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Candidates’ argy-bargy

Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty has framed yesterday’s Budget as “a practical” one that “gives Kiwis a helping hand now” while also making investments for the future.

In particular, the government minister emphasised those announcements aimed at mitigating rising living costs – pointing particularly to cheaper childcare, scrapping prescription co-payments, free public transport for under-13s and half price for under-25s, and increasing insulation and heating retrofits. The MP reckoned “the people of Wairarapa from young to old” will benefit, whether from cheaper public transport for kids, the extension of the existing apprenticeship initiative, the Warmer Kiwi Homes programme, or the $4 million investment in “road resilience” in the greater Wellington region that will – among other things – mean “SH2 at Featherston Super Value will get drainage improvements to deal with the flooding”.

All up, McAnulty said, the Budget represents “an impressive balancing act” that “got it about right”, noting the additional spend means a return to surplus “only one year later than previously forecast”, while the country has relatively low levels of debt, low unemployment, and positive projections for both inflation and economic growth.

National Party candidate Mike Butterick isn’t buying what the incumbent MP is selling, however, describing the Budget as “an absolute blow-out in debt and deficits” that fails to strengthen the economy.

Measures to address cost of living increases are merely “band-aids”, he said, that don’t “tackle the real issues”.

“Labour’s only idea is to keep spending borrowed money, which means people in Wairarapa’s mortgage repayments and business costs will keep going up as interest rates are inevitably hiked”, Butterick said, adding that “it’s difficult not to be cynical about the plans to build an extra 3000 public homes when the track record with KiwiBuild was such an abysmal failure”.

If it were a National Party Budget, Butterick said, it would’ve “ended the wasteful spending and delivered meaningful tax relief for Kiwis that’s long overdue”, along with providing “a real plan to fix our economy so we can invest in the health and education services and build the infrastructure Kiwis deserve”.

For her part, Green Party candidate Celia Wade-Brown said that – although her party voted in support of it – “it’s a timid business-as-usual budget that won’t transform housing, transport, and support climate-resilient communities fast enough”.

The positives it does contain are attributable to the Green Party’s influence, she said.

These include more home insulation [a legacy of a 2009 initiative of former Green MP Jeanette Fitzsimons], cheaper public transport, the extension of the early childhood education subsidy, and another $1.4 billion for climate action, courtesy of Climate Emergency Response Fund – “which is largely funded by polluters through the Emissions Trading Scheme” established by Green co-leader James Shaw.

“When there are more Green Party MPs in government,” Wade-Brown promised there will be “more warm, affordable homes for all; urgent climate action at scale; higher wages for nurses and teachers; fast, frequent, and affordable buses and trains; and stronger protection for our rivers, ocean and forests”.

Also on the Greens’ to-do list would be “a fairer tax system” to “provide the resources for a healthier, more equal society”.

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