Transgender funding, cannabis vote, refugee quota: What else did Budget 2019 cover?

The Wellbeing Budget delivered on the Prime Minister's foreshadowing of a major boost to mental health - but it covered a whole lot of other things too, from transgender funding to the cannabis referendum.

Gender affirming surgery

The Government has allocated $3 million to increase access to gender affirming surgery in Budget 2019. 

"This initiative improves the health sector's capability in delivering transgender health care," it says in the Wellbeing Budget released on Thursday.

"This will be done through funding an increase in the number of gender affirming surgeries, responding to a 50-year waiting list for surgery and growing demand."

It comes after the Government lifted a cap on the number of gender affirming surgeries in October last year, after reports the waiting list had reached 30 years for some people.

The Department of Internal Affairs confirmed to Newshub under the Official Information Act that just over 30 people in New Zealand requested to have their sex changed on their birth certificate in 2018.

Cannabis referendum

The Government has also revealed how much the referendum on legalising recreational cannabis in 2020 will cost: $13.4 million in operational funding.

New Zealanders will vote on legislation at the general election, which will include a minimum age of 20, regulations and commercial supply controls, limited home-growing options, and a public education programme.

National deputy leader Paula Bennett has questioned the referendum, pointing to concern about cannabis-infused edibles that could appeal to young people. But the Greens have suggested edibles targeted at children would be banned.

National dug law reform spokesperson Paula Bennett.
National dug law reform spokesperson Paula Bennett. Photo credit: Getty

Refugee quota

The Government has also announced over $140 million to support the increase in the annual refugee quota from 1000 to 1500 places, and to "ensure successful refugee settlement outcomes".

"This will be done by providing specific services during the selection, reception, and settlement of refugees in their new communities," the Wellbeing Budget says.

National increased the quota slightly to 1000 per year in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, and the Government plans to increase it to 1500 a year from July 2020.

The Government reaffirmed in October last year its offer to resettle 150 refugees from Australian offshore detention centres each year. But Australia has not taken up the offer since it was first made in 2013.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's offer to resettle 150 refugees from Australian offshore detention centres.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's offer to resettle 150 refugees from Australian offshore detention centres. Photo credit: Newshub

Preventing people smuggling

A 'Maritime Mass Arrival Prevention' initiative has also been given $1.4 million in capital and $23.6 million in operating funding in Budget 2019.

It will provide funding to "expand New Zealand's offshore engagement, training additional staff and strategic deterrence communications to deter people smuggling ventures".

The funding will also aim to "increase domestic strategic coordination, intelligence and response capability".

It comes after a fishing boat, reportedly carrying over 100 migrants, left India for New Zealand in January, in the hopes of the passengers being offered asylum.

Tsunami monitoring

To keep our island nation safe, the Government has allocated $11.7 million in capital to improve tsunami monitoring and detection.

"This initiative improves the Tsunami monitoring and detection network by purchasing specialised Tsunami detection equipment and systems for deep-ocean deployment."

New Zealand has experienced about 10 tsunamis higher than five metres since 1840, according to GNS Science. Some were caused by distant earthquakes, but most by seafloor quakes not far off the coast.

Scientists have been preparing for the rupture of New Zealand's largest fault, Hikurangi off the East Coast of the North Island, which could produce a massive earthquake and tsunami.

Subduction zone faults have been responsible for most of the world's deadliest earthquakes and tsunamis to date, according to GNS, with Japan 2011 being the most recent example.

Experts have warned that if a tsunami strikes New Zealand, there might not be enough time to issue an official warning.

Scott Base redevelopment


Scott Base.
Scott Base. Photo credit: Newshub

The Government has also announced a boost in funding to enable the redevelopment of Scott Base, New Zealand's only Antarctic research station, established in 1957.

In 2017, Antarctica New Zealand - the Government arm that manages its interests in Antarctica - said the cost of redevelopment for Scott Base could be over $6 million.

To make it "fit-for-purpose", $15.3 million in capital and $3.2 million in operating funding has been allocated for the first stage of the redevelopment plan of the base which has buildings that date back to the 1970s.

"This stage involves design, engaging with the construction market and undertaking a process for the procurement of a main contractor to ensure greater certainty of expected build costs and project duration."

The Budget said implementation funding "will be sought in a future Budget".