Little in the Budget that shows real commitment to change

The Budget shows a slow and steady economic recovery, but that should not be the extent of our ambition. We need more urgent attention given to poverty and recovery of social wellbeing, says the Auckland Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.

While the Government is moving towards implementation of some recommendations of the advisory group on Solutions to Child Poverty, there is little in the Budget that shows real commitment to change . Despite pre-Budget announcements, the outcomes of work undertaken by the Ministerial Committee on Poverty since its establishment also remain unclear.

We endorse the support provided to the most vulnerable New Zealanders through the Warm Up New Zealand and rheumatic fever programmes but other spending decisions are more difficult to reconcile.

In particular:

  • a food-in-schools programme is missing in action and looks set to have passive Government involvement although further announcements are promised
  • a whiteware procurement programme and pilot partnership for low cost loans get the green light but are somewhat underwhelming to address the needs of vulnerable New Zealanders.

The Budget speaks of investment and wrap around, but the broader focus appears to be on welfare reform targeted at financial accountability rather than adequate support for the most vulnerable. Accountability has its place but we are concerned that greater cost savings for the Government rather than real change for those most in need will result.

Housing provision catch-up

The Commission welcomes the positive initiatives to enlarge state houses and increase the stock after several years without any provision for new state houses. However the demand for affordable state rental housing is such that 500 new homes over two to three years must be seen as a minimum number.

The number of vacant state houses has been the subject of publicity recently, especially in South Auckland. The immediate renovation and re-letting of vacant houses should be undertaken to help ease the urgent demand while the new initiatives are being actioned. Even if they are not of the ideal size they would provide much better accommodation than is afforded by garages or overcrowded houses.

Improving housing affordability  

The Government’s acceptance of the Productivity Commission’s recommendations is also a positive step to tackle long-term housing inaffordability. The implementation will require sustained effort by Government and the Auckland Council. However this is unlikely to be the full answer after years of rampant increase of house values. Unless Government is prepared to impose specific restrictions, owning a house will continue to be beyond the reach of an increasing number of New Zealanders. An example would be a requirement that property developers must include a proportion of lower cost housing in every development above a certain size.

For further comment contact

Norman Elliot

Deputy Chair, Justice & Peace Commission, Catholic Diocese of Auckland

Phone  575 4943 (hm), 623 0402 (wk)  mobile: 021 040 4102



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