Some Budget decisions take time to become visible — especially the big ones.
I’ve just visited the KiwiRail Hillside workshops in Dunedin, first with Finance Minister Grant Robertson, then again with Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, to witness the buildings taking shape and visibly rising into the cityscape like a phoenix from the ashes.
It’s exciting to see this boost to the local economy led by main contractor, Milton-based company Calder Stewart, along with the prospect of trades jobs assembling train wagons — all the while repositioning the South to take advantage of the climate benefits of rail.
Hillside all but closed under the previous National government in 2012, before receiving funding boosts of almost $19 million then $85 million in Budget 2021.
Budget 2023 has a different focus, introducing a cost-of-living package designed to ease the pressure on households. It provides practical cost-of-living support across some of the core expenses facing South Otago families — childcare, healthcare and power bills.
It will help to make things a bit easier for families, students and seniors by reducing or removing some of the costs they face at present.
Millions of people will pay a little less as a result.
We’re helping with health costs by removing prescription charges for medicines.
Removing the $5 co-payment will mean that about three million New Zealanders will no longer have to worry about the costs of collecting their medication.
This will make a real difference for South Otago households, particularly those who have multiple prescriptions to fill on a regular basis.
We’re significantly reducing the cost of early childhood education (ECE) for parents by extending 20 hours of free ECE to 2-year-olds, adding to the existing 3- to 5-year-olds.
This will be a major saving for families and will reduce barriers for working parents to take on more hours if they can.
With Budget 2023, we’re also extending our healthy school lunches programme, which delivers more than a million free lunches to students each week.
In the Clutha district more than 650 lunches are provided daily through this programme.
For families with two children, it’s estimated the scheme saves, on average, $60 per week.
We’re also helping to reduce power bills by hundreds of dollars a year through the warmer Kiwi homes programme.
This retrofit programme is estimated to have reduced electricity use by 16% on average over the winter months and sits alongside our winter energy payment.
Cost-of-living pressures are being felt across our community as New Zealand faces challenges such as global inflation and rebuilding following the recent extreme weather events.
That’s why Budget 2023 strikes a careful balance between supporting people today, and building towards a better tomorrow.