Budget 2016: Bowel cancer screening funding welcomed

Annette King (file)
Annette King (file)

Labour is welcoming the rollout of a national bowel cancer screening programme, announced in Thursday's Budget.

While critics say health spending per capita is going down, Labour deputy leader Annette King says the bowel cancer screening programme will save lives.

"It's 10 years since it was first announced that it would be rolled out, and lots of New Zealanders have died of bowel cancer since then," she told Paul Henry this morning.

It'll cost $40 million to get the programme started, and will screen 700,000 over-60s every two years.

The total $2.2 billion boost over the next four years also includes extra funding for Pharmac and district health boards, but commentators have noted it's a spending cut when you take into account inflation and population growth.

Rob Salmond, data analyst and former political director for Labour MP David Shearer, says in 2016 the Government will spend $3251 on health for every person in New Zealand. He then used Treasury forecasts for population growth and inflation to calculate this will fall to $2964 by 2020.

Taxation expert and former Labour candidate Deborah Russell says while the health budget will grow 2.6 percent a year over the next four years, inflation and population growth -- both tipped to run at 2 percent -- will outpace this spending.

Minister for Social Housing Paula Bennett calls it a "massive" boost nonetheless.

"I know everyone likes to pick holes, but I think that bigger story of where our economy's at, how many jobs are coming on, the forward growth, all of that stuff's pretty exciting and I'm disappointed people don't share my excitement."

Both Ms Bennett and Ms King agreed that setting aside money for the overhaul of Child, Youth and Family is a good idea.

"What we want to know is what's it going to do, where's it going to be spent, and how are we going to measure that improvement in child abuse figures in New Zealand," says Ms King.

Ms Bennett says it's yet to be decided exactly how the $350 million will be spent.

"We want to make sure that business plan is really stacking up, that actually it's going to the children, that it's addressing their needs."

Children's Commissioner Russell Wills welcomed the investment, but expressed concern there was little focus on homelessness, crowding and poverty.