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Budget to target those most in need

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 25/05/2016 Peter Wilson, Political Writer

Finance Minister Bill English with a copy of his eighth budget © SNPA Finance Minister Bill English with a copy of his eighth budget Housing, health, education and social services are expected to be the main features of the government eighth budget.

Prime Minister John Key says it will be wide-ranging, and he's hinted at more help for vulnerable families.

"The theme of budget 2015 was raising benefits, this budget has a slightly different focus," he said.

"But there are certainly things for those who are most in need in our society."

Finance Minister Bill English, who will present the budget on Thursday, says he's going to have to spend more than he initially intended to cope with higher than expected population growth.

New spending allowances were previously set at $1 billion for this budget and $2.5b for the 2017 budget.

Mr English says that's changed and he's brought some of the 2017 allowance - he hasn't said how much - into the budget he's about to deliver.

He's also raided the 2017 fund to pay back more debt than originally intended to help meet the target of reducing it to 20 per cent of GDP by 2020.

"Budget 2016 will be focused on investing in health, education, police and other public services to ensure they meet the needs of a growing population, and provide better support for vulnerable New Zealanders," Mr English said in his only pre-budget speech.

"It will deliver on these spending priorities while still getting debt down."

Handling the housing shortage, the government's most pressing problem through to next year's election, is sure to be a feature but Mr Key says it won't be the "number one focus" of the budget.

And Mr English isn't going to throw money at it.

"These aren't issues that can be solved with more budget funding," he said in his pre-budget speech.

"Our focus is squarely on continuing to work with councils to get more houses built."

However, the budget will almost certainly provide more money for buying up surplus land in Auckland for housing development.

Housing Minister Nick Smith was given $52 million for that in last year's budget, and he's spent it.

There's speculation the budget will include a national policy statement on housing, setting out the government's targets and ways to achieve them, but that hasn't been confirmed.

Mr English says the economy is in good shape, and the budget is expected to forecast a healthy surplus for the 2016/17 year.

He's been playing down the importance of what he calls "minor overs and unders" since he achieved the target of balancing the books in the 2014/15 year.

The government spends more than $70b each year and he says Treasury forecasts don't really concern him.

Last year the Treasury got it wrong anyway, forecasting a deficit that turned into a surplus.



* No tax cuts

* $187m to shake up the provisional tax system, and other changes to make paying tax easier for small and medium businesses


* $97m for health research

* $124m boost to Pharmac's funding


* $41.1m for emergency housing, including funding for 3000 beds

* $12.6m for the Maori Housing Network, run by Te Puni Kokiri


* $15.3m for more teacher aides in classrooms

* Contingency funding to open about seven new charter schools in 2018-2019


* $46m for victims and sexual violence prevention. Includes a new 24/7 helpline


* $14.4m to train more apprentices

* $9.6m for the Maori and Pasifika Trades Training Programme

* $4.6m for Pacific Employment Support Services


* $15m to fund tech accelerators

* $22.2m to set up and run a national cyber security response team


* $25m to develop and maintain the New Zealand cycle trail

* $12m to help regions struggling with an influx of tourists

* $8m for tourism campaigns in the US and India

* One-off funding boost of $20.7m for Battle for our Birds pest control operations


* $16m for High Performance NZ

* $4m for Drug Free Sport NZ


* $303m for the merger of the urban and rural fire services, and creation of Fire and Emergency NZ

* (Funding figures are over four years, unless otherwise stated)

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