Poverty activists tear apart Joyce's Budget

A post-Budget breakfast hosted by child poverty activists has heard from speakers not impressed with Steven Joyce's first Budget as Finance Minister.

Unlike his predecessor Bill English, Mr Joyce has loosened the purse strings, promising tax cuts in the form of threshold adjustments and boosts to Working for Families and the accommodation supplement.

But opponents say it's all surface, no substance.

"The Budget is designed to make people more comfortable with the level of poverty," Auckland University associate professor of Pacific studies Damon Salesa said at a breakfast hosted by Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Wellington.

"But it is not a solution. We need a broad change in how we view those who are struggling."

CPAG says kids in poverty need what little help the Budget is promising now, not in April 2018.

"Even with the small changes in this Budget there are around 100,000 to 150,000 children who will continue to suffer severe hardship because the changes aren't big enough, nor do they have far enough reach to significantly lift them out of poverty," says CPAG health spokesperson Prof Innes Asher, chair of paediatrics at Auckland University's School of Medicine.

"These are the children whose mental and physical health is most at risk."

The problems CPAG notes with the Budget centre on two things - the lack of help for children living in beneficiary families, and the sharper dropoff in Working for Families payments.

"Income support benefits for families are net of tax and therefore they will not see any tax benefits, as the gross figure will be reduced accordingly; in contrast, superannuitants clearly will benefit from this tax cut with an increase in their weekly net incomes," says CPAG economics spokesperson Susan St John.

Working for Families payments will start to reduce at $35,000 of income, down from $36,500, and the rate they reduce will increase from 22.5 percent to 25 percent. This means while families at the very low end of the scale will benefit, those on the margins of eligibility will likely see payments drop.

CPAG analysis suggests the change will lift 50,000 children above the poverty line, but leave nearly twice as many below it.

At a separate post-Budget breakfast hosted by an accounting firm, the Finance Minister took the stage to the sound of rock band AC/DC's 'Money Talks'.

There, he revealed the long-delayed Waterview Connection in Auckland's Mt Albert would be open in June.