While welcoming the focus of the Government’s “Well-being” Budget delivered on May 30, Auckland diocese’s Justice and Peace Commission believes it would have been improved if it had also had an “overt sustainability focus”.
The commission stated that it is the Government’s responsibility to foster the common good and support the poorest and most vulnerable in society.
The commission commented specifically on the issues of housing, caring for families, prisoner rehabilitation and protecting the environment, as follows:
Enabling more than 1000 people who had been homeless to be housed into permanent homes where they will get “wraparound” service support is a step in the right direction to alleviate chronic homelessness.
We welcome the introduction of the Whenua Māori
Programme, which will assist to implement new on-the ground services for Māori landowners.
There is still a critical shortage of affordable and adequate housing, both rental and owner-occupied. This results in devastating effects on family life, especially on the well-being of children.
We are disappointed that housing has not been given Budget funding priority. Of particular concern is the lack of funding to build more state houses. We had also hoped to see recognition of the need for the Government to investigate and implement shared equity and rent-to–buy schemes, given the disappointing progress to date with the Kiwibuild scheme.
Caring for Families
Families will be strengthened by the substantive funding for five initiatives to combat family and sexual violence, increased funding for mental health services, the boost for Māori and Pacific communities to fight rheumatic fever and the new transition support service to assist young people leaving care.
We are encouraged by the Government’s intention to provide the structural support to create good jobs, with decent wages and conditions, and the decision to increase the base rate for social welfare assistance and to link this to the average wage. But we would have liked the Budget to have made provision to extend payment of the living wage to state contractors.
Investing in Prisoner Rehabilitation
We welcome the increased funding to assist rehabilitation of prisoners through the Kaupapa Māori approach to reoffending, but are disappointed that funding has not been provided to extend the role and scope of Drug and Alcohol Courts, which have been successful in meeting the challenges of the most serious offenders to break the cycle of reoffending.
We look forward to further support being provided to create a coherent, integrated and well-funded long-term strategy to improve prisoner health and literacy.
Protecting our Environment
It is encouraging to see the establishment of a Clean Energy centre which will look at the full range of emerging clean energy options, the funding of the 1 billion trees programme and public transport support towards making transport more affordable for people on low incomes.
We welcome the boost to Department of Conservation funding, supporting incentives for sustainable land use. It would have been useful if the Budget had provided more robust assistance to transition to electric vehicles, improve water quality for rural and urban communities and work on a system to adequately rate and label goods in terms of country of origin and environmental standard.
Budget focus welcome says Caritas
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand has welcomed a stronger focus on New Zealand’s most vulnerable people and indications of a long-term, integrated approach to climate
change in the Government’s Budget.
“Earlier in the year, we supported the inter-generational well-being approach being taken in this year’s Budget,” said Caritas director Julianne Hickey. “It is good to see a longer-
term approach being adopted for social investment.”
Caritas welcomes the greater focus on mental health, young people and children, housing long-term homeless people and increased support for beneficiaries. The litmus test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable citizens.
However, Caritas is disappointed to see no significant increases for refugee resettlement and support and refugee family reunification in 2019/20. While increases are projected for the years 2020-2023, this is only an additional $69,000 per year.
“With the annual refugee quota rising next year, and more settlement centres planned, we need to ensure new arrivals are properly welcomed and included,” said Mrs Hickey. “Migrants are an integral part of our nation. They add to
the cultural diversity and richness of our communities. We still have some way to go to truly ‘welcome the stranger’.”
Caritas is seeking a commitment to expand the Community
Organisation Refugee Sponsorship scheme, following the successful pilot scheme last year.
“This has made good progress and is an excellent example of a community-led initiative supported by Government,” said Mrs Hickey.
Caritas also welcomed a stronger commitment in the Budget to cut carbon emissions, encourage sustainable technology, and adapt to climate change.
“But the transition to a zero- carbon economy must not come at the expense [of] or neglect of the poor,” said Mrs Hickey.
“Adaptation to climate change in Aotearoa New Zealand needs to take into account the needs of low paid workers and people living in isolated or poorer areas. We have highlighted these issues for people in South Dunedin and coastal Northland through our annual State of the Environment for Oceania reports.”
Good signs for future says NZCCSS
“We are encouraged by the 2019 ‘Well-being’ Budget and see hopeful signs for the future if this beginning is more strongly built on in future Budgets”, said Trevor McGlinchey, executive officer of the New Zealand Council of Christian
Social Services (NZCCSS).
“The investment in our children, in addressing New Zealand’s mental health crisis, in family violence, in addictions and in supporting both Māori and Pasifika aspirations will make a positive difference in the lives of many of those who the NZCCSS member social service organisations serve,” he said.
In a post-Budget comment, the NZCCSS stated that real progress will be made when we, as a nation, also address the systemic drivers that lead to stress and lack of hope.
It is these systemic drivers which create the mental health
issues, family violence and addictions in peoples’ lives, the statement continued.
NZCCSS added that “this Budget does not provide for a significant increase of incomes for those on benefits. It provides very little to address the huge housing need
which underpins much of the lack of well-being experienced by poor New Zealanders. These are the significant changes we expect to see in future Budgets”.