Devonport Flagstaff Column - 2 June: Budget Developments
I’m proud to be part of a government that cares about families and is taking this country in the right direction including those of us fortunate enough to live in Devonport.
After nearly 9 years of stable government, National knows how to get things done and by growing the economy we’ve achieved a surplus which gives us choices about how we invest with Budget 2017. We are sharing the benefits of growth by improving public services, investing in vital infrastructure, and lifting incomes and there’s significant investment in families, health, education, housing, conservation and the cultural sector.
The centrepiece is a $2 billion a year family incomes package which will lift the incomes of 1.3 million families – on average by $26 a week. As the Minister for Seniors I’m pleased there’ll be increased payments for more than 99% of New Zealand’s 750,000 seniors – 12,000 living here on the North Shore.
As a government we’re now putting up $436m for the first stage of Auckland’s City rail link and there’s funding for key projects over the next four years including the completion of Auckland’s Western Ring route, the Northern and Southern Corridor State Highway 1 improvements and the East-West link. Now what’s needed is for the two local left-leaning city councillors and mayor to re-invest the very large amount of our North Shore rates money back into our community especially to relieve traffic congestion on Lake and Esmonde Roads.
There’ll be nine new schools as well as extra classrooms to address roll growth in the city as part of $450 million being invested in education nationally.
Our local Waitemata DHB ran the pilot for the national bowel screening programme and there’s $38.5 million to continue its rollout throughout NZ. An extra $3.9 billion is being put into health taking the total investment to a record $16.77 billion in 2017/18. Also part of Budget 2017 is funding for the pay equity settlement that will see workers in resthomes receive a significant increase in their take home pay and help recruit and retain staff in our elder care sector.
We’ve also made a commitment to building 34,000 new homes in Auckland over the next ten years. Budget 2017 also delivered on something else very close to my heart – protecting threatened species and managing the increasing number of people who want to visit our conservation estate. There’s $107.8 million of new money to strengthen conservation programmes and make real progress on the challenges ahead – achieving the goal of Predator Free by 2050; saving and protecting our most vulnerable species as outlined in the new Threatened Species Strategy and ensuring we keep rat and stoat numbers down this year for the sake of our birds. You can fill out the online submission form at www.doc.govt.nz/draft-threatened-species-strategy-consultation and e-mail the form to email@example.com by July 31, 2017.
RNZ is a national treasure and, along with many of you, I avidly listen to it and I worked there for many years as a presenter of Morning Report and 9 to Noon. Now, as the Minister responsible for RNZ, it was deeply satisfying to deliver an annual permanent $2.8 million - or 8% increase - to its baseline funding. RNZ has transformed itself into a multi-media platform which I’m confident will continue to enrich our daily lives and be a lifeline in times of crisis such as the Kaikoura earthquakes.
We’ve recently announced more than $300 million to support the highly successful NZ Screen Production Grants. Since 2014, the grants have supported some 50 international productions and 23 home-grown movies like Dark Horse – written and directed by Takapuna Grammar old boy James Napier Robertson. Along with the changes we made to the labour laws to allow the Hobbit and other blockbusters to be made here, the funds will continue to enable films to be produced locally, supporting our talented, skilled and professional movie sector.