The Taxpayers Union was unlikely to see much merit in the Wellbeing Budget and has issued a bundle of statements to complain –
- The Government’s ‘wellbeing’ focus is just an excuse for billions of dollars of poorly-targeted spending (here),
- Between 2018 and 2021, social security and welfare spending is expected to sky-rocket from $26 billion to $32.4 billion a year, a 25 percent increase in just three years. (here). “Fiscal discipline has been jettisoned in favour of a classic Labour welfare spend-up.”
- Pouring another billion dollars into KiwiRail shows terrible business acumen (here). “As a State Owned Enterprise, KiwiRail is required to be as profitable as possible, yet it has never paid a single cent in dividends to the Government – despite receiving more than $5 billion of Government funding since 2008. Pouring an additional billion dollars into KiwiRail will not change reality – KiwiRail will never be a profitable company.”
- Race-based spending initiatives announced in the Wellbeing-Budget (such as an extra $80 million for Whanau Ora) will lead to wasteful and unfair outcomes (here). Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says many Maori and Pasifika spending initiatives are either vague or over-ambitious. For example, “why is the Government spending taxpayer money to ‘strengthen personal identity and connection to the community’? Is it even capable of achieving that?”
- With business investment growth expected to fall from 6.8 percent in 2018 to 0.7 percent in 2019, the Government needs to reconsider its economic strategy (here). “Tax cuts for businesses and individuals would be a great start.”
But The Maori Council’s disappointment that Maori have been short-changed can be found in their post-Budget statement, headed Government has failed Maori across the board.
Among its bleats:
“We have a raft of Waitangi Tribunal reports left unresponded to by the Government, we have an education system in a mess. We have a Minister of Health running a protection racket for PHARMAC when the CEO admits Maori are less likely to be able to afford life saving and extending medications.” Tukaki said.
“Our Maori nurses are paid less than 25% than their DHB counterparts, our midwives are struggling and kohanga workforce are hitting the wall.” Tukaki said
“So has the Government responded to Maori needs? Has it met our expectations? I think many of our people will be deeply disappointed in the Government. But; they remain hopeful in their Maori MP’s – just not in the Government.” Tukaki said
But the Maori Council are not alone in feeling they have been short-changed.
While the Taxpayers Union worries about the substantial increase in social spending committed by the Wellbeing Budget and the increased tax grab, a raft of organisations are queuing to dip their snouts into an ever-deepening public trough.
Among them –
- The NZ Private Surgical Hospitals Association
The Budget has done little for the wellbeing of the thousands of Kiwis waiting for elective surgery, says the president of the NZ Private Surgical Hospitals Association.
Richard Whitney says the government has missed a perfect opportunity to address the concerning waiting list situation by failing to have DHBs collaborate with private surgical hospitals around the country to provide much-needed surgical services.
- Federated Farmers
The 2019 Budget has left Federated Farmers questioning why the Government’s first Wellbeing budget has left a critical gap in its commitment to conservation.
There is no additional funding for the QEII National Trust or the Ngā Whenua Rāhui Fund. Plus, woefully inadequate funding for the control of wilding conifers, Feds Arable and Biosecurity spokesperson Karen Williams says.
The extremely modest increase in funding for the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme means its work will be going backwards in terms of managing this out-of-control pest.
“We hoped to see the wilding conifer programme receive more like $25 million per year.
- Auckland Action Against Poverty
The Budget showed a lack of new initiatives to address rising poverty and inequality, with the key welfare announcement being a legislative change which would index benefit levels to the average wage, says Ricardo Menendez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator.
“The indexing of benefit levels to the average wage is a tokenistic move by Government that does not address the calls by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group for an urgent increase of core benefit levels of up to 47%. The projected increase in beneficiaries’ incomes as a result of the indexing changes will only result in an additional $27-$47 a week by 2023, which is far less than what the WEAG recommended…
“We are concerned there’s no additional funding for the Housing and Urban Development (HUD), or new money for public housing. With the social housing waiting list continues to reach record levels, there is a desperate need for additional funding for more state homes for the people on the waiting list. With no additional funding going to Kiwibuild either it’s difficult to see how the Government plans to tackle the housing crisis….
“The Government needs to introduce a wider range of welfare reforms and invest on public housing if it is serious about the wellbeing of low-income people. This budget, unfortunately, failed to deliver on these two crucial issues.”
- Early Childhood New Zealand
Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand is extremely disappointed that the government has once again been tokenistic towards early childhood education in its Wellbeing Budget.
‘While we thank the Minister of Education for a 1.8% increase in per child subsidy rates, the early childhood sector is over the government and government agencies’ disregard for early childhood education in New Zealand,’ says Te Rito Maioha Chief Executive, Kathy Wolfe…
“Early childhood services can only address underfunding and falling quality by increasing their fees! What does this do for families and whānua wellbeing?’”
- New Zealand Association of Counsellors
The government has just demonstrated its lack of understanding when it comes to enhancing the mental wellbeing of secondary school students, the NZ Association of Counsellors said.
President, Bev Weber, said all the evidence points to the fact that school students trust and prefer talking to school guidance counsellors if and when they are dealing with emotional wellness and mental wellbeing issues.
“So, why is the government placing more nurses in schools as part of its Budget programme of reaching out to an additional 5,600 secondary school students?”
Weber said school guidance counsellors are trained mental health professionals who operate in all secondary schools.
A major ERO report on school counselling surveyed over 700 students from different schools across the country.
The report showed that when it came to mental health, the clear preference from students was to talk to their school counsellor above anyone else.
Weber acknowledged the Budget includes a $455 million investment in new frontline services but said “if they take the same approach to those services as they’ve taken to enhancing services for secondary school students I really worry about the effectiveness of that investment.”
- NZ College Of Midwives
College of Midwives chief executive Alison Eddy says the dire issues facing the maternity system have not been addressed in the Budget.
“Much has been said by Grant Robertson about child wellbeing and investing in our younger generation to ensure better outcomes for them and wider society – but how the very workforce that brings those children into the world could be again largely ignored, is beyond us,” she says.
Eddy says the 4.9% pay increase is inadequate and will not address the issues midwives have been raising for more than four years.
“This is another smoke and mirrors budget for midwifery,” she says. “Despite what the Government has said, the $500,000 per annum will not boost the locum support provided for rural midwives; in fact that won’t even keep this vital service afloat. And the urban locum service funding was recently cut. I think we can expect to see more babies being born on the side of roads, unfortunately.”
The Wellbeing Budget simply lacked wellness, ExerciseNZ chief executive Richard Beddie says.
The Budget had very little to help lift New Zealand up from being the 13th worst in the world in physical activity statistics, he says.
“Exercise and physical activity are proven to help with many social issues, and in the early stages and prevention of many health conditions.
“It was good to see focus on mental health, but the Budget lacked enough emphasis on prevention.
“The Budget lacked leadership to address and prevent lifestyle conditions such as obesity and type II diabetes which could cripple the health system in the next 50 years unless urgent action is taken.
“There was little with a genuine hauora approach, a Maori philosophy for health and wellbeing using four walls. Wellbeing and wellness isn’t something that money can fix in isolation.”