It's official. The surplus has been delayed for a year.

Finance Minister Bill English confirmed yesterday that the first surplus the country can expect since 2008 has been adjusted to 2015-16, not the current year.

It was evident in the half-yearly opening of the books in December that the rosy forecast in last year's Budget of a $372 million surplus was heading south to a $570 million deficit and that the first surplus would be in 2015-16 of $565 million.

"It's fair to say that both of those forecasts have deteriorated since the half-year update," said Mr English in Wellington.


"So we expect the Budget to forecast a slightly bigger deficit for 2014-15 and to forecast a slightly smaller surplus for 2015-16."

He likened it to setting a goal of losing 10kg and losing only 9.8kg.

He also said it was like having an income of $73,000 and the difference at the end of the year of having $200 left over or minus $500.

But Labour finance spokesman Grant Robertson said failure to get to surplus this year was the biggest broken election promise ever, one that National had campaigned on for two elections.

"Surplus this year was the litmus test National set itself to show it was a good economic manager. They have failed their own test," he said.

It would not be seven deficits in seven years.

"Not only is this year's surplus a dead duck, the surplus for next year is beginning to look under threat."

Mr English revealed that GDP growth over the next four years would be $15 billion less than forecast a year ago and that the Treasury expects that revenue would be $4.5 billion less over four years than it forecast a year ago.


After the December update showed the forecasts deteriorating, the Government could have cut expenditure to get to surplus but Mr English said it would be changing its approach.

"We will not be pursuing cuts in service or income support in a knee-jerk response to lower tax revenue," he said.

"We won't change that approach just to turn a small forecast deficit into a small forecast surplus. Other things matter more."

While Mr English has confirmed the books will show a deficit for the current year, it is still possible the Government could achieve a surplus when the income and expenditure for the year to June is tallied up and published in October, because actual revenue often varies from forecast revenue.

But if it happened it would be a fluke, not a plan.