NZ BUDGET FAIL: Govt’s 2016 budget has failed Pasifika, failed the Realm, failed New Zealanders!
By Su’a William Sio,MP for Mangere and Labour Party’s Pacific Spokesperson.
Budget 2016 fails to address the big issues that matter to our communities. The National Government reveals itself as an arrogant government who is out of touch with the issues that matters for most New Zealanders. It fails to fix the housing crisis and it means more and more people will continue to be homeless living in cars, garages and emergency houses.
It fails to adequately fund key services like health and education and the shortfall to these key public institutions means the general public will have to pick up additional charges on their own incomes.
And despite Government’s projections for an increase in economic growth, the government also continues to project unemployment above 5% and the economic share for the New Zealand’s working population will fall by 1.3% or at least a fall of $400 dollars per person per year.
The money that the government has allocated for housing is badly needed, but is not enough to fix the housing crisis. There is no comprehensive plan by the government to fix the housing crisis, because they refuse to acknowledge there is a national housing crisis in the first place. At best their proposal to free up more land from local government will achieve about 1,100 new houses per year. Yet Westpac and other social housing providers have said that New Zealand needs to build up about 11,000 new houses per year. Home ownership has fallen to its worse record in several decades. Pacific home ownership has further fallen to a tragic 16% and will continue to fall.
The government’s other proposal to pay families $5000 to move out of Auckland while the Ministry of Pacific People’s has set aside $250,000 to explore moving Pacific families to live in the regions seems to me like a desperate attempt to move the problem elsewhere. It almost feels as if the Government is saying, “Instead of people being homeless and unemployment in Auckland, here’s some money to help you move, now go and be homeless and unemployed somewhere else.” I’m reminded if the problem is out of sight, then the government doesn’t have to deal with it. The budget does not fix the problems for those living in cars, garages and emergency housing. In the weekend, I was told by a taxi driver, he went to use the public toilets in Manukau and found a family with children sleeping in one. This is outrageous when citizens of this country are forced to sleep in public toilets because the National government refuses to recognise we have a serious housing crisis on our hands.
While there has been some increases in some government departments, key ministries like health and education have been severely underfunded. Infometrics research found that the ministry of health has been severely underfunded by $1.7 Billion dollars in the last 6 years.
This government has a habit of partially funding increases from inflationary and population growth pressures and calling it “more funding”. The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists released a report in which they say “claims about health care spending (by the National Government) are based on misrepresentation.”
In Budget 2016, the overall operational funding shortfall in Health is $304 million including a shortfall of $131 million for District Health Boards. Counties Manukau DHB is short of $18 million; Waitemata is short by $27 milllion; Auckland is short by $11million; Canterbury is short $33million and Wellington’s Capital & Coast is short by $14million. This will put extreme pressure on this department to do more with less, and seriously compromise the service we get and strain the already pressured workforce in health.
In Education, Operational funding is at a standstill. The Government didn’t restore the funding cuts they made in the last budget. Most schools won’t get an increase to meet inflationary and population growth and parents will have to fork out more to help and it is expected that there will be layoffs of support staff from some schools.
With the economy, the Government continues to project unemployment to stay high. At 5.6% nationally, Pacific unemployment is almost double at 10.4%. The Government projects unemployment will be the same at 5.6% next year or 146,000 people unemployed and remain above 5% in 2018 and in future years. Yet the growth in the working age population and our high migration will push those unemployment numbers higher.
Despite economic growth predictions, wage growth forecasts will be weak with an increase of 0.8% next year and a fall by 0.3% in 2018. What all this means, is a continuation of CEOs and top income earners getting a lion share of the economy while the general working population will have their economic share cut by 1.3% or $400 per person per year, further creating the vicious cycle of the rich getting richer and the poor becoming poorer.
The Pacific budget is a similar story with the government announcing a budget of $9.9 million which means the Pacific Vote has recovered to the same level as where it was when National took office in 2008. $4.6 million is allocated for the Pacific Employment Support Services project. This isn’t anything new. People may remember the PEDA affair in 2009 in which Labour held National to account and forced them to open up this funding to be publicly contested, and was awarded to 3 community organisations in this area. This funding continues that work.
There is $250,000 earmarked for “a study on the viability of a Pacific cultural centre in Auckland” which is concerning. Firstly there is no future funding, which suggests that all we get is a report and no centre. Secondly, these centres as we’ve seen with the Sky City centre will cost huge amounts of money, and the on-going maintenance costs can be crippling.
Also, this is not a new idea, and Auckland City Council and former Manukau City Council has explored this idea in the past and those explorations has shown it to be unviable. It is an idea that belongs to the private sector and taxpayers will be loathed to support an exploration that can’t be implemented. We don’t know where the idea came from and why?
If it is about job creation, I hardly think tourism is the area that can provide our communities with high valued, high skilled, high paying jobs. The tourism industry is generally known for its low valued, low skilled, low paying jobs and that’s not good for our communities.
Finally, to avoid a repetition of what we saw in 2009 when the government was going to simply appoint their friends and mates in the PEDA affair, this exploration should be contestable and an open public process be notified so we don’t find out later that it is the Government’s mates and political friends that end up with this money.
There is no allocation for Pasifika Education Centre, there is no increases for Pasifika Media Network or Pacific Business Trust. Without an allocation for Pasifika Education Centre, we don’t know what will happen to PEC once their current funding runs out in December 2016.
I have not seen anything that will give me confidence that New Zealand will rescue the realm countries from the budget cuts that Australia made towards their aid to these realm countries, after all they are New Zealand’s realm countries and not Australia. New Zealand needs to step up, or find that these realm countries will be forced to partner with China, Taiwan which would be embarrassing as Tokelau, Niue and the Cook Islands are New Zealand’s responsibility.