No Budget 'waves of cash' to fix NZ's social problems - English

The Government is failing New Zealand's "most complex" families, but the Prime Minister says there won't be "waves of cash" in this week's Budget to help them out.

Thursday's Budget will be Finance Minister Steven Joyce's first, and the Government has been giving away little about what it will contain.

Prime Minister and former Finance Minister Bill English will only characterise it as being a "responsible use of the opportunity New Zealand has created with surpluses".

He says the Government will be focused on meeting a number of its targets, including addressing New Zealand's "long-running social problems".

But money isn't always the answer, he told The AM Show on Monday.

"The hard bit of that is reorganising Government - the way the Government works with our most complex families - because frankly, Government doesn't do that good a job with people who have really serious needs.

"So you shouldn't expect waves of cash - that's what everyone else is promising. We can tell you from years of looking at it hard, throwing money at intractable social problems won't have an impact."

So what of the question of tax cuts? Surpluses are projected to rise substantially over the next few years, up to $8.5 billion in the 2020/2021 year.

Mr English says just because the books will be back in black, it doesn't mean the money should be spent right away.

"We've talked about that for a while, it's something National's done not just when there's surpluses, but when there is room to do that alongside other things you need to do, but big numbers in 2020 shouldn't raise expectations."

The Government under former Prime Minister John Key suffered major deficits following the global financial crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes, but Mr English says that was easier to manage than having a surplus.

"As soon as you have some surpluses, in a way it's harder to manage because everyone has these expectations there's money going to flow to their particular interests, and we have the privilege and opportunity of balancing those out between investing in infrastructure for the long-term alongside supporting family incomes.

"It's amazing how fast people move from buckling down to help out and get out of a big hole we were in, with the deficits and earthquakes and so on, that the political parties all move quite quickly to saying 'well, look it's going to be surpluses forever, let's spend it up because there's $8b in the bank' - that's irresponsible use of it."

He says in the lead-up to the Budget, there will be a multitude of groups and organisations which put out wishlists "so afterwards they can say they're disappointed".

One of those is the Council of Trade Unions, which says the health sector needs $1.1b just to "stand still".

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman dismissed the figure as "pre-Budget positioning".