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Finance Minister on loneliness, fuel taxes and Budget priorities

New Zealand's mental health and poverty will be under the spotlight next year, as happiness indicators are set to be given weight in the 2019 Budget, along with the country's aim to shift to a low-carbon economy.

In a world first, GDP will not be the only indicator of New Zealand's prosperity, happiness indicators such as mental health and poverty will be given weight in Finance Minister Grant Robertson's 2019 'Wellbeing Budget'. 

Last week, Mr Robertson announced the five priorities of the upcoming budget: Reducing child poverty, mental health, lifting Māori and Pacific people's income, shifting to a low carbon economy and digitalising the nation. 

The Opposition Finance spokesperson gives her thoughts on the Government’s half-year budget. Source: Breakfast

"The reason we've got a priority around Māori and Pasifika wellbeing and outcomes is because every single indicator we've got tells us that there is a huge disparity between Māori and Pasifika families and other families," Mr Robertson said on TVNZ1's Q+A. 

He said the prioritising approach for the Budget meant that every Minister and agency were responsible for improving each priority. 

"In the priorities that we’ve got, you don't actually see the word 'housing'," Mr Robertson said.

"The fact is that we need to get our housing policy right to improve mental health, to improve child wellbeing, to improve the prospects of Māori and Pasifika communities."

Mr Robertson also said the Government were moving to a zero-carbon economy in 2050 and would not rule out future petrol tax increases, saying "we haven't taken those decisions yet". 

"We'll see how things go in the future. The fuel excise duty is what funds the National Land Transport Fund. That's how we build our roads, and now we're moving more into public transport with that funding.

"We'll clearly make our decisions on that as we go forward from here."

Dann asked about the focus on improving loneliness in New Zealand, and why it was the Government's role to address it. 

"We know that if people are disconnected from their communities, that can see them become unwell... for some people it leads them into mental health issues," Mr Robertson said. 

"It's not about saying the Government's going to make you not lonely, it's about recognising that an issue like loneliness detracts from our wellbeing, from our strength as a community."

Host Corin Dann asks the questions surrounding Mr Robertson’s proposed 2019 'wellbeing budget'. Source: Q+A

Mr Robertson spoke on TVNZ1’s Q+A about making sure there are alternatives to driving around cities. Source: Q+A