The Finance Minister has ruled out extending the Government’s new cost of living payment past three months.
The $350 payment, which is available for people who earn up to $70,000 a year and aren’t already receiving the Winter Energy Payment, was announced in Thursday’s Budget.
Grant Robertson says its not the Government’s plan at this stage to continue the scheme after three months, but will instead focus on “targeting” their support.
“One thing I’ve learned during Covid is you’ve got to be flexible and adaptable and obviously we’ll continue to monitor the situation,” Robertson told 1News Political Editor Jessica Mutch McKay.
“We’ve got to ensure we’re supporting as many New Zealanders as we can through this.”
There are also no plans to extend the scheme to allow those receiving the Winter Energy Payment to get this extra financial support.
READ MORE: Budget 2022: What you need to know
Meanwhile, Robertson says the Government hasn’t yet made a decision about whether to make half price public transport a more permanent fixture but that it won’t be extended past August for everyone.
This scheme, which was originally due to finish on 30 June, has been extended by two months in the Budget. It has been extended indefinitely for those with a community services card.
“We’ve got to get that balance right between getting New Zealand back to a more stable fiscal position but supporting and targeting that support,” was Robertson’s reply when asked why it wouldn’t be extended for everyone.
He says if the Government makes temporary relief more permanent, it will make inflation much worse and that decreasing inflation this year, coupled with rising wages in 2023, mean “temporary, targeted support” is currently the best for New Zealand.
Defending his fiscal responsibility, Robertson says the $6 billion spending was “the amount of money that was needed to make some really big changes.”
“70% of what the Government spent yesterday was just cost pressures.”
National’s Deputy Leader, meanwhile, has described the Budget’s provisions for Kiwis struggling with the cost of living as a “band-aid cost of living panic payment.”
Nicola Willis has told Breakfast that if National had been delivering the Budget, it would have instead put in a package of tax reduction “across the board”.
“That would have meant that, for the average wage earner, they would have been about $875 a year better off into the future,” says Willis.
She adds that the Budget has left her party even more concerned about the Government’s ability to balance the books.
“We’re going further into debt, further into deficit,” she told Breakfast.
She says hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Budget is going into things like restructuring and more policy advisers – further evidence, as she sees it, of the Government’s fiscal irresponsibility.
Willis has also reiterated her party’s stance that the provisions made in the Budget to provide financial relief for Kiwis will be ineffective in the face of rising living costs.
“We don’t see a plan to take New Zealand forward and give Kiwis that sense that they can get ahead once more.”