This is the first Budget for Finance Minister Steven Joyce and given it's an election year and with National keen to maintain the balance of power in Parliament it's an important one.
This is also an important time for many families across the country who have been struggling to make ends meet. Those working on the front line directly with those families have a clear idea of where they hope to see some investment.
Recent research suggests that over 40 thousand people are between homes or classified as homeless in New Zealand, the majority are identified as being centred in Auckland.
Te Puea Marae and its community stood together to help struggling families last year, according to the chairman of the marae Huri Dennis even though the program has closed the need is still great.
“E hara mai tonu etahi o ngā whānau kainga kore ki te marae kei te kimihia kei te rapurapuhia rātou mo ngā kai mo ngā whare mo ngā moenga me ngā kōrero whakatau mahana koina te mamae tonu kei reira rā ki waho rā o tā rātou nei kainga kore.”
Working side by side with struggling families has given Huri Dennis a clear understanding of where the real need is. While he says the government should obviously provide funding for more homes, they also need to focus more on the core social services these families need.
“Engari ko te mahi kē mō te kawana ko te whakatika ko te whakakaha ngā rōpū hauora ngā rōpū social services, ngā mea katoa. Na te mea ko te nuinga o ngā whānau e hara mai ana ki konei ta ratou nei, ahakoa he kāinga kore ko tā rātou nei mamae ko family violence, drug and alcohol abuse, methamphetamine, suicide, budgeting issues, koinā kē te tino mahi mā mātou o Te Pūea.
For one organisation that has spent years helping people in need, the government should focus spending on raising the minimum wage, because even working families are among those asking for help.
Chris Farelly of the Auckland City Mission says, “A lot of those people who are coming to us for food are actually working they’re not unemployed they’re working and they have in their pocket 80 dollars a week left, minimum wage is too minimum we have to actually get to a living wage where a family of four or five can actually afford to feed the family.”
The government announced last week it would invest in building 34 thousand new homes. But Action Against Poverty says that initiative will barely scratch the surface of the problem.
Vanessa Cole of Action Against Poverty says, “We need to be speding more money we need to spend more money on building hundreds and thousands of state housing and on giving everybody a liveable income including unemployed and employed workers.”
Regardless of the hopes of those working on the frontlines a true solution to these problems is long way off.
Organisations across the country have called for an increase in funding for children living in poverty.
According to UNICEF NZ statistics over 295 thousand children are currently living in poverty. The Child Poverty Action group says the only way to begin making a difference for those impacted is for the government to invest at least $1.2 billion in services targeted at helping their families. While there are a number of areas they've highlighted as needing focus the majority they believe should be directed towards boosting for low-income families.
While the government hasn't yet finalised everything that may address the issues raised or been definitive about how it will be distributed.
They have announced a social investment package:
- $321 million Social Investment Package has been designated to vulnerable families
- $68.8 million will go towards children living in challenging family environments.
As a part of the 2017 Budget, it was announced that $27 million will go towards supporting marae and helping more whānau to find affordable housing.
The package, which was announced May 8, includes $10 million over four years allocated to marae. The money will help restore, insulate and repair marae facilities such as wharenui and wharekai.
Kainga Ora, or Māori Housing Network, is another initiative which will benefit from the funding, receiving $8 million to continue helping whānau to get in to affordable homes. Kainga Ora was set up by Te Puni Kōkiri to work alongside whānau, hapū and iwi to achieve housing aspirations.
Kainga Ora assist people to plan their project, source the necessary funding and develop the idea until it becomes a reality.
Projects that Kainga Ora consider could range from community home repair programmes and papakainga infrastructure for housing to emergency accommodation.
The programme has already supported 140 housing proposals worth $37.5 million since its inception in 2015.
SOUTH ISLAND LINK
Budget 2017 will provide up to $812 million to restore State Highway 1 between Picton and Christchurch in the South Island.
The 2016 November earthquake in Kaikōura caused extensive road damage, closing a significant portion of the main highway. Since the quake, drivers have had to take alternative routes, adding extra hours of travel.
What would usually take around 4 hours, now takes 6 and a half, using the alternative route through Murchison and Hanmer Springs.
Minister of Transport Simon Bridges says the Government's priority is to reinstate the pre-earthquake transport links to Kaikoura and its surrounding areas and ensure these links are resilient in years to come.
Tertiary students across the country say if the government doesn't focus more funding support on this area, the number of people seeking higher education will drop.
Students accross the country say that even though rent and student fess have risen the financial support available for them are just crumbs. Drew Harding of the Auckland University of Technology says there are three key points shes hoping the government will address in this years budget.
NZ SCREEN INDUSTRY
Minister of Economic Development Simon Bridges and Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage Maggie Barry have announced that $303.9mil from Budget 2017 will be allocated to support the continuation of the New Zealand Screen industry grants, both globally and domestically.
The popularity of Māori filmmakers on the international circuit is growing steadily but a large portion of the fund has been set aside to draw international productions into New Zealand.
$222 million has been allocated over four years and $18 million in 2016/17 for the International Screen Production Grant.
$63.9 million over four years will remain to be available to ensure the domestic component of the grant continues.
Ngā Aho Whakaari, the national representative body for Māori working in screen production, say the announcement of the budget boost to Te Tumu Whakaata Taonga (New Zealand Film Commission) is welcome however they do not think that $63.9 million over four years is enough for the anticipated growth and development of a healthy and innovative local industry.