Finance Minister Bill English will announce the full details of the 2014 Government Budget today, however the Government has already announced a range of funding boosts and initiatives.
The Opposition says it wants the benefits of the Government surplus to trickle down to those in low socio-economic situations feeling the strain of unemployment and low wages. It's expected the Budget will be debated heatedly in Parliament once the full details are released today.
Below is an outline of some of the initiatives that have already been announced and related stories our team has put together so far relating to those issues.
Throughout the day, we will provide updates of further funding announcements and our Te Kāea team will bring you a full breakdown of details tonight and what if any benefits there are for Māori.
On the eve of the announcement, our Political Reporter Maiki Sherman spoke with the Minister of Finance Bill English and investigated the possibility of National introducing tax cuts as part of their policy to entice voters this election year.
According to the Ministry of Health as a population Māori have on average the poorest health status of any ethnic group in New Zealand.
The Ministry highlights that Māori adults report high rates of most health conditions which include asthma, ischaemic heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Psychological distress is also noted as an issue impacting severely on Māori health, especially among those living in deprived areas. The cost of medical treatment is also seen as a barrier and key contributor to poor health statistics with Māori.
Te Kāea reporter Dean Nathan spoke to one of the country's most trusted and recognised Māori doctors who has gone above and beyond to provide quality healthcare to his community. Dr Lance O'Sullivan hopes that the health of children in New Zealand will be prioritised in the budget this year.
The Government will invest an extra $20 million over the next four years to combat New Zealand’s high rate of rheumatic fever – over the last six years the Government has invested a total $65.3 million.
It is expected a chunk of this funding will go towards expanding the number free drop-in sore-throat clinics to target a further 90,000 children and young people who are at risk of getting rheumatic fever.
In New Zealand, 92% of all cases of rheumatic fever affect Māori and Pacific Island children. The areas with the highest incidence of rheumatic fever are Northland, Auckland (Counties-Manukau and Waitematā), Waikato, Tairāwhiti, Bay of Plenty, Lakes, Hawkes Bay and Wellington (Hutt Valley and East Porirua).
Our Political Reporter Maiki Sherman visited one of the clinics providing free checks when the announcement was made.
According to recent statistics, 55% of children with a hearing loss are Māori or Pacific even though they constitute only 28% of the general population. Each cochlear implant costs about $50,000.
The Government announced that Budget 2014 will include an extra $6.3 million to provide two funded cochlear implants for children with profound hearing loss.
The deaf community and their unique language was celebrated recently and our reporter Numia Ponika-Rangi spoke with those working hard to improve the level and calibre of Māori Sign Language or Te Reo Turi (Rotarota).
Recent Police statistics show they deal with more than 70,000 family violence calls a year but estimate only 18% of incidents are reported. They attend 120 calls a day to incidents of family violence. In 2005, 29 of 61 murders were domestic violence-related.
Around 22% of New Zealand girls and 10% of New Zealand boys have experienced sexual abuse.
TOAH-NNEST research also suggests the sexual abuse of boys is far more common than generally believed it also highlights New Zealand studies which shows around 1 in 10 men, will experience sexual abuse in their lifetime.
Te Kāea reporter Harata Brown covered the concerning amount of once-trusted community members in Kaitaia and the Northland region, who have been charged and found guilty of sexually assaulting young boys and girls and the devastating impact this has on families and the entire community.
$10.4 million in new operating funding will go towards supporting sexual violence services over the next term.
The extra funding will go towards front-line services, community-based treatment, services for male survivors and medical and forensic services.
This includes the development of a nationwide prevention package, and a focus on improving sector development, funding and governance.
Social Development Funding and Initiatives
According to Statistics NZ as at December 2013, the total unemployment rate in NZ was 6.2%. Māori remain over represented in unemployment statistics and make up 12.9%, down from 14.1% in 2012, signalling a 1.2% decrease.
Ministry of Social Development statistics show the number of beneficiaries has decreased 5% by around 15,000 to 295,320 in the past year.
Low to No Interest Loans Scheme for Low Income Families
Low to no interest loans for low income families is a joint venture between the Government, the Bank of New Zealand, Good Shepherd, and the Salvation Army. The initiative is seen as positive step to pulling families away from the draw of easy loans with high interest rates and high risk from loan shark lending companies.
Te Kāea reporter Wepiha Te Kanawa took a closer look at the scheme and how this may help families in need out of difficult situations.
$22 million over four years for non-government organisations delivering community budgeting services to families. Investment baseline funding will rise by 61 per cent from $9 million a year to $15 million a year by 2015/16 and will ensure the services are able to keep up with demand.
3K to Christchurch Initiative
3K to Christchurch was another initiative the Government has already announced, an amount of $3.5 million in new funding will go towards giving keen beneficiaries outside Canterbury a one-off payment of $3000 if they have a full-time job offer in Canterbury and are ready and willing to move there.
Also $1 million through the Ministry of Social Development will be provided to KidsCan to help lower decile schools tackle nits.
The new, New Zealand Apprenticeships, which has been describes by Government as a vocational pathway into an industry-based career for New Zealanders. The new apprenticeships provide the same level of support and the same level of subsidy for all apprentices regardless of their age.
Budget 2014 will contain an additional $20 million to expand the apprenticeship reboot scheme by an additional 6000 places.
Kura Kaupapa Māori are hopeful that among other funding and initiative support they will be granted more resources to assist in their capability of delivering quality education.
Harata Brown spoke with some Māori educators about what they hope to see in this years Budget.
Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund
New funding of $16 million over four years to support the repair and rebuild of rural housing, the improvement of housing on the Chatham Islands and the development of Māori social housing providers.
The need for more focus on housing issues was highlighted in recent stories covered by Dean Nathan and Aroha Treacher.
Dean Nathan spoke to a woman in Northland fretting over the impending winter cold due to the extremely poor housing situation she is confronted with.BUDGET 2014 news section on the website.
$132 million in the budget has been allocated to Inland Revenue over the next five years to bolster its tax compliance activities and for chasing p unfiled returns.
Of this, $48.6 million is cash for Inland Revenue to undertake these activities. The remaining $84 million is to cover tax being written off where this is unlikely to be paid.
Canterbury Support Services
Operating funding of $13.5 million over the next four years will see the continuation of the Earthquake Coordination Service, including counselling services and the Canterbury 0800 support phone line.
The new money is expected to provide coordination support for up to 5,000 households and support 240 new people a month through counselling services. It is estimated that the 0800 Canterbury support line will handle around 12,850 calls.