As promised by the Minister of Finance, this was a Budget of health and climate, both areas our members have a strong interest in. The bold step of clearing DHB deficits and the small, iterative steps to improve public transport and support New Zealanders working lives add up to a Budget that’s heading in the right direction.
The lives of workers in New Zealand will be improved by the government’s investment in Fair Pay Agreements, Social insurance and te Mahere Whai Mahi Māori (the Māori Employment Action Plan).
We are very pleased to see the decades-long fiction of DHB deficits has been deal with in one fell swoop. HealthNZ will start with a clean slate, as it should.
We welcome the multi-year increases in investment in health and are pleased to see it locked in. The health system, and those who work in it will now be able to focus more on what matters; the health of our communities.
The investment in workers and workforce development is much needed and will be appreciated by our members who work in the health sector - in both DHB and community settings.
Investment in joined up IT infrastructure will help free up health workers’ time and make for better access to services.
The increase in access to dental care for low-income people is also welcomed- the dental grant is being increased from $300 to $1000. But this is just a first step - dental care is unaffordable for most Kiwis and needs to be better integrated into our public health system.
We support the increase in investment for better Māori health outcomes. Despite being small investments in many small pots, the overall effect should lead us as a nation towards health equity.
The increase in funding to address cost pressures for community disability support services will be appreciated by workers and clients alike.
Cost of living package
Most of our members - the people working hard to deliver public and community services - will benefit from the cost of living package.
Public and community services
The investment in public and community services is small, relative to the funding needed, but is a step in the right direction. Most of the new money announced today will be spent on growing cost pressures, a case of spending just to stay still.
We welcome the establishment of a Pay Equity Centre of Expertise at Te Kawa Mataaho, which will expedite the process to address long established undervaluation of low paid women’s work in essential public services.
Extending half price public transport for two months and then making it permanent for community service card holders is a welcome step in the right direction. It is a shame the government didn’t take the opportunity to make public transport free for people on low incomes.
It’s worth noting that once again, the funding being directed towards reducing fuel taxes and road user charges - for only two months - dwarfs what’s been allocated to reducing public transport costs in total. Public transport is an area the Government should be investing significantly more in if Aotearoa is to transition to a low-emissions society.
Other than in transport, there are no significant new initiatives on climate beyond what was announced as part of the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan and Climate Emergency Response Fund on Monday. The state sector urgently needs to decarbonise, including moving away from coal and gas and towards renewable energy, especially for our hospitals and prisons, so this should have been a priority.
The extension of the Warmer Kiwi Homes programme is a positive step. An extra 26,500 insulation and heating refits will improve the health and finances for families and make our housing stock more climate-friendly.
The emergency housing system is sorely in need of review, so we are pleased the system will be redesigned.
$1 billion in funding for public housing is positive given the need more than 25,000 new units of state housing just to meet existing demand.