A month ago, our coalition government published its first budget. It lays out the foundations for a better future and it makes a start with restoring previous under-funding.
We cannot fix everything in one budget, of course, but we’re getting on with the job. So our first budget expresses the values of this coalition with investment in health services, schools, decent housing, and the infrastructure to support a growing economy that creates jobs.
It’s easy to talk about the big numbers in this budget: $3.2 billion to start rebuilding our health system so that every New Zealander can get the care they need and $1.6 billion investment in education – the biggest increase in over a decade. But this is a budget about people. The learning of 200,000 children will be better supported with the first universal adjustment for early childhood education services in a decade. Investment into learning support will better assist students like our 2900 deaf students and 1500 low-vision students.
As well as increasing funding for those who need extra support to learn, this budget invests in employing 1500 more teachers, invests in teacher aides and provides funding to build hundreds of new classrooms.
Looking at the health sector, nearly half a million New Zealanders put off going to the doctor last year because it cost too much. By extending the age to include 13-year-olds, 56,000 young people are now getting free doctor’s visits. About 540,000 people are paying $20 to $30 less to go to the doctor. Community midwives are getting a long overdue and well-deserved boost to their incomes. Our families package was announced in December 2017 and is due to kick in on July 1, 2018. It is our government’s major response to child poverty. From July 1, about 384,000 families with children will receive an average of an extra $75 per week through Working for Families and Best Start.
Another government initiative that comes in on July 1 is the winter energy payment for people receiving superannuation, a veteran pension or those on a benefit. There are too many cases where people got sick and ended up in hospital or worse because they couldn’t afford to heat their home in winter. That’s unacceptable. This year, the payment will be from July 1 to September 29. From next year onwards, the payment will start from May 1 to October 1. Single people will get $20.46 a week and couples or people with dependent children will get $31.82 a week. This budget is about the people – rebuilding the foundations while growing the economy and creating a New Zealand where everyone gets a fair go.
Marja Lubeck, Rodney-based MP