Mental health, child wellbeing and rail have received major cash injections in Budget 2019.
Labelled as a “landmark moment for this Government and New Zealand” by the Finance Minister, Budget 2019 puts down an overall spend on $1.9 billion on mental health, $1.1b to improving child wellbeing and $1b into KiwiRail - spending that will see a new frontline mental health service, the scrapping of school donations for decile 1-7 and investment in hospital repairs.
“Today’s investment of over a billion dollars into mental health, poverty and family violence because they affect so many. The issue of mental health is deeply personal, almost all of us have lost friends or family members, ensuring New Zealanders can now just show up at their GP or health clinic and get expert mental health support is a critical first step,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
She called it “game-changing investments”.
“Today’s Budget shows you can be both economically responsible and kind.”
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the annual operating allowance in Budget 2019 was increased from $2.4b to $3.8b, also boosting the operating allowance for Budget 2020 to $3b from $2.4b, with another $1.7b to multi-year capital allowance allocated to future Budgets.
“While this is called the ‘wellbeing’ Budget, from now on all of the budgets will be wellbeing Budgets,” Grant Robertson said.
Net Crown debt of GDP was forecast as 19.9 per cent in 2021/22, GDP growth forecast for 2.6, from 2.1 in 2019 and the surplus forecast to grow to $6.1b by 2022/23.
“We have embedded wellbeing at every stage of the creation of this budget”,” he said.
Budget 2019 saw new operating expenditure was $15.2b over the forecast period ($3.8b a year), with a total of $10.4b total of new capital expenditure.
$150m was inserted into the gun buy-back scheme.
During the lock up, a question was asked of if Secretary of the Treasury Gabriel Makhlouf would be speaking. Claims of ‘hacking’ of the Treasury website of gain access to the Budget documents released on Tuesday by National were debunked this morning, after police say a feature on its search tool was used instead. Mr Markhouf subsequently left the room after the question was asked and the Finance Minister said he was in the lock up.
Just a day after the Government pledged a “significant” boost into mental health services, it has announced a $455m injection for 325,000 people to access support by 2023/24 through a new mental health service, and it has put $200m of DHB investment into mental health and addiction services. Suicide prevention received $40m and $44m over four years for improvements to drug addiction services.
Budget 2019 also put $19.6m over four years into extending the nurses in schools programme for decile 5 schools (it currently sits between 1-4).
“For too long we have failed people with mild to moderate mental health needs,” Health Minister David Clark said “We know intervening early makes a difference”.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Government were “taking mental health seriously, this is the beginning”.
An expansion to mental health, alcohol and drug services for offenders also sees an $128.3m investment.
Child poverty and family violence
Improving child wellbeing, a priority for the Government, sees $1.1b set to tackle child poverty, said by the Government to break cycles of poverty and family violence.
The investment includes $265.6m to scrap the need for donations for students from decile 1-7 schools from 2020 and indexing benefits to average wage growth (estimated benefits to increase from $11 per week from April 2023).
When asked why not increase base benefit rates, Mr Robertson said indexing meant a “predictable series of increases”, instead of one off boosts.
In a pre-Budget announcement, the Government already committed to $320m to family and sexual violence and support services.
$1.7 billion over two years goes to DHBs (this includes $200m for mental health facilities) “to fix our hospitals and invest in new mental health and addiction services”.
$1.2 billion investment in schools over ten years ($287 million in 2019 for new buildings) and $265.6m will go into scrapping the need for donations for students from decile 1-7 schools from 2020. This will see those schools receiving $150 per year per student.
A $1b investment into KiwiRail was a “significant step to rebuilding the rail system New Zealanders deserve”, deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said.
“Rail is back on track,” he said.
$300m for will go towards New Zealand firms that past the start-up phase, with the Government aiming to push businesses into sustainable paths of growth and development. Another $299m will go towards investing in projects to protect and restore at risk waterways and wetlands and to support farmers.
Opportunities for Māori and Pacific people
The Government have described $81m into Whanau Ora as a “major boost”, with $107m to go to all te reo initiatives ($14m for Māori broadcasting).
A shift to a low-emission economy, moving to a digitalised nation, reducing child poverty, lifting incomes and opportunities for Māori and Pacific people, and focusing on improving the mental wellbeing of youth were announced as ‘priorities’ in Budget 2019.
Watch the 1 NEWS Budget Special on TVNZ1 from 2pm to 4pm.