Budget 2019

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her ministers will today begin the process of selling their Wellbeing Budget to New Zealanders after announcing some big increases to social spending and mental health.

Ardern said the Budget represented a "systematic change" while Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, called it a "significant departure from the status quo".

But National leader Simon Bridges said the Budget showed a slowing economy and was all style over substance.

"This is not a Wellbeing Budget. Most New Zealanders will be left asking themselves what's in it for them."

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The Government also stands accused of prioritising trains over teachers, after earmarking $1 billion for KiwiRail.

But the Budget would come as particularly good news to parents, many of whom now need not worry about having to pay school donations.

It's also good news for beneficiaries who can look forward to having their benefits increased, starting next year.

Overall, the Budget provided for an extra $25 billion of new spending.

Much of that is focused on social spending, delivering on some of the areas Labour campaigned on in 2017 and has since been accused of moving too slowly on.

Almost $2 billion across five years will be spent on addressing mental health issues.

More than $455 million of that funding has been put towards expanding access to mental health and addiction support, particularly for those with mild to moderate mental health needs.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson and the six other ministers leaving the Wellbeing Budget 2019 lock-up at Parliament, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Finance Minister Grant Robertson and the six other ministers leaving the Wellbeing Budget 2019 lock-up at Parliament, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"We said that we would be a Government that did things differently, and for this Budget we have done just that," Ardern said in the House.

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"Today we have laid the foundation for not just one Wellbeing Budget, but a different approach for Government decision-making altogether.

The funding announcement comes a day after the Government revealed it would be adopting 38 of the 40 recommendations in the He Ara Oranga report on mental health.

The Government also announced it would spend $1 billion on a package to help reduce child poverty.

At the centre of that package was a surprise move to increase benefits.

Benefit levels are currently indexed to inflation, but from April next year they will be indexed to the average wage – as is currently is the case for NZ superannuation.

The policy is expected to cost $320.2 million over four years, and is forecast to see a benefit increase by $47 a week by 2023 – that would see an increase for 339,000 people.

The Government will also spend $266 million on decile 1-7 schools so parents no longer have to pay donations.

Robertson said this amounts to a saving for parents of $150 per pupil per year across 1700 schools – benefiting half a million school kids.

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