Government opens books on last day of politics, extends fuel cut for month

The Government has given us a month's reprieve before bringing back the pain at the pump. 

It's extended its fuel tax cut for a month. After that, it will begin phasing back in the 25-cent tax, but it won't be back up to full price until the end of March.

Half-price public transport has been extended through to the end of March as well. But diesel drivers, sorry you miss out on the extension. Road user charge discounts end at the end of January, as previously signalled.

The move was announced as the Government books were opened, with Treasury joining the Reserve Bank's recession predictions - though the Finance Minister is characterising it as a speed bump.

Weaning us off the fuel discount fad diet.

"It is not sustainable to continue to subsidise the cost of petrol indefinitely for everyone," said Grant Robertson. 

The fuel tax cut will remain in place until February 28, then bam, 12.5 cents back on. Come the end of March the remaining 12.5c will be stacked on top.

The subsidy is extremely expensive and it's time to stop spending - we're heading for recession.  

"A challenging year lies ahead," said Robertson. 

It's expected to be short and shallow - a 0.8 percent contraction in 2023 and the flow on peak of 5.5 percent unemployment in 2024.

Robertson's labelling it a speed bump.

"He can call it whatever he wants," said National leader Christopher Luxon.

"The bottom line is he has been abysmal as a Finance Minister for New Zealand. His record will not be a good one. He's had five years of missing his numbers. I expect he'll do exactly the same in his sixth and hopefully his final."

Robertson is defining the goals for his sixth budget, laser-focused on the cost of living crisis and "getting the basics right".

Asked if that's an admission his Government has been frivolous, Robertson said: "Absolutely not. What that is is a commitment to make sure we invest in health, in housing, and in education."

"I think it would've been quite nice to have got the basics right over the last five years," said Luxon.

The instruction to ministers and departments alike is clear - if you want shiny new things, find your own cuts to fund them.

"Budget 2023 is going to be a challenging budget to put together. The level of funding that we have available to spend must be on those core areas," said Robertson.

But though the belt is tightened, the Budget spend-up is still reasonably significant - $4.5 billion.

Is that the election bribe kitty for next year's Budget?

"It is an allowance that is going to have to deal with significant cost pressures," said Robertson.

The traditional election-year money scramble is apparently off.