Source: New Zealand Labour Party
In just a few days, the Government will release this year’s Budget, setting out how we’ll continue to secure our recovery from COVID-19, while tackling long-term challenges like child poverty and climate change. While the full details will be kept tightly under wraps until Thursday afternoon, the Government has announced a few Budget policies ahead of time – a sneak preview of what you can expect on Budget Day.
In case you missed the news, you can read about a few of the projects we’ve already announced below.
Better cancer screening for women
On Mother’s Day, Health Minister Andrew Little and Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall announced that Budget 2021 will fund improved cervical and breast cancer screening. This investment – made possible by our stronger-than-expected economic recovery – will save lives by enabling early diagnosis.
Many eligible wāhine Māori have not been accessing our National Cervical Screening Programme. Budget 2021 will invest up to $53 million to try to resolve these persistent inequities – by funding the design and implementation of a new HPV test. The new test will replace the current smear test, so that 1.4 million women will be able to choose to do a quick, simple swab themselves. It’s predicted this could prevent about 400 cervical cancers over 17 years and save almost 140 lives.
Budget 2021 will allocate another $55.6 million in a major upgrade of the technology used by our national breast screening programme, BreastScreen Aotearoa, to enable it to more effectively reach out to eligible women and run targeted campaigns to boost screening rates. The new system will be able to identify priority group women – for instance, Māori and Pacific women, who are currently dying from breast cancer at a greater rate than other ethnic groups – to include them in the programme.
Action on climate that creates jobs
This past weekend, Climate Change Minister James Shaw announced that Budget 2021 will work towards delivering a carbon-neutral public sector by 2025. The $67.4 million investment in the transition to a more sustainable public sector will address the climate emergency, while also helping to create jobs and support our recovery from COVID-19.
Boosting the State Sector Decarbonisation Fund will help to replace more coal boilers in schools and hospitals, while significant funding for the leasing of low-emissions vehicles in the public sector will further reduce our carbon footprint.
This Government’s successful management of COVID-19 not only means the economy is in better shape than expected, but that we’re in a position where we can think ahead to the type of public sector we want for future generations. Because of this Budget, our vision for New Zealand’s low-carbon future is within reach.
Major step to pay parity for early learning teachers
Last week, Education Minister Chris Hipkins visited early learning centre Capital Kids Cooperative in Newtown, to announce that Budget 2021 will continue the Government’s work towards achieving pay parity between teachers in early education and childcare centres and their equivalents in kindergartens.
Early childhood teachers are currently paid on average $16,000 less per year than kindergarten teachers. Work on pay parity for education and care teachers – which is reflected in the Government’s Early Learning Action Plan – began last year and will continue over several Budgets. It aims to lift wages and address inequities, while protecting jobs.
From 1 July, the minimum salary paid to qualified teachers in education and care services will move from $49,862 to $51,358 per annum. Another set of higher funding rates will be made available in January next year, if these services agree to pay teachers in line with the first six pay steps of the same collective agreement kindergarten teachers belong to.
“These changes will address difficulties with recruitment and reduce turnover in education and care services, as fewer teachers leave for higher pay elsewhere,” Minister Hipkins said. “This will help enable teachers to provide the consistent and secure relationships children need.”
Budget 2021’s funding of $170 million over four years to help deliver pay parity builds on the $151.1 million dedicated to improving teacher pay in Budget 2020. Funding has also been set aside to work with kōhanga reo to improve pay.
More Kiwis into homes
We’re taking further action to tackle the housing crisis and help Kiwis into homes. We’re making it easier for first home buyers to get into the market by lifting the income caps on First Homes Loans and Grants, and we’re tipping the balance in favour of first home buyers by extending the bright-line test and removing interest deductibility for property investors. We’re also removing infrastructure barriers to speed up house building, with the $3.8 billion Housing Acceleration Fund.
There is no single answer to the housing issues New Zealand faces, but the policies we’re putting in place will make a real difference – and they’re just one part of our ongoing plan to tackle the housing crisis. You can read more here.
Reconnecting with the world
Last week, Jacinda Ardern outlined the next steps in our plan to safely reconnect with the world and secure our recovery.
“I want us to look back at this period and see that not only did we make it through but we seized the moment to put New Zealand on a surer footing, better prepared to face the future,” the Prime Minister said.
You can read her full speech here.