A 'mixed bag' for Manawatu

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 08:46 25/05/2012

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OPINION: Bill English delivered his fourth Budget yesterday. Manawatu Standard politics reporter Mathew Grocott casts his eye over it to find out what it will mean for Manawatu.

There were never going to be any big surprises in yesterday's Budget; there never are in these days of stage-managed media releases in the weeks before the big day.

But the devil is in the detail and with the release of the Government's plans for the coming year it's a mixed bag for Manawatu residents.

Potentially the most controversial element of the Budget, the change in schoolteacher/student funding ratios, was first signalled several months ago.

One Palmerston North intermediate principal is so outraged at the move that today's school newsletter claims Prime Minister John Key and his Minister of Education Hekia Parata have failed the school's children.

Speaking of teachers, those wanting to train at Massey  will be hit by changes to student allowance eligibility. Students studying postgraduate courses, which includes everyone wanting to train as a teacher at Massey's  College of Education, will no longer be able to claim an allowance.

This could  deter people from learning above bachelor degree level. Arguably, postgraduate courses, and their higher reliance on research and practical learning, allow the least opportunity for students to pick up part-time work.

It seems to have been a cut made to save about $10 million a year, but the rationale for the move has not yet been explained.

 Health received the biggest boost in funding with money for cancer treatment, elective surgeries, maternity services, dementia patients and free after-hours doctors' visits for under-6s.

Coupled with that is the increase in prescription charges by $2 a pop, a seemingly affordable amount, except for  the region's most vulnerable.

As Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway has pointed out, the fact this is a zero Budget means any new spending uses  money taken from somewhere else. Just where the spending has gone from is always harder to learn in reading the Budget, particularly when you have to rely largely on the Government's take on it.

One area where it is likely less money will be available is defence. There were no major announcements around defence spending, meaning the Government is forging ahead with the White Paper-inspired funding cuts which  have been  blamed  for an unprecedented drop in morale.

There was very little  targeted at rural New Zealand, besides a few extra million for the rollout of school broadband. That's unless you count the $250m from asset sales going to freight train infrastructure.

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There is  more detail to come, so perhaps some of the $88.1m for hospital redevelopments will be spent at Palmerston North,  maybe some of the $33.8m for school buildings will go to Feilding.  Perhaps then we'll be treated to a surprise.


- Manawatu Standard

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