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Teachers, nurses look set to be big winners from coalition Government's first budget

Teachers and nurses look set to be winners from the coalition Government's first budget in May.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson acknowledged on TVNZ 1's Q+A today both groups missed out on a "dividend" from strong growth in the economy in recent years. 

New Zealand's economy has been growing for nearly 10 years straight, but the Finance Minister says workers haven't reaped the rewards. 

"It is time for New Zealand wage and salary earners to see a better dividend from growth," Mr Robertson said. 

One way Mr Robertson can do that is by lifting the pay of thousands of nurses and teachers. Both groups are in pay negotiations with the Government.

"Those groups of professionals probably haven't seen the benefit they should've in recent years," Mr Robertson said.

Join Q+A's Corin Dann for questions around spending demands for Grant Robertson. Source: Q+A

Asked are those groups in line for a "reasonable bump" in pay he said, "Yeah, look, they are in line for a negotiation with us. You know, when people start throwing figures like 16 per cent around, you've got to be pretty careful with a number like that." 

While the minimum wage is being increased, Mr Robertson accepts his ability to boost wages across the private sector is limited.   

"In the end it's the overall growth of the productivity of economy that will flow through to people in the private sector getting bigger wages." 

Following the interview with the Finance Minister, Fran O'Sullivan, NZME Head Of Business commented: "I didn't hear anything there that actually gave me confidence in productivity gains, apart from sloganeering."

When it comes to this year's Budget, money will be tight. Teachers and nurses pay demands alone will cost hundreds of millions dollars. 

So it's not surprising Mr Robertson wouldn't commit today on National's $20 billion pledge to upgrade the New Zealand Defence Force. 

"I don't think it's responsible at the moment to commit to any number until we're completely clear about the way that we go about our procurement," he said. 

But balancing the books is not his sole mission.  He also wants a focus on "well-being" rather than just economic activity or GDP.    

"What matters, I think, to New Zealanders is that their environment's clean, that the water's clean, that actually people in their communities are feeling safe," Mr Robertson said. 

Ms O'Sullivan said: "Really, without hard nose policies about expenditure, about micro reform that actually does deliver on productivity it's going to be difficult to see how the Government can tend to what on the surface is some fairly fluffy stuff."

Grant Robertson talks social dividends, are pay rises on the cards for teachers? Source: Q+A

Grant Robertson will deliver his first Budget on May 17. 

Finance Minister Grant Robertson acknowledged on Q+A today both groups missed out on a "dividend". Source: 1 NEWS