Government making 'serious bank' out of housing market - economist

A massive tax haul and making billions out of the housing crisis has meant the Government went into lockdown looking flush.

But Treasury's warning that everything can change in one moment has arrived, with the Delta outbreak.

It was storytime with Finance Minister Grant Robertson on Tuesday as the Government's books were unveiled. 

"Once upon a time in a land far, far away, the 30th of June feeling some considerable length of time ago now," Robertson said with a laugh. 

His fiscal fairytale was set not that far away, actually. It's the story of New Zealand pre-Delta, when our books were looking good.

"I do think they tell a very relevant story because they show the resilience of the New Zealand economy," he said of Treasury's numbers.

Last year the Government's bank balance was $23 billion in the red. Treasury had predicted that it would fall to $15 billion. That was blown out of the water, with the deficit now just $4 billion. 

But boy have we taken out the mother of all loans to keep us afloat, with Government debt now over $100 billion. 

"It's what enabled New Zealand to get through," Robertson said. 

And money is pouring in the door. The Government raked in $98 billion in tax - $10 billion more than last year.

"Taxpayers are the hero and the victim of this story," says ACT leader David Seymour. 

The Government's books show the receipts for some big COVID-19 bills. Managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) cost us a whopping $850 million bucks last year, while $375 million went on Pfizer vials and the vaccination campaign kickoff, and an extra billion dollars is yet to be added to that bill. Meanwhile $280 million was spent on testing and lab capacity. 

"It suggests the Government does have enough fiscal firepower to support New Zealand through this pandemic even more," says Infometrics senior economist Brad Olsen. 

As for that other crisis - the housing one - property investors aren't the only ones laughing all the way to the bank. Crown agency  Kāinga Ora, the Government's housing and urban development delivery arm, is $7 billion better off after a revaluation of its assets. 

"The Government is making serious bank out of where the housing market has gone," says Olsen. "Those revaluations mean that the cash money is really raining." 

Every fairytale has a villain and obviously ours is COVID-19 - and it's back.

"The devastating impact of these lockdowns particularly in places like Auckland where we've got businesses absolutely struggling," says National's Andrew Bayly. 

But Robertson seems confident we'll be alright. 

"Our economy has the strength to bounce back and bounce back quickly." 

Let's just hope the little economy that could, has one more bounce in the tank.