Rebuilding Core Public Services

This Government recognises that strong economic indicators are only part of the story.   We will not continue the trend of declaring success while at the same time underfunding the services we all rely on. This Government is committed to properly funding core public services.

Rebuilding our health services is the top priority for this Budget.

Health will receive a huge boost in new operating funding with $3.2 billion more over the next four years.

This begins the journey to rebuild a health system that has simply not been given the resources to meet the demands of population growth and an ageing population over recent years.

An increase of $2.3 billion for District Health Boards will enable our hospitals and health services to provide quality care at all times to those who need it. This funding means there will be more money for services, such as mental health, the opportunity to update technology and take pressure off over-worked staff.  This is the bread and butter funding that makes our hospitals and health services work well, and that has been neglected for too long.

Today that changes.

We are also announcing $750 million of new capital for health projects.  Last year that equivalent investment was just $150 million. Today’s investment is the biggest commitment to rebuilding health infrastructure in a decade. This Budget also sets aside funding for the design work for a brand new hospital in Dunedin.

Mr Speaker

Today I want to speak directly to the dedicated professionals who work in our health system: You have carried the burden of a system that was unable to cope with the demands it faced. Thank you for your service and your dedication.  Together, we begin a journey today to re-build our health services.

This Government wants to improve access to affordable, high quality health services for young people and for those most in need. That’s why our first step today is extending access to Very Low Cost GP visits to all Community Service Card holders.

At the same time, we’re extending the Community Services Card to all Housing New Zealand tenants and those receiving an accommodation supplement or income-related rent subsidy, so more people become eligible for cheaper doctor visits.

This will make doctor visits approximately $20 to $30 cheaper for more than half a million people.

As promised as part of our agreement with New Zealand First, free doctors’ visits will be available to everyone under the age of 14, and their after-hours care and prescriptions will also be free.

Many other health initiatives will be funded through today’s Budget.

A further $126 million will be invested into elective surgery.

This Budget finally addresses a significant unfairness for community midwives. I am pleased to announce the investment of $103.6 million which will see an 8.9 percent catch-up increase in fees and improved working conditions for over 1,400 health professionals over the next four years.

We also recognise a rising demand for air ambulance services which are a critical part of how we respond to health emergencies. In this Budget close to $83 million in new funding will go towards these services.

We want to save more lives by detecting illness and disease earlier when it can be more successfully treated. This Budget allocates $67 million to further extend the National Bowel Screening Programme.

This Government is concerned about mental health and young people in particular.  We have already announced an Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction to identify gaps and what more is needed. New Zealanders can expect to see more funding given to mental health in future Budgets, after the Inquiry has identified its priorities.

In the meantime, in this Budget, as part of our Confidence and Supply agreement with the Green Party, we are putting $10.5 million towards a pilot programme to develop integrated mental health therapies for young people. We are also extending the nurses in schools programme to all public decile four schools around New Zealand.  We have already funded additional support for young people in Kaikōura and Canterbury who have been affected by the earthquakes.

Mr Speaker

In Education, this Budget provides $1.6 billion in new operating funding over four years. This new operating funding is a 45 percent increase on last year’s Budget.

New funding will address increasing demand for early childhood education and roll growth.  We will provide $590 million to better support the early learning needs of 200,000 children. This will be the first universal adjustment for early childhood education services in a decade.

Schools will receive a $203.6 million boost to their operating funding, to keep up with the growing number of students and help meet rising costs.  This funding amounts to a 27 percent increase from the equivalent funding provided in last year’s Budget.

We are also providing for an additional 1,500 teachers in our primary and secondary schools across the country over the next four years.

Another $395.8 million will be injected in new capital funding for better schools and to build hundreds of new classrooms.

As part of this we are continuing the Christchurch Schools Rebuild programme. Budget 2018 will contribute $62 million of new capital funding and more than $16 million of new operating funding for these schools.

The new funding announced today includes a long overdue boost for learning support to help all young people participate in education. Learning Support operating funding will go up by more than $272.8 million over the next four years.

