Budget focuses on social investment, infrastructure


Bill English's eighth Budget has focused on two key packages in social investment and public infrastructure.

It's a Budget with few big surprises, but $2.1 billion of spending is centred on things such as roads, schools, rail while $652.1 million is being invested in supporting vulnerable children and young people.

A further $761 million has been budgeted for Innovative New Zealand -- a four-year investment in science, skills and regional development.

The health sector will also see a $2.2 billion package over four years.

The Finance Minister says the Government's social investment package will help at-risk New Zealanders "live better lives" by intervening early and putting money into more tailored services.

Of the money spent on the package, $641.6 million will be operating funding for the next four years, while the rest will be for capital spending.

 It will include:

"Social investment is one of the key tools the Government has to drive changes that will help improve the lives of our most vulnerable people.

Budget focuses on social investment, infrastructure

It's about understanding the drivers of social dysfunction, assessing what makes the most difference to people's lives, and using evidence to do more of what works," he says.

Social housing will also see a $258 million increase, mostly focused in Auckland to help with growing rents.

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett says it'll mean at least 750 more places for individuals and families on the social housing register.

Mr English also announced a major programme of upgrading public infrastructure in the realms of transport, education and housing.

He says population growth, driven in part by a large number of Kiwis returning home, has increased demand so the Government's spending needs to reflect that.

The spending includes:

Budget focuses on social investment, infrastructure

There was little to directly address Auckland's housing problems, except $100 million for housing development as part of the Government's existing plan to build on Crown land.

The Innovative New Zealand package will see $761.4 million invested over the next four years in science, skills, tertiary education and regional development projects.

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce says the investment demonstrates how important the work of scientists and innovators is in strengthening and future-proofing the New Zealand economy.

"We need more skilled people in disciplines like science, engineering, agriculture and the key trades if we are to continue to grow a high-value, diversified New Zealand economy," he says.

The health sector will benefit from an extra $2.2 billion, taking the Government's spending in the area to $16.1 billion in 2016/17.

Of that money, $96 million will allow for more elective surgery, $39.2 million for a roll-out of a bowel screening programme and $42 million for "vulnerable groups" including reducing preventable disease in children, primary care and social services and alcohol and drug support for pregnant women.

It was also bad news for smokers, with tax increasing on tobacco by 10 percent each year for the next four years.

More money has also been made available for police in the form of $299.2 million mostly to cover pay increases.

Spies and soldiers are also getting $599M from the 2016 Budget, with a $120M boost for cyber security.

Meanwhile, the Government's books are back in the black, with expectations of a $0.7 billion surplus in the 2016/17 year, growing to $2.5 billion in 2017/18 and $5 billion from 2018/19 which means tax cuts could be on the table in future.

Budget focuses on social investment, infrastructure