Government policies kick in tomorrow for first-home buyers, pensioners and parents.

Larger subsidies for first-home buyers and extended paid parental leave are among a raft of Government changes which kick in tomorrow.

April 1 is the implementation date for adjustments to benefits, student allowances, superannuation and also some new policies, including National's HomeStart programme.

KiwiSaver grants for first-home buyers on modest incomes will be doubled if the property is a new build. This means an Auckland couple earning less than $120,000 who have been contributing to KiwiSaver for five years will be entitled to a $20,000 grant, as long as the property is below the cap of $550,000.

Paid parental leave will be increased from 14 weeks to 16 weeks and the parental tax credit will rise from $150 to $220.


Welfare payments for 440,000 New Zealanders will rise by 0.51 per cent, in line with the increased cost of living. Student allowances and accommodation subsidies will rise by the same amount.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley confirmed last month that pensions would rise by slightly more - 2 per cent - because of the Government's commitment to keeping the superannuation rate for a married couple at 66 per cent of New Zealand's average wage.

Labour's finance spokesman, Grant Robertson, said most of the changes amounted to "tinkering" and would not provide real relief for New Zealanders.

"On the HomeStart changes, the Government's own officials said that they were at best tentatively positive. While it might it help some home buyers it doesn't do anything in the face of such a huge crisis in the housing sector."

He said the increases in benefits - less than $2 a week for many - were paltry when increases in rental prices were taken into account.

NZ Students' Association president Rory McCourt said the 90c increase to students' accommodation supplement was "piddly" and "completely out of whack" with changes to the cost of living.

"It is nowhere near enough to cover students' rent rises, especially in places like Auckland or Christchurch, but even in places like Palmerston North and Gisborne, or in Hamilton, where rent is going up $3.

"Students have always been poor. The difference now is that students can't borrow enough to live and housing costs are swallowing up an increasing amount of a student's income."


Special report: Increase in paid parental leave the first step