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The Government’s Wellbeing Budget has been released, and I am hearing from many people who are questioning the Government’s definition of wellbeing. They’re underwhelmed by the so-called ‘transformational’ budget, which has failed to deliver in many areas.

I do commend the Government on their $1.9b investment over four years into Mental Health services – this is a rapidly growing area of need. I look forward to meaningful service improvements for those most impacted with mental health challenges.

Sadly, the first piece of legislation passed after the Budget was delivered, was an 8c/litre increase in fuel tax (4c/l on 01 July this year, and again next year). They also introduced a tourist tax (though Australians, who are our largest tourist market, are exempt). So much for the Prime Minister’s promise of no new taxes…there are eight so far.

Despite claiming to prioritise wellbeing, this Budget will see hardworking New Zealanders who are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living, paying more in fuel taxes. This will place a huge, unnecessary additional burden on Kiwi families, especially when prices at the pump are already some of the highest we’ve seen in years. Higher fuel prices flow through every part of our economy; anything that is transported by road will cost more, most of these are everyday necessities.

Worse, those fuel taxes aren’t even going towards roading projects, but rather will be spent on rail projects in Auckland. This Government has walked away from the Cambridge to Piarere Expressway project, and the further extension to the foot of the Kaimai Range, which would have ensured safer and more efficient transport of freight and people, and greater accessibility within the golden triangle; Waikato, Auckland and The Bay of Plenty. This is a notoriously dangerous piece of road that needs upgrading.

Teachers have every reason to be angered by this Budget; money for classrooms is good, but what good are classrooms if there are no teachers? Huge promises were made for health spending, yet there’s no money for independent Midwives, no free healthcare for seniors, no new cancer drugs and no fee reductions for GP visits.

Under this government there are fewer jobs, more people on a benefit and needing hardship assistance, huge increases in the numbers of people without housing and more people are missing out on elective surgeries.  That’s not my idea of wellbeing, that’s New Zealanders on a downward trajectory in the areas that should matter the most to any government.

The economy is now declining and the Government is doing nothing to encourage growth. Surpluses over the next five years are $9 billion below projections from six months ago and meanwhile the Government has already racked up $20 billion more in debt.

A strong economy is the best way to improve the living standards of New Zealanders.

In my view, a real wellbeing budget would prioritise front line services in Health, Education and Infrastructure, funded through support for the economy. It would take steps to help address the rising cost of living for Kiwis.

It’s a botched Budget; and I for one am asking - while the Government’s talking wellbeing, why are things getting tougher for us?

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