There was a lot of hype around last Thursday’s “Wellbeing Budget” (just maybe not for all the reasons the Government wanted). While there’s a few goodies in there for us youngsters, we reckon that overall, this budget fails to deliver for the majority of young New Zealanders.
Check out our take of the big wins and big losses from the 2019 Budget below.
The Big Wins
Mental health has received a $1.9 billion boost, which will primarily fund expanded access to mental health and addiction services, suicide prevention, and better pay for mental health and addiction support workers. It’s particularly cool to see additional funding for digital mental wellbeing support as well as promoting mental wellbeing in schools. The Young Nats back an early intervention and tech-based approach to mental health.
We’ve long opposed Labour’s fees-free policy and so we’re happy to see the $41 million they planned on spending this year reprioritised elsewhere.* If the Government seriously wants to remove barriers to tertiary education, then they need to address the rising costs of living and rents that students are facing, as well as declining mental health and high degree non-completion rates.
*Although this is a win, it wasn’t really the government’s choice. Low enrollment numbers show students didn’t really value this policy anyway.
The Big Losses
Although last week’s budget has a strong focus on welfare, the best way to lift people out of poverty is jobs, and the best way to create jobs is through a sustainable and growing economy. But there’s no plan in this budget to tackle our sluggish economic growth or to restore business confidence (which has been on the decline ever since Labour came into government). Expected GDP growth is only 2.6 per cent over the next four years (it was 4 per cent under National) and debt is expected to reach a whopping $68.5 billion. All in all, this budget fails to ensure a thriving economy full of employment opportunity for young Kiwis.
Cost of living
Average rents have just hit $500 across the country, petrol is now $2.28 a litre, and electricity prices are through the roof. Yet there’s nothing in this budget to support students with these skyrocketing costs of living (could they not have sent some of that spare fees-free money our way?). In fact, this budget delivers the opposite. Just look at the extra 3.5 cents per litre petrol tax from next month (which we know raises the cost of pretty much everything else). This is only going to hit the pockets of young people even harder.
Right now, young people are essentially locked out of the housing market due to crazy high house prices. KiwiBuild, this Government’s flagship policy to address the issue, has been an absolute flop. Housing Minister Phil Twyford will no longer commit to their 100,000 homes target, and it seems unlikely they’ll even hit their 1000 homes target this July (they’ve only built 100 so far). We’re pretty unhappy that this budget continues to pour another half a billion dollars into a failed policy - we’d rather see it go towards something that actually works. Guess young people have to wait a bit longer for affordable housing.
For a Government ready to declare a climate emergency, this years’ environment budget is pretty underwhelming. Although we support the establishment of the Climate Change Commission (we’re in need of some more science-based policy making) and some funding for the Green Investment Fund, that’s sort of it. The rest mainly goes towards Emissions Trading Scheme subsidies (~$1 billion) and policy advice (~$300m). Where’s all the money the Greens promised for electric vehicles and solar energy to decarbonise transport and industry? We heard even Russell Norman, former Green Party co-leader, is pretty unhappy. But hey, the climate can wait until next year, right?...
So what do you think? Are you as disappointed in this budget’s delivery for young people as we are? Help us make a difference. Join us.
Kathleen Williams | National Policy Chair, NZ Young Nats
Andrew Mahoney | Regional Policy Chair, Lower North Island Young Nats