Budget 2017 -- Invercargill candidates have their say
Invercargill candidates discuss their high and lowlights of Budget 2017.
SARAH DOWIE - National MP for Invercargill
I'm proud of this National Government's work to date in helping families get ahead and Budget 2017 has continued this commitment.
The centrepiece is a $2 billion Family Incomes Package that will ensure families directly share in the benefits of our strong and growing economy.
The package is carefully designed to help low and middle-income earners with young families and higher housing costs.
It will raise the incomes of 1.3 million families by an average of $26 a week. It is also expected to lift 20,000 families above the threshold for severe housing stress and reduce the number of children living in families receiving less than half the median income by about 50,000.
The package has three key elements – adjusting income tax thresholds, increasing Working for Families and providing additional support for people on low incomes with high accommodation costs.
The changes mean, for example, a couple with two children under 13 and one partner earning $55,000 will gain $41 a week plus any increase to their accommodation supplement.
We are also building on our initiatives such as free GP visits and prescriptions for under 13s with an extra $3.9 billion over four years taking the total health investment to a record $16.77 billion.
The Southern District Health Board will benefit from extra funding to invest in services, improve access and to meet cost pressures and population growth. The bowel screening programme will also be rolled out in the region in 2017-18.
An extra $224 million over four years will be invested in mental health services including $124 million in new innovative approaches.
Mental health is a social investment priority for this Government. It's one of our most complex social issues and it's having significant impacts across the employment, housing, health and justice sectors. If we want people to succeed then we need to tackle the issues which are getting in the way of achievement.
Budget 2017 is about delivering for all New Zealanders and we can't continue to invest in people without having a strong and growing economy.
LIZ CRAIG - Labour Party candidate for Invercargill
The 2017 Budget is an amazing flurry of numbers. Yet to understand what it really means, you need to look beyond the infographics, to what's been happening in New Zealand during the past nine years.
That's because the bigger picture has been one of silent cuts, of budgets year after year, failing to keep up with population growth, wages and inflation. In health, $1.7 billion has been stripped from the health budget over the past six years, while in housing $1.8 billion of "dividends" have been extracted from Housing NZ. In education, school operational grants have been frozen, with early childhood funding failing to keep up with growing demand.
For us in Southland, this has meant long waits for hospital appointments, medical tests, and surgery; many of our children with special needs not getting the extra support they need; and our social housing always being at 100 per cent capacity, and only accessible to those without a roof over their head.
So what will Budget 2017 do for us?
In health, the Council of Trade Unions estimates DHB's budgets need to rise by $580 million a year, just to maintain current services, and to keep up with population growth and cost pressures. Today's budget, which delivers just $439 million, means it's likely to be business as usual on the waiting list front at the Southern DHB.
In education, a 1.3 per cent rise in school's operational grants, which teacher's unions say won't cover inflation, coupled with static early childhood subsidies, means parents will have to continue chipping in for their children's education.
And in housing, the Government's promise to spend $2.23 billion on 34,000 new houses for Auckland is cold comfort for us here in Southland, although the first increase in the accommodation supplement since 2007 will be an unexpected bonus for landlords.
Thus here's to a business as usual budget, and to a change of Government in September
RIA BOND - NZ First List MP and Invercargill candidate
It must be an election year because Steven Joyce and his National government didn't just give us a lolly scramble, they robbed the lolly shop and then returned the stolen goods with a bow on top.
I say robbed because the 'surplus' Mr Joyce handed out was only possible because of the massive funding cuts this government has made to essential services over the past nine years.
That's not a surplus, that's dodgy accounting.
New Zealand First is disappointed at the provisions for health within Budget 2017.
National have underfunded the health system throughout their three terms in government, have run services into the ground and are now panicking as the cracks have become glaringly obvious.
Sure, National have committed more funds to healthcare, however we are sceptical that it will go to where it is needed, and let us not forget the surge in funding now, is symptomatic of a system that has been starved for many years under this government.
The National government are continuing to underfund mental health services despite being aware that the service is in crisis. The budget allocations are woefully inadequate to deal with a deeply broken system.
New Zealanders need certainty that they will be able to access quality healthcare in a timely fashion. With this budget, we are set for more of the same: an underfunded healthcare system which leaves many Kiwis missing out on healthcare and rapidly losing their quality of life. Health is a critical investment in New Zealand's human resource and not a balance sheet item. New Zealand First believes a properly funded and resourced public health service will not only provide better for our country, but save money in the long run. Given today's budget announcements, this is unlikely to occur under this National-led government.
ROCHELLE SURENDRAN - Green Party Invercargill candidate
We Kiwis love our natural environment, but it is in crisis.
For people concerned about our polluted waterways, threatened biodiversity and increasing emissions, it's a kick in the teeth.
Our precious natural environment will continue to degrade under National's Budget.
The government announced a $1 million dollar fund to address freshwater pollution, whereas big irrigation gets subsidies of $90 million.
The government cheerfully supports expansion of the very activities causing our freshwater crisis.
The farmers, scientists, and everyday Kiwis demanding action on freshwater will be disappointed.
Funding of DOC's core biodiversity protection work continues to decrease in real terms, now down 22 per cent over the last nine years according to Forest & Bird.
The potential value of the $4 million increase in funding to stop climate change is offset by the $300 million increase in subsidies for polluters.
This "cash bribe budget" is designed to distract from the fact our environment is in crisis.