Finance Minister Grant Robertson has delivered this Government’s final Budget before the election, focusing on easing the cost of living for New Zealanders and supporting cyclone recovery efforts, while building economic resilience and fiscal sustainability.
Despite pre-warning that it would be a “no frills” Budget, significant investment has been poured into key sectors, including health, education, infrastructure, and housing.
Easing cost of living pressures was front of mind, with a raft of announcements directed to supporting everyday New Zealanders. This included $1.2b to extend the 20 free childcare hours to include 2-year-olds and $618.6m to scrap the $5 co-payments for prescriptions.
Another $327m has been set aside to enable free public transport for under-13s, and half-price public transport for all under-25s.
Government has also pledged to continue its Healthy School Lunches programme, worth $323.4m, estimated to save whānau with two school-age children $60 a week.
As outlined in the pre-Budget announcement earlier this week, $400m has been allocated to the education sector to cope with population growth and the extra 100,000 children who will go through the education system by the end of the decade.
Of this, $100m will go into the education infrastructure funding pipeline, enabling the construction of up to four new schools and new school expansions, with the first two announced for Auckland and Pāpāmoa.
Overall, new spending on climate initiatives has dropped this year compared to the previous two Budgets, however, there were still some key announcements.
This included $24.7m to improve data on the impacts of climate change and adaptation and mitigation, $39.2m in improving the mapping of New Zealand’s coastline and identifying coastal areas at significant risk of climate-related hazards and natural disasters, and $167.4 million in building resilience to future climate events.
The health sector has been bolstered with $1b to increase health workforce pay rates and boost staff numbers, and another $20m to lift immunisation and screening coverage for Māori and Pasifika. Significant investment will also go towards reducing waiting lists.
Addressing current cost pressures in the housing sector, $3.6b will go towards the current public housing build programme and a further $3.1b for 3000 more public housing places by the end of June 2025. Alongside this, $200m has been set aside to increase the supply of Māori housing across the motu.
Due to cyclone recovery, Treasury is no longer forecasting a recession in 2023, however, a return to surplus has been pushed out to 2025/26.