Opinion: Dear Bill English, take my money

Bill English (Simon Wong/Newshub.)
Bill English (Simon Wong/Newshub.)

Dear Minister English,

I know it has been ages since you announced you'd found $1.8 billion tucked away, but I figured it'd pay to spend a couple of days figuring out the best way to spend it – best not to rush into these things, eh?

Side note: I don't know how you lose track of $1.8 billion? But I'm stoked you've found it.

Anyway, I saw the Prime Minister dangling the prospect of tax cuts on national television yesterday. Now, as someone with a hefty mortgage and a child joyfully chewing up most of my income, a bit of extra cash is always welcome. Hey, I'm always stoked when someone gives me their unexpired parking ticket, so an extra $11 a week, or whatever it is you can come up with, wouldn't be unwelcome.

But there's something gnawing at me. Like… I mean... aren't there other things we can spend it on?

You know how those junior doctors have just started a strike over their long working hours? Perhaps you could, I don't know, hire some more? Have you seen the hours they work? It's madness! I know after working 12 days in a row I start to go a bit loopy, and I'm just a dopey journalist who doesn't know his duodenum from his jejunum.

While you're hiring, how about a few more cops? Minister Collins has been saying she'd like a few more, but she's stuck "working through the numbers". Why not chuck another $100 million her way? That'd still leave 1.7 billion to go around, and I'm sure the Minister would be very grateful.

I see you've just announced $15 million to help anti-drug initiatives. Excellent stuff. But, the NZ Drug Foundation says our support services for New Zealanders with drug and alcohol problems are woefully underfunded. So, here's an idea, why not make it $50 million?

Or, I know! Radio New Zealand has had its funding frozen for the last seven years. Their Chairman reckons they need a paltry $4 million to get them back to where they were seven years ago. Hmm, then again, you've been getting a pretty hard time from the media recently. Better leave it as is.

Here's an idea. In 2014, Christchurch's only rape crisis centre had to close because of lack of funding. It needed $30,000. Reckon you've got $30,000 floating about?

You've made some great announcements about wanting to rid New Zealand of pests within the next couple of decades. Great idea, love it. Except to do that you've only put aside $28 million to be spread over four years. Now Bill, that won't get rid of 30 mortgages in Auckland, let alone several million pests throughout New Zealand.

Speaking of mortgages, for a while it sounded like Housing NZ will be broke by next year?! Yikes! Oh, wait, you've told us not to worry.

"Housing New Zealand are getting on to building lots of houses. It means they won't have any spare cash.

"We'll just have to work with them about how the new builds are going to be financed."

How to finance them? How, Bill? How?

Or, then there's that old chestnut of a third of our children growing up in poverty – around 300,000 of them. I know you disagree with that number, but however you want to argue it, it's too many. You know it. We know it. And now the rest of the world knows it.

Look, I know these decisions aren't easy. I can barely decide what to have for lunch each day, I can only imagine how complicated balancing the country's books must be. Everyone wants more money. I know I do.

But, and this is just me speaking here, it just wouldn't feel right to have a few extra dollars in my back pocket when we've got babies living in cars, when sick and desperate people are being told they'll have to wait months for help, or when our police are having to choose which crimes to investigate because they just don't have enough resources.

In fact, using that $1.8 billion for anything but shoring up the gaping holes in our society would be reckless, irresponsible, and utterly tone-deaf.

We've just had a windfall. Let's not waste it.

Thanks, Bill, you're a champ.

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