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The Northland Age - - Local Life / Opinion - Hon Win­ston Peters MP

Thou­sands of strug­gling North­land fam­i­lies will be bet­ter off af­ter this week’s roll-out of the coali­tion gov­ern­ment’s flag­ship Fam­i­lies Pack­age.

The pack­age, which benefits young and old, work­ing and un­em­ployed, was an­nounced in the Labour-NZ First Gov­ern­ment’s first 100 days, and came into force on July 1.

The changes mean 384,000 New Zealand fam­i­lies will be an av­er­age of $75 a week bet­ter off once fully rolled out, and 64,000 chil­dren will be lifted out of poverty.

Work­ing for Fam­i­lies pay­ments have been ex­panded to sup­port more New Zealand fam­i­lies, es­pe­cially those left be­hind by the last gov­ern­ment’s policies. Al­most 40,000 more fam­i­lies will ben­e­fit when the plan is fully im­ple­mented.

Paid parental leave has in­creased to 22 weeks, and by 2020 will rise to 26 weeks. Paid parental leave pay­ments will in­crease by 4.7 per cent, in line with in­creases to the na­tional av­er­age wage. Be­ing a new par­ent is both amaz­ing and chal­leng­ing, and we hope to sup­port the par­ents of young in­fants in those vi­tal early months.

In ad­di­tion, each fam­ily with a baby born af­ter July 1 will re­ceive a weekly $60 Best Start pay­ment to re­lieve some of the fi­nan­cial pres­sure that a new ar­rival can bring. These fam­i­lies will get this dur­ing the first year of a child’s life, and for some fam­i­lies that’ll con­tinue for two more years.

How­ever, it is im­por­tant to recog­nise that a child is not al­ways brought up by its par­ents. Thou­sands of grand­par­ents and wha¯nau care­givers kindly and gen­er­ously step in to raise some­one else’s child when par­ent­ing cir­cum­stances are prob­lem­atic. These fam­ily mem­bers who take on the re­spon­si­bil­ity, and the cost, of rais­ing chil­dren who are not their own have been over­looked for too long. They are now en­ti­tled to a cloth­ing al­lowance at the same rate as foster care­givers re­ceive un­der the Oranga Ta­mariki leg­is­la­tion.

And just as win­ter tem­per­a­tures re­ally start to bite, our win­ter en­ergy pay­ment will reach su­per­an­nu­i­tants and ben­e­fi­cia­ries. As part of our com­mit­ment that ev­ery New Zealan­der has a warm, dry roof over their head, we’re sup­port­ing vul­ner­a­ble Ki­wis with the cost of heat­ing over the colder months.

There is no need to ap­ply. Those el­i­gi­ble will re­ceive the pay­ment au­to­mat­i­cally. It will run for 13 weeks this year. In fu­ture it will start on May 1 and con­tinue for 22 weeks. Sin­gle peo­ple without de­pen­dents will re­ceive $20.46 a week, cou­ples or those with de­pen­dents will re­ceive $31.82 a week.

We can pro­vide this level of sup­port to New Zealan­ders be­cause we have de­lib­er­ately cho­sen dif­fer­ent spend­ing pri­or­i­ties than the last gov­ern­ment. We’re de­liv­er­ing sur­pluses, manag­ing the coun­try’s books care­fully, and putting peo­ple first.

Along­side the nu­mer­ous job-cre­ation pro­jects an­nounced for North­land this year through the Pro­vin­cial Growth Fund, the Fam­i­lies Pack­age will en­sure a more pros­per­ous fu­ture for the re­gion’s peo­ple.

"As part of our com­mit­ment that ev­ery New Zealan­der has a warm, dry roof over their head, we’re sup­port­ing vul­ner­a­ble Ki­wis with the cost of heat­ing over the colder months."

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