To the parents of children with additional and complex learning needs, I want you to know we have heard you.  In addition to announcements already made by the Prime Minister, we are providing $133 million to the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme, to support an additional 1,000 students from next year.

I am very pleased to announce that teacher aide funding will receive an extra $59.3 million through this investment.

We want more inclusive schools – so every child with additional needs and learning difficulties can truly participate in school life.

New funding will support this Government’s work on long-term strategic plans for the education system. Too much of our education policy is still stuck in a 20th century mind-set. To this end we are reviewing Tomorrow’s Schools and NCEA, and we want a continuous focus on raising achievement for Māori and Pasifika learners.

In this Budget a new programme, Te Kawa Matakura, championed by the Hon Kelvin Davis, will be developed for students who exhibit excellence in Te Ao Māori.

In the tertiary area, we have already fully funded the first year of our fees-free post-school training and education policy. We want people from all backgrounds to be able to go on to training and education at any time. This is not just about those going on to university from high school.  It’s about more apprentices and more in-work training. It’s about providing more opportunities for a wider range of New Zealanders to train and re-train as the world of work changes.

The most prosperous countries in the world tend to be those that invest the most in education. Better education leads to better lives, and today we begin those investments with new energy.

Mr Speaker

This Government is determined to take action on the housing crisis and the scourge of homelessness which has emerged in this country.

In December’s mini-Budget we allocated $2.1 billion for our ambitious KiwiBuild programme to deliver 100,000 long-overdue affordable houses built across the country, including 50,000 in Auckland over the next 10 years.

Budget 2018 commits more than $1 billion in new funding to go towards Housing, including $369 million in new capital funding.

The different priorities of this Government are never clearer than in housing. One of our first actions was to stop the state house sell-off.

Today, I am announcing that this Government is taking serious action to increase the supply of public housing by investing $234.4 million in operating funding for Housing New Zealand and Community Housing Providers.  This will provide more than 6,000 homes over the next four years.

We are working with councils to deliver more houses. For instance, the Tāmaki Regeneration Company, which is jointly owned by the Government and Auckland Council, will be given another $300 million to provide about 700 state houses, as well as another 1,400 houses in Tāmaki for the open market.

These will be new, warm and dry houses. Too many of our homes are cold and damp, leading to preventable diseases. A new programme to make Kiwi homes healthier will provide $143 million to go towards grants for those on lower incomes to insulate and heat their homes. Investing in warmer homes simply makes sense.

This Government is determined that never again will New Zealand be reported as having the worst homelessness in the OECD.

In this Budget, our Government will support more than 1,400 of New Zealand’s most vulnerable homeless people and families through the Housing First programme over the next four years.

Housing First supports people who have been homeless for a long time or who face multiple and complex issues. We recognise it is much easier for people to address issues like mental health, or drug addiction, once they are housed.

This programme aims to end homelessness for people, not just manage it.

Mr Speaker

All these plans announced today, as well as the Families Package, will help to lift children out of poverty.

This Government is committed to a bold plan to reduce poverty and material hardship for our children, so that New Zealand truly becomes the best place in the world to be a child.  The initiatives we have already put in place will lift tens of thousands of children out of poverty.  But we know that we have more to do.

The Prime Minister’s Child Poverty Reduction Bill is at the heart of our plan. It requires a strategy with bold new targets to be set to reduce child poverty over 10 years. We want to ensure constant progress towards improving the lives of children in New Zealand.

Two new expert units are being established within the Prime Minister’s Department to develop strategy on this. The Child Poverty Unit and the Child Wellbeing Unit will advise on policies and develop the overall strategy to improve the wellbeing of all children.

We want New Zealanders’ help on this and there will be widespread public consultation on the plan and the priorities later this year.

Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Children, will receive an additional $141.6 million over the next four years so more children and young people receive the care they need.

Grandparents raising their grandchildren and other caregivers will get extra support - we are entitling them to the same clothing allowance as foster carers.

In a country as wealthy as ours, there is no reason why any child living here should suffer in poverty. It is time we started putting children first. If we improve the wellbeing of our children, we will be a rich society indeed.

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