Labour true to pledge of a boring Budget
Prime Minister Jacinda Adern warned us it wouldn’t be exciting – and she was right. There were no goosebump moments, no traffic-stoppers, no rabbits emerging from hats.
As far as Budgets go, it was a spinecracking yawnathon – about as exciting as a slow morphine drip, as Finance Minister Grant Robertson fire-hosed public services with billions of extra dollars.
The party faithful have been handsomely rewarded but let’s hope the spendathon will demand quality outcomes from such quantity. It was a classic Labour Budget that seeks to shore up those overflogged ‘‘foundations’’, with a major reprioritisation in fiscal imperatives.
Pleasingly, the abiding strength of the New Zealand economy is the big takeaway from Treasury’s Budget forecasts, headlined by an impressive economic growth forecast track and bigger than expected budget surpluses, going forward.
Labour should not forget it’s the business community that has generated this gusher of extra tax revenue into the state coffers.
For the first time, a finance minister has delivered a $100 billion Budget, with the 2018 affair equating to $21,000 in spending per person.
From a Canterbury perspective, Labour has largely kept its word. Health has been the biggest Budget headlinegrabber.
The multibillion-dollar windfall in extra spending should help ease the creaking strain on the Canterbury District Health Board.
As Labour promised on the campaign trail, an independent inquiry into the Earthquake Commission’s handling of the Christchurch disaster has been confirmed, with $3 million in funding set aside over the next two years to stage it.
I support it, given the countless cases of soul-destroying incompetence, deception and deceit that has monstered the claims process for far too many Cantabrians. EQC’s integrity crisis must be confronted.
Meanwhile, it’s diabolical that so many unresolved quake claims still stalk Christchurch.
The Government’s promise to establish a fast-track resolution tribunal has now been honoured, with the Budget setting aside $6.5m for it.
I hope this very welcome initiative will emulate the special resolution service being led by the exemplary retired High Court judge, Justice Graham Panckhurst, to settle the cases of the 24 claimants in the Southern Response. He will have binding powers to strike a decision, if no agreement can be willingly arrived at between the parties.
But as was well telegraphed, the biggest Budget ‘‘win’’ for Christchurch is the $300m Capital Acceleration Fund.
The Government has dutifully honoured its campaign pledge to provide this capital facility to the city council.
The $300m fund should also be tapped for flood protection works, giving the council ample room to recalibrate its financial heading and swiftly bend the arc on its rates track. But will they?
* Mike Yardley is a Christchurch-based political commentator and travel writer