I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention to Budget 2015, but One News asked for some commentary for some reason, so I did have a look at the headlines and some of the detail. Of course government budgets are usually very short on detail – often the officials responsible have no idea what the politicians are thinking in an announcement so it takes quite a few weeks, sometimes months, before the specifics are made clear. The Budget largely seems like robbing Peter to pay Pauline. Cuts in some places, increases in others. I guess that’s what budgets usually do and governments are mostly in government to reprioritise the tax spend. I’ll start with the two highlights for me:
- Funding for Regional Research Institutes – probably a bit self-serving, but I like anything local and the idea that we could get a research institute established in Tairāwhiti is hugely appealing. I suspect such an entity would have a strong focus on environmental, economic and cultural development opportunities and activities. Our friends and colleagues Tui Aroha Warmenhoven and Pia Pohatu have been encouraged by Professor Linda T Smith to establish an internationally significant research entity on the Coast – and with co-investment from both central government and Eastland Community Trust I think we could create something quite exciting.
- Childcare Assistance rate for low income families will increase from $4 an hour to $5 an hour for up to 50 hours of childcare a week per child. This is good news as I know many whānau on low incomes have struggled with the limited support available to date – this is much better.
The most disappointing announcements:
- No announcement for anything designed to stimulate job development in provincial NZ. The is an announcement about offering multinational companies $1m to invest anywhere in NZ, but I doubt this is going to help Tairāwhiti at all.
- Establishing a $3,000 WINZ incentive for beneficiaries to relocate to other regions around NZ. This won’t help Gisborne at all, it will just take more whānau who want to be here away to other places – increasing urbanisation and gutting the provinces further.
- Cutting the $1000 kickstarter for Kiwisaver – I’m glad I signed up our kids but taking away the incentive for others to start saving might save $500million now but what’s the longterm implications when even fewer people have retirement savings in 50 years time?
An extra $25 a week after tax more in benefit for families with children is helpful, the first real benefit increase since I was born. The $12.50 before tax per week extra Working for Families for families not on benefit but earning $36,000 pa or less is not significant enough to be helpful. Some very low income families will get $24.50 extra a week, gee thanks. Most sole parents and partners of beneficiaries will have to be available for part time work once their youngest child turns three, rather than 5 years old as it is now – and all beneficiaries with part time work obligations will be expected to find work for 20 hours a week, rather than 15 hours as now. Not much use if there is no work but you have to prove you’re trying hard to find it. Student Allowance rates for families with children will increase $25 a week – nice but long overdue and not particularly significant. Beneficiaries receiving Sole Parent Support will have to reapply for their benefit every year as people receiving JobSeeker support already do. I’m not sure what the rationale for that is. $8 million to help vulnerable students participate more in education or training and lift achievement – sounds impressive but won’t go very far across the country. More funding for CYF could probably have been used better by communities being empowered to care for ourselves instead of handing child protection over to the professionals. Likewise the big funding going into Children’s Teams is quite misdirected in my humble opinion – the community should be the client rather than an individual child – seems we haven’t learnt much since the Family Homes of the 70s. More money for the military. No need to comment. The child poverty campaigns seem not totally scathing of the Budget initiatives but not hugely excited either. Will be interesting to see others reactions – seems a mixed bag with a few surprises – like the tourist tax increase – but nothing that’s really going to change much of significance?