental jobs fund.
Northland Regional Council chairwoman Penny Smart said the Budget sounded positive for Northland and was also encouraged that Kaipara was mentioned in the announcement.
She was hopeful some of Northland's infrastructure deficits could now be addressed and said support for businesses with the extension of the wage subsidy scheme was "a big relief".
"It's a win-win for Northland, environmentally and employment wise, hopefully. The extent will be in the detail."
Far North Mayor John Carter said the Budget was "sensible to ensure there is economic churn to allow our business communities to rejuvenate themselves over time".
"The challenge we have, is ensuring we have job opportunities both at a business level and at an individual level to ensure people can earn an income."
Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai said that, though light on specifics, it was an "appropriate budget to respond to Covid".
"I was rapt to see the extension to the wage subsidy scheme for businesses struggling to pay their people."
Mai was also pleased with the financial spread between health, education, infrastructure, housing and the environment.
"Northland will do well once we get to the granularity of the Budget. I can see many jobs being created as a result which will be fabulous for Northland."
Northland MP Matt King said the Budget involved "a lot of spend and not a lot of plan".
"I recognise we have to borrow some to get ourselves out of it, but I see a lot of money being borrowed.
"It's basically mortgaging our kids to the tune of $80,000 per household.
"We've got negative growth, we've got massive debt, lots of borrowing and lots of spending. It's looking like a very scary future for us and I don't see their plan."
Whangārei MP Shane Reti was also sceptical of the 'blank-cheque Budget' saying there were still many unknowns, particularly in relation to the $20b yet to be allocated.
"Is that an election slush fund; it could be money held off to buy votes later in the year."
Reti was pleased to see the wage subsidy scheme extended, and would be lobbying to make sure Northland gets its fair share of the tourism spend.
Reti also hoped to contest for a chunk of the infrastructure money, including for water storage, local government projects and starting the four-lane highway between Whangārei and Auckland.
"What's really disappointing is the $276m for management of the mega polytechnic and vocational reforms. That's a lot of money to go into management and not students."
Meanwhile, one of the main features for schools in the Government's Budget was a major expansion of the free and healthy school lunch programme which would lead to 200,000 more children getting a free lunch every school day, and create about 2000 more jobs.
Myles Ferris, principal of Te Kura o Otangarei in Whangārei, said he not only hoped that programme would be rolled out in Northland now, but expected it.
"I think we need to demand it. Northland and Tai Rawhiti are the two areas that are the most socio-economically deprived in the country and the stats are very, very clear. Those are the areas that need to be targeted next.
"This programme is about having structured, health, nutritious hot lunches and I think what that will do, if we can put it into schools like mine, it will provide a lot better structure for our tamariki and the expectation is that they will get a hot meal. For many of our kids that's the only hot meal they get that day," he said.
Ferris was happy to see $200m of funding for Te Kōhanga Reo but said that, in terms of help in the compulsory education sector, it was "pretty blank and pretty bare".
Mere Mangu, chairwoman of Te Rūnanga-Ā-Iwi-O-Ngāpuhi, said she was sceptical of the 2020 Budget and what was in it for Māori.
The Government's $900m investment for Māori includes the establishment of a $50m Māori trades training fund, which is part of a wider Māori Employment Package of more than $200m; $136m for Whānau Ora; an extra $200m for Te Kōhanga Reo, an extra $11m specifically targeted at Māori non-government organisations; and $4m for the Waitangi National Trust.
Mangu said it was hard for her to judge the Budget and wanted to see more details.
"I am sceptical because I would like to think they had a plan for the North, but we've got a meal coming from different directions and lets race to the kit and see who gets the most out of it.
"I like the fact they're taking these things into consideration."