When Finance Minister Bill English rolls out this National Government's first budget on Thursday, a man who has been involved in their production spanning four decades will have completed his last.

Denis Healey has worked at Petone-based Printlink for most of his life and agreed to stick around long enough to see out one final budget.

"I did a trade here as a compositor, probably in the early 70s, and was type-setting the budget. In those days more than one person did it. It was hot metal then.

"After that I remember copy supervising it and putting it into the company style," he said.

Now Mr Healey works as account manager and the budget arrives on a disc.

He said the number of copies made was decreasing, with around 2000 planned for this year.

"Ultimately I would imagine it would all end up on the internet. Each year the quantity comes down a wee bit, it's just creeping down."

Security is tight at budget time, with guards brought in during the print run, swipe cards for every door and 'embargo bins' for discarded pages which are off-limits to cleaners.

However, budgets contain fewer surprises to tempt prying eyes these days, as politicians announce highlights before the official release.

"In the old days, and I'm going back 20 or 30 years, it was sort of 'it's budget time, you better get out and fill your car up, buy your grog and fill your fags'," Mr Healey said.

The runs generally go smoothly, but last minute alterations have been needed some years.

"We've had two or three doozies where we've had to rip a page out and put another one in. Where there's been a terrible spelling error or a comma or point in some money figure that could be really embarrassing."

He said the document was always proofed by Treasury staff to prevent errors making it into the final version.

While he's not sure exactly how many budgets have carried his fingerprints, Mr Healey is confident he won't be working on the next one.

"I'm getting to super age now and it's the right time for me to go, so my wife and I decided we're going to pack in our jobs and do a bit of travelling."

- NZPA