Finance Minister Bill English has paid tribute to frontline public servants for helping to get the Government books back in surplus for the first time in six years.

"It has been quite a challenge to get back to surplus but we have had the benefit of tens of thousands of frontline public servants who have worked pretty hard,'' Mr English said this morning at the Petone company where tomorrow's Budget has been printed.

"They have understood that money has been tight but they have provided better services to more New Zealanders through that time. ''

They had been backed up by a Government that was keen to get the books into shape in preparation for a future recession or natural disaster.


It is Mr English's sixth Budget and he said he felt like "a proud father, six children, six budgets."

He said he didn't have a favourite.

The half year fiscal and economic update in December forecast a wafer-thin surplus of $86 million and Mr English confirmed it would still be small.

And the growing surpluses into the future would give New Zealand more choices about how it wanted it spent.

"It will confirm for people it is a Budget from a Government that knows what it is doing for a country that knows where it is going."

He cautioned against expectations that first-home buyers getting any windfall from the Budget and suggested that measures for parents and children would be targeted at need rather being universal.

Commenting on last night's Australian Budget, which imposed tight spending controls in the face of at least four years of deficit, Mr English said it looked like a very ''vigorous budget'' which would cause a lot of political debate in Australia.

"We were going through that phase four or five years ago and it shows the value of us getting back to surplus," he said.


The fact that net migration has slowed and some predicted was headed for zero showed New Zealanders "voting with their feet.''

"That's a vote of confidence in the economy.''

He said New Zealand had copied some the recipe Australia had used in the past "and that is considered and consistent change over time .''

Asked if New Zealand's would still be called ''rock star economy'' after tomorrow's Budget he said it wasn't his description (it was an economist's).

"Consistent growth year after year is really what lifts people's incomes and aspirations. Just turning up on the stage like a rock star - that doesn't work for families.''