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Budget 2022

Were our industry experts' wishes granted?

Budget 2022: Our experts weigh in

In the lead-up this year's Budget announcement, our industry experts revealed what they'd ask for if a Budget genie sprung from it's lamp and granted them some wishes. Were their requests fulfilled, or were they left wanting?

Climate change: A series of compromises, designed not to scare the horses – or the farmers.

Michael Worth, Environment & Sustainability Leader says:

Tackling climate change is a nightmare of a job from a political perspective. We need to shift household and corporate behaviour dramatically, invest many billions of dollars, and it all needs to happen in a hurry. How do you make significant changes as palatable as possible, without torpedoing your re-election chances?

What the Emissions Reduction Plan gave us was a series of compromises, designed not to scare the horses – or, more accurately, the farmers. Funding another research and development centre is just a colossal pork barrel to the agricultural sector. More research? What we need is action now, not research projects that won’t be actionable for another 10 years.

Because this is the first of three Emissions Reduction Plans, I have hope that the next two plans will go further. At the very least, I’m glad to see this initial outline plants a stick in the ground, signalling the size of the investments and the scope of behavioural changes required. Tackling climate change might feel overwhelming, but the alternative is unthinkable.

Tax: Nothing new to see here ...

Greg Thompson, National Director, Business Advisory & Tax says:

From a business and tax perspective, there are bits and pieces, but nothing meaningful. There’s $100 million allocated to a Business Growth Fund for SMEs – the details remain to be seen. The $60 million spent improving broadband in the worst-served regions will make a big difference to affected businesses, but once again this is merely delivering on an earlier promise.

Sitting front and centre of this Budget is a little cash for a lot of people: $350 over three months (tax free), or $27 a week, to those earning under $70,000. I had calls immediately after the announcement from people wanting to find out how to access that money, so it’s certainly generated interest, even though it’s not going to actually change the situation for households.

Overall, this Budget seems to be about funding projects that were previously announced, rather than doing anything new. Despite being called a ‘Wellbeing Budget’, it doesn’t feel like it’s particularly improving anyone’s wellbeing – most of the money is being spent reorganising the health system.

I will be interested to get a better overview of how the economy is tracking, so I can get a sense of whether the Government sees a recession on the horizon.

Property and Construction: Ever hopeful. Often underwhelmed.

Dan Lowe, Property & Construction Leader says:

When it comes time for the Budget each year, I’m ever hopeful but often underwhelmed. This year was no exception – nothing too new or exciting; light on investment in housing and property.

There’s a focus on temporary accommodation, with funding set aside for affordable housing, public and transitional housing, emergency housing and action on homelessness. This investment is very welcome, as is the extension to the Apprenticeship Boost Initiative to increase the level of skilled tradespeople in this industry which is desperately needed.

I particularly liked the announcement to build up to 300 homes over the next 10 years for Pasefika families in Eastern Porirua, with initial funding of $49 million. This initiative, if replicated throughout New Zealand, could have some meaningful and positive impact on those communities.

The house price caps for First Home Grants have been lifted, while caps have been removed for First Home Loans. This is positive news for first home buyers, and I’d like to think that some people who were marginal borrowers before will now be able to purchase, although the increasing cost of finance and a more conservative banking sector will still make it challenging in the current climate.

Funding first home buyers does, however, underscore the Government’s focus on home ownership and complete lack of any strategy to help lifelong renters. Not everybody can come up with a deposit or has the servicing ability to buy a house. I think it’s a shame, although unsurprising, that neither community housing nor build-to-rent were given any attention.

The Property Council recently released a missed opportunity calculator, estimating over 8,000 Kiwis could have been housed in build-to-rent accommodation by now if the Government had acted on its earlier ideas for this sector. That number will just keep rising as we continue to do nothing to come up with a strategy to support lifelong tenants.

Aged care: Wellbeing Budget leaves the sector well and truly in the lurch.

Amool Paranjpe, Aged Care expert says: 

Nothing? Really? Not even a mention – aged care was completely overlooked in Budget 2022, by both the Government and by the opposition’s responses. This is designated a ‘Wellbeing’ budget, yet apparently that doesn’t include our oldest New Zealanders
There was a hint earlier in the week that this might be the case, when Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi was pressed about why nurses had been left off the ‘Green List’ of jobs eligible for fast-tracked residency. He said it was a result of sector consultation that indicated nurses leave New Zealand as soon as they get residency. Surely, he knows that’s not how it works, as any immigrant from the last 20 or so years will tell you (myself included). At that point it felt like the Government was setting the scene for ignoring the aged care sector and its severe staffing shortages. 
I’m bemused and disappointed that the sector has been overlooked. The only upside is improvements across the healthcare sector will mean better care for everyone, including the elderly. But that’s not much consolation when a strong aged care sector helps keep people out of hospitals, and treats our elderly with the respect they deserve. 
Perhaps politicians think that elderly members of our communities won’t make it to the voting booth – but even with that level of cynicism, they should think about who will care for the inexorable incoming tide of our aging population. 
Health: Big boost for healthcare, but GPs left behind ... again

Pam Newlove, healthcare expert says: 

This Budget had a major focus on healthcare, which was well signalled and sorely needed. I’m pleased to see healthcare expenditure is up significantly from $1.2 billion in 2021 to $11.1 billion, with another $1.3 billion for capital funding. However, while these might be large sums, this level of investment is required to deliver the planned health system restructuring. Notably, just over $3 billion will go to clearing the old DHBs’ spending deficits, creating a clean slate for Health NZ to start with.

The Government is not only signalling additional funding for the current year, it has also committed to additional healthcare funding for the two subsequent years; this is vital given the size of the impending structural changes and the need for healthcare planners to have financial certainty beyond just the twelve month horizon. The sector has significant retention issues due to remuneration levels slipping relative to offshore options. No doubt a good chunk of this funding will be needed to start adjusting pay packages.

It appears the Government is spending broadly at the primary care level in the development of its workforce, which should benefit pharmacists, social workers and physiotherapists, but GPs seem to have been excluded which is disappointing. I am looking forward to seeing more detail about how this will be spent – I hope it will be effective in delivering improved access to care, because simply throwing money at the problem won’t fix it.

Funding has also been allocated for establishing integrated primary care teams within locality provider networks, to the tune of $32.4 million over two years. Those at the coalface have been desperate for detail about how locality networks will actually work, and now the Government has indicated this funding will primarily be for back-office roles to bring providers and services together. Given that the success of the locality networks will be key to delivering services at this level, I can imagine that clinicians will be keen to see that these funds are being effectively used to deliver the promised additional services at the primary care level.