Buzz from the Beehive – it’s April 1 and billions more will flow in benefit boosts, superannuation rises, and so on…

Ministerial announcements are braying about April 1 triggering a great outflow of money, or the prospect of a great outflow, from the Government’s coffers.

It sounds like most of us will get a slice of the action, although in some cases this action perhaps will amount to no more than furnishing Inland Revenue with our annual returns and coughing up our dues.

Some ministerial announcements, true, concerned comparatively small sums.   

But two separate press statements – one from the PM – drew public attention to the transfers of huge sums of money from the Government  to families, welfare beneficiaries, superannuitants and so on.

The message, palpably, was that Jacinda and her team are aware of the squeeze on the cost of living, but they care deeply for our wellbeing and are determined to ease the burden.

The PM highlighted these effects:

  • The Working For Families boost will give 60 per cent of kiwi families an increase of an average of $20 a week.
  • 855,000 superannuitants will see their payments increase – $52 per fortnight for a single person and $80 for a couple.
  • Over 100,000 individuals and families with children will be better off by on average $60 a week.
  • Income increases on top of 25c a litre reduction on fuel excise and introduction of half price public transport for three months.

But hey – there’s more to come.  From 1 May a million New Zealanders will start receiving the winter energy payment putting an extra $700 in total in the pockets of families over the colder months.

Carmel Sepuloni (Social Development and Employment) and Michael Wood (Workplace Relations and Safety) regurgitated the PM’s news – or did the PM regurgitate her Ministers’ statement – and highlighted these boosts to our wellbeing:

  • Main benefit rates today increased by between $20 and $42 per adult, per week compared to 1 July 2021.
  • The minimum wage increases to $21.20 per hour.
  • New Zealand Superannuation rates are increasing by $52 a fortnight for single superannuitants living alone, and by $80 a fortnight for a couple.
  • Student allowance and living costs increases by $25 per adult a week.
  • Childcare assistance income thresholds indexed to average wage growth.
  • Working for Families tax credit increases.
  • Orphans Benefit and Unsupported Childs Benefit increases by between 12 and 26 percent per week.

We are talking about billions of dollars, rather than the millions that typically feature in ministerial announcements.

According to the Government’s half-year reckoning, total Crown expenses in 2021/22 will amount to $155 billion.  Social security and welfare – $49.5 billion – will account for 32 per cent of it, up from $42.9 billion in 2020/21.

Smaller sums  were involved in a spate of other announcements (although in some statements the sums involved weren’t actually mentioned).

Drought relief – Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has classified the drought conditions in Southland and Clutha and Queenstown Lakes districts as a medium-scale adverse event, a proclamation that will unlock up to $100,000 in Government funding to support farmers and growers from now until October.

Flu shots – The Government is ramping up the flu vaccination campaign which starts today, with 40 per cent more flu shots available this year as part of the COVID-19 winter plan. New Zealand usually uses about 1.4 million flu vaccines a year. This year, 2 million will be available and eligibility for people to be vaccinated “for free” is being widened. The $12 million expansion programme is being funded from the Government’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

Aid for Fiji – Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Associate Health Minister Aupito William Sio announced New Zealand will donate further Pfizer vaccines to Fiji, to support paediatric vaccinations. The donation comprises 50,000 paediatric doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 50,000 Rapid Antigen Tests to support Fiji vaccination and testing efforts.  This contribution adds to a package of over $100 million that New Zealand has contributed in emergency budget support and humanitarian assistance to respond to the health, economic and social impacts of COVID-19 in Fiji.

Pacific learning – Associate Education Minister Aupito William Sio launched “guided resources” for early learning services and schools to strengthen their support for Pacific learners and their families.

Other ministerial statements advise us that –

  • The rules which govern New Zealand’s incorporated societies will be “refreshed” for the first time in 114 years after the Incorporated Societies Bill passed its third reading in Parliament. *
  • Associate Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta has paid tribute to Māori leader and lawyer Moana Jackson
  • The small settlement of Waipawa in southern Hawke’s Bay has been declared the most digital town in New Zealand, thanks to the government-financed programme Digital Boost and its work with local businesses and the Central Hawke’s Bay District Council.

The PM, no doubt  aware of flagging support for her and her government in recent opinion polls, grabbed a grandstanding opportunity yesterday to draw attention to the cost of living package which kicked in today.  This will provide most families and many other households with extra support to assist with rising costs, she said.

“There’s no silver bullet that will fix the current situation, which is why this Government is being responsive by implementing a range of changes to reduce costs on families who need it most. This includes the recent 25 cents a litre reduction in fuel excise, the introduction of half price public transport for three months, and increases to the Family Tax Credit.

“Just as the Government supported New Zealand families through COVID-19 we will support them again through the economic response. So in addition to increasing financial support for families we are also committed to getting to the source of the problem, including the lack of competition in our supermarkets.

“Tomorrows improvements are on top of help we’ve already provided to families like 45 million free lunches in schools, free GP visits free for children aged 13 and younger, removing donations at over 90 percent of schools and increasing paid parental leave to 6 months.”

Carmel Sepuloni and Michael Wood expanded on this with their own statement on “government action to ease the pressure on low and middle income people and whanau” which “will put more money in their pockets from 1 April”.

Their statement included tables which will help each of us – or rather, many of us – work out how much better off we will be.

Latest from the Beehive

Connected and online – Waipawa leads way

The small settlement of Waipawa in southern Hawke’s Bay has been declared the most digital town in Aotearoa New Zealand after a push to get more businesses online and connected to the world.

New Talanoa Ako resources support Pacific learners

The Associate Minister of Education, Aupito William Sio, launched the Talanoa Ako Guided Resources at an online event this morning.

Two million flu shots for COVID winter plan

The Government is ramping up the flu vaccination campaign which starts today, with 40 per cent more flu shots available this year as part of the COVID-19 winter plan.

Poroporoaki: Dr Moana Jackson

Associate Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta wishes to acknowledge the passing of Māori leader and renowned lawyer Dr Moana Jackson (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou).

Incorporated Societies Act updated for first time since 1908

The rules which govern New Zealand’s incorporated societies will be refreshed for the first time in 114 years.

New Zealand to donate further COVID-19 vaccines to Fiji

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Associate Health Minister Aupito William Sio today announced New Zealand will donate further Pfizer vaccines to Fiji, to support paediatric vaccinations.

Government supports Southland and Otago with drought package

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has today classified the drought conditions in Southland and Clutha and Queenstown Lakes districts as a medium-scale adverse event, acknowledging the challenging conditions facing farmers and growers in the region.

Cost of living package supports most kiwi families

April 1 marks the beginning of a cost of living package that will see most families and many other households receive extra support to assist with rising cost.

Government delivers income increases for over 1.4 million New Zealanders

Government action to ease the pressure on low and middle income people and whānau will put more money in their pockets from 1 April.

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