There was mixed reaction to the Government's Budget across Whanganui on Thursday, with some leaders thrilled with the news, and others worried it doesn't go far enough.
One of the biggest items in the Budget is a boost to benefits.
Weekly main benefits will get a boost of between $32 and $55 a week by April next year, as the Government aims to lift between 19,000 and 33,000 children out of poverty.
Sherron Sunnex, the founder of Whanganui's Koha Shed, and a beneficiary herself, told the Chronicle the boost would make a big dent in how beneficiaries live day-to-day.
"It'll make a huge difference," Sunnex said. "It'll be the difference between running out of food one or two days before pay day, and having enough to see yourself through."
Sunnex said with such a significant increase in the cost of living over recent years, many beneficiaries had gone without, often sacrificing the essentials.
"I'm on a supported living payment and I have three children, so I'm quite well-off as a beneficiary. But if I was living on my own on a solo benefit, I'd have about $50 to $60 a week for food," she said.
"So many people have gone without for too long, people that we help at the Koha Shed. It's a much-needed boost."
It was a sentiment shared by Marton District Budget Service manager Christina Marcroft, who said a raise in benefits had been a long time coming.
"It's great, but it is still well behind from where we need to be."
Marcroft said there was a bit of a lag post-Covid, and families were only starting to feel the real pressure now after Government subsidies to support workers were no longer available.
"The living costs are just so much higher. The raise in benefits will make poverty a bit less grinding, but it will not lift them out of poverty."
Age Concern Whanganui manager Michelle Malcolm said there was almost nothing in the Budget for seniors, and the Government appeared to have lost sight of those who have contributed most to New Zealand society.
"You work hard, you pay your taxes, and you expect to retire with dignity. A lot of pensioners are struggling and you would've thought they'd get a boost," Malcolm said.
"It's great that there's been a boost to main benefits because there is a need there, but there's a need with pensioners, too. I'm not sure why they were overlooked."
Malcolm said she was often dealing with clients in need, who were struggling with basic expenses such as food and rates bills as they grow into old age.
Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall said the Budget was an example of a Government turning around the damage done to the welfare system by the "mother of all Budgets" in 1991.
"I've known [Finance Minister] Grant Robertson for a very long time, and I think we first became friends in 1991 when that Budget came out, and it's great to see a rise in benefits to allow people on fixed incomes to live better," McDouall said.
Also laid out in the Budget was a large infrastructure spend, equivalent to $57.3 billion over the next five years, with $11.6 billion for housing and $761 million for school capital.
"Obviously I totally support expenditure on schools. I look at our biggest school, and it's still functioning in prefab, so hopefully money can go that way."
Whanganui Intermediate School principal Kathy Ellery said the capital investment boost to schools was well overdue.
"We really do need to start looking after schools and getting them back up to scratch. If there's $760 million being put into schools, then it's about time."
But Ellery said her main concern was how such a large amount of work would be completed, as the process was already sluggish.
"The trouble is, who's going to do the work? We've got a project here that's been going for three years, trying to get the plans drawn up and put on the pricing platform. It's a very slow process the ministry has."
Also announced in the Budget was a significant investment into Māori housing, including papakāinga housing, affordable rentals, transitional housing, and owner-occupied housing.
A thousand new homes are to be built, including papakāinga housing, affordable rentals, transitional housing, and owner-occupied housing.
The Government has also set aside cash for repairs to 700 homes.
"I suppose the best you can say that with the papakāinga houses, it's a start. We all know that there is a need for a lot more papakāinga housing and maintenance of housing than this small number," Whanganui iwi leader Ken Mair said.
"But it's important to note that historically the Government has put out figures around building a large amount of housing, and the results have been pretty dismal in the past."