Budget 2023 winners: Government attempts to ease cost of living pressures with early education plan

Young families are the winners in this year's Budget.

Twenty hours of free early childhood education (ECE) has been extended to include 2-year-old children. That will cost $1.2 billion

The Government will also make KiwiSaver contributions to those on paid parental leave, meaning parents won't fall behind while they take time off to have a family.

Public transport will become free for under 13-year-olds and half price for under-25s.

To ease health costs, the Government is scrapping the $5 charge on prescriptions. 

The Finance Minister said the Budget aims to "ease the cost of living without exacerbating inflation". Meanwhile, Treasury said New Zealand will avoid a recession, with modest growth now anticipated this year.

So who are some of the winners from Budget 2023?

Little Latia is days away from her first birthday. It's a special moment in what's been a special year. 

But, aside from the joy parenthood brings, life's been a bit tough for the Rule family, with everything going up in price: food, the mortgage on their south Auckland home and everything they need to raise a bub. It's hard to get by.

The family was tuning into Budget to see a reprieve.

Their childcare costs are about to plummet. From next year, they'll get 20 free ECE hours a week for Latia to go to daycare with the Government extending it to 2-year-olds.

Emma Reichenbach owns Little Pioneers preschool in Bombay.

"[It's an] amazing, wonderful initiative. Fantastic, it's about time our 2-year-olds were seen as important," she said. 

Reichenbach knows how much that's going to mean to the parents whose children attend her preschool.

"It will see reduced fees for families, which is amazing right now as we all need some more money in the backpocket because of the cost of living."

Parents are also thrilled.

"I have a 16 month so it will help me in the future," said one. 

"Last year was a struggle, this guy is a little bit bigger now so he wouldn't qualify but would've been helpful," said another. 

Once the children are off to school, there are free buses and trains until the age of 13. Then it's half price until they turn 25, a cost of living and climate change policy in one.

"Each of the main cost of living initiatives have other benefits, a twofer if you will," said Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

The final crumb of the cost of living cake is free prescriptions - the $5 charge on medicines now covered by the Government.

"It's a huge deal, especially at the moment with [the] cost of living crisis. It just removes a barrier to healthcare for everyday New Zealanders," said one pharmacist.

But for those without health needs, without 2-year-olds?

"In here is the fact the cost of your healthcare is coming down, in here is the fact that the cost of transportation is coming down, in here is the fact that we are investing in all of the community services that are around you," said Robertson.

His 'bread and butter' Budget is serving up a lot for the littlies, but not much for the middle.