Wellbeing Budget 2019: In Plain English

In Brief

The big winners:

  • Mental health gets $1.9 billion over 5 years.

  • Hospitals get $1.7 billion to help fix and upgrade hospital buildings.

  • Schools receive $1.2 billion over 10 years for school buildings and another $265 million over 4 years to end school fees.

  • Beneficiaries get $320 million more on benefits over 4 years.

  • Trains get $2.4 billion, with 1.4 billion to the Auckland CityRail Link and $1 billion to KiwiRail.

  • Businesses (startups in particular) will receive a $300 million fund.

  • Māori initiatives will have a boost, with $84 million to Whānau Ora and $208 million to help foster Te Reo Māori.

A fortnight ago, the Government delivered its second budget. Dubbed the “Wellbeing Budget”, the Government has placed huge emphasis on wellbeing – as the name suggests.

There is a massive allocation of $1.9 billion towards mental health. It will primarily be allocated to DHBs to be ring-fenced for those with the most serious needs, although we will see some of it go to early intervention programs such as the Piki pilot, an initiative that will provide free counselling and support services to youth across the Greater Wellington Area.

Hospitals are another big winner, with $1.7 billion being allocated to fix and improve hospital buildings and infrastructure around the country. This is a sigh of relief for areas in need such as Dunedin, Christchurch, and Hamilton.

Schools get somewhat of a win, but unfortunately still nothing for teachers. $1.2 billion over 10 years has been allocated to build new classrooms across New Zealand – while this looks like a big number, it equates to just $120 million a year.

Beneficiaries will see a bit more money in their pockets with an average increase of $15 a week over the next four years. From next April, payments will rise in line with average wage increases rather than inflation.

Trains seem to be the undisputed winner of this budget, with $1.4 billion going to Auckland Rail for projects, including the Hamilton to Auckland rail link. A further $1 billion goes to KiwiRail, with $300 million to be allocated to regional rail.

There’s also a bit of love for small business, with a $300 million fund announced to boost startups. The aim of the investment fund is to retain homegrown startups within New Zealand.

...Peeni Henare should be a happy man, with an $84 million boost going to his portfolio, Whānau Ora.

Peeni Henare should be a happy man, with an $84 million boost going to his portfolio, Whānau Ora. A further $208 million has been allocated to foster the revitalisation of Te Reo Māori.

With great power comes great responsibility…

While the Wellbeing Budget does seem flash, it’s also pretty expensive. The new investments will signal a number of new taxes (with more likely to follow) and a drop in the Government’s surplus forecast. The Government have increased fuel tax to the tune of 8 cents per litre and introduced a new tourism levy. The Government’s surplus is expected to decrease, as is economic growth, which is projected at only 2.6%. Only time will tell the effects of this budget on New Zealand’s economy, as well as the impacts funding cuts will have on the likes of MPI and Biosecurity.

Tom Peoples

Overall, it is exactly what the Government said it would be – a budget which prioritises health and wellbeing. As a result, they have had to make sacrifices in other areas. It’s hard to say at this point how the changes will play out, but certainly there are some real positives to be taken from it.

To read the full budget as released by the Prime Minister, click here.

To read a budget summary from Treasury, click here.

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