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STEVE RENDLE
steve.rendle@age.co.nz

If you thought Wairarapa was invisible in Thursday’s Budget, you’re not alone.

Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty accepts the first Labour-led budget for a decade didn’t provide much in the way of regional specifics, apart from help for Christchurch.

But he is adamant measures covering health and education will be of direct benefit to the region.

“You’re not seeing many regional announcements from today,” he said, but a significant number of Trust House tenants would benefit from the increased availability of community services cards, which would in turn lead to cheaper doctor’s visits.

“The vast majority of those tenants receive an accommodation supplement and most of the 500 Trust House tenants are in Wairarapa.”

Superannuitants in the region would also benefit from reduced costs of doctor’s visits.

But Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott [National] described the move as “another broken promise”, after the Labour-led government’s decision not to lower doctor fees by $10 a visit from July 1, a pre-election promise.

Unsurprisingly, he described the Budget as “expectedly disappointing”, highlighting the confirmation of regional fuel taxes as something that will hurt Wairarapa residents who will be paying for transport services in Wellington that they don’t use.

“It’s really what they haven’t undone that’s going to hurt Wairarapa,” he said.

“And when it comes to lower income families, the tax cut that was planned by the National government would have given everyone an extra $1000 to everybody.”

Mr McAnulty not only highlighted the extra $5 million for the Wairarapa District Health Board as “very much needed”, but he said there needed to be more put into the DHB.

He will be meeting chief executive Adri Isbister in coming weeks to discuss “where they think they would like more funding”.

Increased access to special education services, through funding for more teachers and services, would also help the region.

And Mr McAnulty believes the Budget provides more options for the region to push for funding to improve the its troubled commuter railway service.

There is extra funding for KiwiRail, and rail is now part of the national land transport fund, administered by the NZ Transport Agency.

And if rail improvements can be tied to economic development, a case can be made for a share of the billion dollar-a-year provincial growth fund.

A further billion over four years is available for research and development – the criteria being that businesses are already spending at least $100,000 a year on it.

The Ministry of Primary Industry’s sustainable farming fund is also getting an extra $15m.

Both can be sources of money for Wairarapa operations, Mr McAnulty says.

Wairarapa commuter advocate Greg Kerr was surprised that transport and infrastructure had not featured in the Budget.

Mr Kerr said he was under the impression the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s $200m business cases for rail funding was to be announced on Thursday.

“There’s nothing in there about infrastructure, nothing about roading, nothing obviously about rail,” Mr Kerr said.

Mr Kerr said he was told by the regional council the business case had been transferred to the National Land Transport Fund, and an announcement would be made later this year.

“It’s going to be an even longer wait now.”

The train service’s capacity issues had not improved. More people were having to stand during peak services, he said.