Labour true to pledge of a bor­ing Bud­get

The Press - - News -

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

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