Labour delivers on election promises in mini-budget and keeps books in the black, although there is limited wriggle room

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has stuck to his promise and delivered a mini-budget today that shows his government's election and coalition promises can be afforded, whilst keeping the books in the black.

Although the government will not have huge amounts of spare cash in future to deal with any cost surprises.

Treasury has confirmed the Labour-led Government's promises and coalition commitments can be met. Source: 1 NEWS

In its Half Year Fiscal Economic Update, Treasury is forecasting a budget surplus of $2.5 billion in 2018 and $2.8 billion in 2019.

Those surpluses are down slightly on what was forecast prior to the election.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson delivered his mini-budget outlining a families package to lift 88,000 children out of poverty. Source: 1 NEWS

However stronger economic growth in future years will see the surplus rise to $8.8 billon by 2021/22.

Government debt levels are also expected to rise more than was being forecast prior to the election, however they will then dip below 20 per cent of GDP by 2020, which is the self imposed target set by Grant Robertson prior to the election.

The forecast surplus and debt track today produced by Treasury fully includes the cost of policies in the 100 day plan such the $5.5 billion Families package.

At the heart of the Government's mini-budget is a families package, to replace National's $2 billion tax cuts. Source: 1 NEWS

Most of the money for that package - which is spread over five years - comes from canceling National's $8 billion tax cuts.

Meanwhile the government has allocated a further $21.7 billion of new expenditure over the next four budgets, with a $2.6 billion operating allowance for next year's budget.

$6.6 billion has at this stage been left unallocated from that $21.7 billion. Which is not a huge amount of wriggle room - should new costs pressures arise.

This money will most likely be needed for things like wage claims from police or nurses.

1 NEWS political editor forecast what the government’s mini-budget will contain today. Source: Breakfast

Spending on capital items (bridges, schools etc) will be set at around $12 billion over the next four years. $3.4 billion for 2018 and 2019.

Meanwhile Treasury has estimated that cost of polices in the coalition agreement will be $419 million, although some of the coalition promises will be funded from within money already set aside for health and education spending.

The coalition agreement will also see an extra $3.7 billion of capital spending – most of this will be the $1 billion a year regional development fund.

Helping drive the surpluses forecast today is economic growth which is expected to average around 2.9 per cent over the next four years, with unemployment to drop to 4 per cent.

Wages are also expected tick up towards 3 per cent.

The Finance Minister said meeting the Government's 100 days fiscal plan impacts was largely paid for by repealing National's tax cuts. Source: 1 NEWS



Rihanna asks for Jacinda Ardern's help in tweet - 'Its been a big year for you'

Popstar and fashionista Rihanna has reached out on Twitter to try and enlist the help of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for one of the singer's charitable causes.

Rihanna started out by congratulating the PM before asking for help. 

"Kia ora @jacindaardern! It's been a big year for you & NZ - congrats!

"I hope you & @MFATgovtNZ agree that educating every child can change the world!" the singer wrote before linking to the Clara Lionel Foundation which she started in 2012.

The tweet also contained a link to a piece Rihanna wrote for The Guardian yesterday, calling for more support for young students in developing countries. 

Rihanna and Jacinda Ardern. Source: Associated Press

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Wellington bus network changes to be reviewed after council bombarded with complaints

Wellington's new bus network will be independently reviewed after ongoing complaints of buses being late, too full to board or not showing up at all.

The regional council today voted today to have the system reviewed and the results reported back by December.

Since the system was changed in July the council has been bombarded with complaints.

Councillors have also asked officers to change a route so that it began and ended in Kilbirnie, as it previously did, and for feedback on whether some other routes can be changed.

Regional council chief executive Greg Campbell said he took full responsibility for fixing the network's problems.

He said the review needed to be done quickly.

"Any commuter that is left stranded, or a bus that is late, that is of extreme concern. We have to get a clear view of what is happening. What an independent review can really do - particularly for management and council - is give a view of what has happened and articulate that well."

At the beginning of the meeting several Wellington residents addressed the council to let it know they were still unhappy with the new bus routes.

A Wellington principal said the recent re-jig of the routes was making his students late for class and putting them in danger.

St Patrick's College, Kilbirnie's rector Neal Swindells told this morning's meeting about 100-150 boys were using the new service.

"Currently our two 753 buses from the station in the afternoon are significantly overloaded and are unsafe. On Monday this week, they were both loaded to the gunnels and there were 30-odd students who couldn't get on. So what they do is they cross the road to catch the new 24 bus, which by the time it leaves St Pat's now is also overfull."

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Commuters at a bus stop in Newtown. Source: rnz.co.nz

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Motorcyclist in critical condition after crash near Upper Hutt

A serious crash has left a motorcyclist in critical condition and caused a section of State Highway 2 to close for a time near Kaitoke, Upper Hutt.

Police say a motorcyclist hit a barrier at Kaitoke this afternoon about 4:30pm.

The male rider was taken to hospital via helicopter in a critical condition.

The road at SH2 Kaitoke, Upper Hutt is now open again after closing for a time.


A road closure sign in front of a Police vehicle
A road closure sign in front of a Police vehicle. Source: 1 NEWS


Government reveals details of emails between Clare Curran and Derek Handley

Details of the email exchange between former Digital Services Minister Clare Curran and Derek Handley were revealed today during Parliament's Question Time. 

Ms Curran said she was not aware of RNZ's policies surrounding meetings with Minister's at the time.
Source: 1 NEWS

The messages were sent over the role of chief technology officer, with Ms Curran using her private Gmail account to send the emails. 

An offer to Mr Handley for the role was retracted by the Government last week, resulting in a $100,000 pay out to the entrepreneur. 

Acting State Services Minister Grant Robertson told the House the following about three exchanges between the pair about the role. 

First exchange

August 11: 

"Derek Handley emails Clare Curran about the chief technology officer position and questions about the role of the CTO, including resourcing for the role and potential conflicts of interest."

August 14

"Clare Curran replies to that email, confirming a call to discuss these matters."

August 15

"Derek Handley replies to that, confirming times for the call."

Second exchange

August 19

"Clare Curran emails Derek Handley regarding logistics around the next step on the process of appointment, including the content of any public statements that might be made, and refers to contract discussions with the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA)."

August 20

"Derek Handley responds to that email to Clare Curran about those issues, including the contact he has had with DIA and management of conflicts of interest."

Third exchange

August 21

"Clare Curran emails Derek Handley regarding issues that would be on the work plan of the chief technology officer and attaches some relevant background documents on those issues.

"On the same day, Derek Handley responds to Clare Curran, acknowledging the material and referring to the discussions that he is having with DIA."

Derek Handley says he’ll donate the compensation but is disappointed at the way the issue was handled. Source: 1 NEWS

The chief technology officer was intended to "drive a forward-looking digital agenda for New Zealand", said the then Minister for Government Digital Services Clare Curran, when the role was announced last December. 

The new Minister for Government Digital Services Megan Woods said the Government have put a "full stop" on the process.

Ms Curran was stripped of her position as Minister for Government Digital Services after not disclosing a meeting with Mr Handley previously.