Latest from the Beehive –
The public debt is among the victims of the Covid-19 epidemic. According to the 2020 Budget Economic and Fiscal Update, in the current year and the next two fiscal years, operating deficits (operating balance before gains and losses) average around $28 billion while net core Crown debt is expected to increase on average by around $35 billion a year. Net core Crown debt is expected to reach 53.6% of GDP by the end of the forecast period, in June 2024.
The government – accordingly – is being very careful about its spending. Isn’t it?
Sure it is, and at first blush neither taxpayers nor lenders will have to pay for an initiative announced today by the PM and Tracey Martin, Minister for Internal Affairs and for Children.
At Point of Order, we were more than a tad surprised by this announcement, although – to be fair – it did involve employment opportunities.
One part-time job opportunity, to be more specific. A new job, New Zealand Reading Ambassador for children and young people, is being established.
We must confess we had not been among those who had been pressing for this vital post to be established. Come to think of it, we weren’t aware anyone else had been pressing for it.
According to the press statement, the Reading Ambassador, announced at a Celebration of Reading event at the National Library in Wellington, will advocate for and promote the importance of reading in the lives of young New Zealanders, their whānau and communities, helping create a ‘nation of readers’.
“We know from research that reading for pleasure makes a huge difference to a child’s wellbeing and their potential for life-long success – in personal relationships, education, health and employment,” Jacinda Ardern said.
“The most recent OECD Programme for International Students assessment (PISA) results also show a marked decline in reading for pleasure, with nearly half of New Zealand 15-year olds never reading for enjoyment.
“This makes it important for us to find ways to support educators, families and whānau to build and sustain reading cultures in their communities, at the same time contributing to the Government’s wider efforts on child wellbeing and poverty reduction,” Jacinda Arden said.
The establishment of the New Zealand Reading Ambassador for children and young people is another step to creating a ‘nation of readers’, something that is widely agreed as important across the literary, education, library and cultural sectors, Tracey Martin said.
“Just as importantly, though, it simply promotes reading and we all know what a difference the right book can make in the life of a child or young person,” Tracey Martin said.
The inaugural NZ Reading Ambassador will be appointed part-time for two years.
And the burden on taxpayers (either now or when we get around to debt repayment)?
Ah, it will be funded by Te Puna Foundation and supported by the National Library in collaboration with key partners, including Creative NZ and ReadNZ.
The Te Puna Foundation is an independent charitable trust, launched in 2016 as the fundraising body for the National Library of New Zealand.
Air NZ supports the Foundation’s He Tohu campaign to help bring school children from all around New Zealand to participate in a learning programme focused on the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Waitangi, and the Women’s Suffrage Petition.
So – if we correctly understand what is going on here – taxpayers have been pouring millions of dollars to keep Air NZ from crashing, and Air NZ is (or has been) supporting the Te Puna Foundation, which will provide the readies for the new reading ambassador.
When we have worked out how this affects the public debt, we will let you know.
The government is more directly providing funding boosts (with public debt implications) for this array of programmes –
- Community Law Centres ($3.5m over the next three years) to meet the increased need for free legal services due to COVID-19. This is additional to almost $8 million for Community Law Centres announced in Budget 2020.
- Building owners around New Zealand will benefit from the latest round of Heritage EQUIP funding with grants totalling $2,230,166. A total of 42 buildings will receive financial support in the latest funding round through 23 grants. Fifteen grants are for upgrade work and eight for professional advice. Additional funding of $3.1 million in Budget 2020 means the programme has been extended for a further year.
- The Government is investing $48.2 million for urgent works at Whangarei Hospital. The package of investments for the DHB includes funds for an IT system which will support better mental and primary care throughout the Northland region. The new projects build on the $24 million in Budget 2018 for (among other things) an endoscopy suite (which is now open), increased theatre capacity and a cardiac catheterisation laboratory at Whangarei Hospital.
- People walking and cycling between Featherston and Greytown, or along Wellington’s Eastern Bays, will benefit from the latest dip into the Government’s $220 million shovel-ready cycleways package. $15 million has been allocated to the Eastern Bays shared path, which has a total estimated cost of $30 million, while $1 million has been allocated to the Five Towns Trail.
- The Government has set out the regional allocations of the $761 million Three Waters stimulus and reform funding for councils. An allocation of $51 million will go to support Taumata Arowai, the new water regulator; the Hawkes Bay has been allocated $50 million of stimulus funding; $30 million will help non-council rural water supplies to meet costs in the face of the new regulatory regime for drinking water. The total regional allocations are set out in a table appended to the press statement.
- Almost $160 million will go towards helping students with high and complex learning needs, as well as their teachers and parents, in a substantial increase to Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding.
- Funding has been announced for innovative projects to connect Kiwis with affordable, safe and wholesome food, reduce food waste, and help our food producers recover from COVID-19. Budget 2020 set aside $14.9 million over two years to redirect food from the primary sector that would otherwise be wasted, to those in need. The Government also provided $32 million for funding foodbanks and food rescue. Five initiatives will receive initial funding of up to $100,000 each for a ten-week development and trial period.
- Eight shovel-ready projects within Kāinga Ora large-scale developments, and the Unitec residential development in Auckland have been given the go-ahead. A total of more than $188 million will be invested in seven infrastructure projects across developments at Northcote, Roskill, Mangere, and Tāmaki and $75 million invested into the Unitec residential development project.
The spending mentioned above was contained in the latest press statements from the Beehive –
5 AUGUST 2020
A new role of New Zealand Reading Ambassador for children and young people is being established, Prime Minister and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Internal Affair
Community Law Centres will receive a funding boost to meet the increased need for free legal services due to COVID-19, Justice Minister Andrew Little said.
New Zealand has joined Canada and Chile in a new trade initiative aimed at increasing women’s participation in global trade.
Building owners around New Zealand have benefited from the latest round of Heritage EQUIP funding with grants totalling $2,230,166.
- New paediatric facilities, including a Special Baby Care Unit
• Up to 50 extra inpatient beds
• New lab facilities
People walking and cycling between Featherston and Greytown, or along Wellington’s Eastern Bays will soon have a safe shared path, as part of a $220 million shovel-ready cycleways package announced by Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.
4 AUGUST 2020
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters today extended New Zealand’s condolences following the death of Vanuatu’s High Commissioner to New Zealand, Johnson Naviti, who passed away yesterday afternoon in Wellington.
The Government has today set out the regional allocations of the $761 million Three Waters stimulus and reform funding for councils announced by Prime Minister Hon Jacinda Ardern this month.
Students with high and complex learning needs, as well as their teachers and parents, will benefit from a substantial increase to Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding, Associate Education Minister Martin announced today.
Funding for innovative projects to connect Kiwis with affordable, safe and wholesome food, reduce food waste, and help our food producers recover from COVID-19 has been announced today by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.
Eight shovel-ready projects within Kāinga Ora large-scale developments, and the Unitec residential development in Auckland have been given the go-ahead, Minister for Housing Dr Megan Woods announced today.