A month after Treasury warned that the Government was set to record a deficit, the Crown accounts for the first five months of the year are unexpectedly in surplus.

Today, Treasury released the financial statements for the New Zealand Government, showing a $129 million surplus in the operating balance before gains and losses for the five months to November 30.

The result was significantly better than expected, with December's half-year update forecasting that for the period the accounts would be in deficit by more than $500m.

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Treasury said core tax revenue, at $35.7 billion, was $300m ahead of forecast, around a third of which was likely due to timing of income from customs and excise duties.

Spending was about $200m below forecast at $37.9b, which Treasury said was also likely to be because of timing issues.

In his first two years as Finance Minister, Grant Robertson posted two huge surpluses, significantly ahead of Treasury's expectations.

While tax revenue has been running considerably ahead of expectations, in part the surpluses were due to delays in spending, as major projects faced significant delays.

"While the month by month results do tend to fluctuate due to tax timing changes, it is pleasing to see this positive result," Robertson said in a statement.

"The surplus and low levels of debt show the fundamentals of the New Zealand economy remain strong."

At the half-year update, Robertson signalled that the Government was increasing infrastructure spending by $12b. The Finance Minister said today that specific projects would be announced soon.

Net core Crown debt was $61.7b at the end of November, equivalent to 20.1 per cent of gross domestic product.


Total borrowings were $119.7b, $1.0b higher than Treasury had forecast, primarily due to additional borrowings by Kāinga Ora, the government agency which replaced Housing New Zealand.