Health focus pleases DHB chairman
Wairarapa District Health Board chairman Sir Paul Collins says he is heartened by the Government’s decision to focus on health.
In Thursday’s Budget, the Government pledged an extra $2.2 billion to DHBs over the next four years.
“Our unique demographic and ageing population creates high demand, and we need to keep developing our local health services to meet the growing population’s needs,” Sir Paul said.
He said Wairarapa – like most DHBs – operated on a deficit.
“Any increase in funding is welcome.”
He said focusing on health outcomes of the community as a whole as well as addressing health equity and well-being was a priority for the DHB.
“We want to continue to improve on our goals of providing our people with the right care, at the right time and in the right place.
He was confident the funding would be put to use and targeted to achieve the best possible health outcomes for Wairarapa.
Health Minister David Clark said Thursday’s focus on health was the start of creating stronger, more sustainably-funded DHBs.
“This will ensure our DHBs can maintain their standards of care, mental health services and support for older New Zealanders.
“We all know DHBs have been starved of funding in recent years.
“That’s put pressure on staff and facilities – and put the squeeze on services delivered to the public.”
Dr Clark said to be able to meet demand for elective surgeries, $126 million would be invested into planned care over the next four years.
The Community Services Card will be available to anyone who receives the accommodation supplement or income-related rent subsidy.
The card helps with the costs of health care, saving money on some services and the cost of prescriptions.
Low-cost GP visits have been made available to all Community Services Card holders – making trips to the doctor up to $30 cheaper for an estimated 500,000 Kiwis.
Free GP visits and prescriptions are coming for children under the age of 14 – an estimated 56,000 young people – costing an extra $22 million from the government over four years.
Neglected hospitals will get some love – $750 million for much-needed renovation.
Midwives have not been forgotten either – $103.6 million is coming to support community midwifery services over the next four years. A significant sum of which will be put toward an 8.9 per cent ‘catch-up’ increase in fees for over 1400 lead maternity carers level with their colleagues employed by DHBs.
Education’s share ‘not enough’
A boost to teachers’ pay checks, schools’ operational funding, and a $150 per student donation were three big items on the region’s education wish list – but it doesn’t look like Finance Minister Grant Robertson got the memo.
Thursday’s budget had the education sector receive $1.6 billion more in operating funding and $334 million in capital funding, with a bulk of the funds going towards early childhood education.
The distribution of funds is a mixed bag for the region’s principals, with Kuranui College principal Simon Fuller
praising the backing of learning support services such as teacher aides, the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme, and early intervention.
“It’s fantastic to see further investment in learning support,” he said.
“It’s timely to see that our students with the highest and most complex needs are beginning to receive extra funding.”
He said $370m to fund 1500 new teacher places by 2021 was an “admirable target” but was unsure on how the Government would recruit and train these teachers.
“Reaching this target will require system changes to the recruitment model and to the perception of the profession in our country.”
Douglas Park School principal Gareth Sinton agreed, adding that he wasn’t sure if it was the correct approach.
“Pay rises would attract teachers into the profession and help retain the ones we’ve got.
“Look at the drop-out rate in the first five years of teaching – we need a pay more suited to meet the demands of the job.”
He said the proposed $150 grant per pupil for schools not requesting donations would have significantly increased the school’s funds, but knew it would not make the budget.
Instead his school would lose out on $8000 per year as the new budget no longer allowed for targeted funding for schools with children identified as being at risk.
“They’ve put the money into early intervention instead which is good, but what it boils down to is not as much money for some schools.”
Both principals were pleased the 1.6 per cent increase to operational funding was higher than last year but said it still wasn’t enough.
“Operational grants have continued to fall in real terms over the past three years, although 1.6 per cent is an increase in operational funding, in reality it just doesn’t go far enough,” Mr Fuller said.
“Investing in our young people is without doubt an investment in the future of New Zealand.”
The budget also included $395m to build new schools and classrooms, and $590m to early childhood to fund more places.
Potential for an end to our housing crisis
Wairarapa could finally get the funds it has been desperately waiting for to solve the region’s ongoing housing crisis.
Thursday’s Budget announcement promised $234.4 million in operating funding for both Housing New Zealand and community housing providers, including Trust House.
Trust House chief executive Allan Pollard said the budget was the most encouraging one he had seen when it came to increasing the supply of housing for those in need.
“They have recognised the need to increase the supply of housing and that’s really positive.
“There’s the potential for Trust House to get its proposal over the line.”
Earlier this week, Mr Pollard said he would need $20 million in capital subsidy to build 99 houses on existing Trust House land, which could completely erase the waiting list for social housing in the region.
While it was yet to be determined how much of the $234.4m would be going to community housing providers, Mr Pollard said it could be around 30 per cent, based on calculations around the government’s proposed spend on state houses.
He said he had arranged a meeting with the Ministry of Social Development in the coming weeks and would try to gauge how much money was available for the region.
“All the indicators are good – I really hope it gets filtered to our region.”
The Government also announced extending the Community Services Card to all Housing New Zealand tenants and those receiving an accommodation supplement or income-related rent subsidy, which would make doctor visits approximately $20 to $30 cheaper.
Mr Pollard said around 80 per cent of its tenants would benefit from this move.
“Anything reducing cost to people most in need is going to benefit them and produce better health outcomes.”
Not as exciting as hoped
Federated Farmers president Jamie Falloon was hoping for more but was happy to see continued investment in certain areas of the primary sector.
Thursday’s Budget announcement had funding going to biosecurity improvements, farm research and sustainable funding, and a major boost to the Department of Conservation.
Biosecurity initiatives received $9.3 million in new operating funding over the next four years to better manage the risks posed by imports.
This is in addition to the $85m put into the Mycoplasma bovis response.
As a boost for science and research in the sector, the Government has set aside $5m for operating funding over the four years to enhance the Overseer farm management tool.
The Sustainable Farming Fund will get a $15m boost over the four years to support research, and projects across the rural areas.
The fund encouraged collaboration with farmers and growers, scientists, iwi, local government and the wider primary industries, he said.
The Department of Conservation will have its largest boost since 2002, with a $181.6 investment.
Mr Falloon said the Budget announcement was not as exciting as he had hoped, but investment was going into the areas that needed it.
More funding for “the continued fight against Mycoplasma bovis and biosecurity” was pleasing.
“I think the M. bovis biosecurity issue showed that there was lack of investment in preparedness for major shocks to New Zealand’s economy.
“The primary industries are such important parts of the country’s economy that they need to be well funded,” he said.
He agreed more funding was needed for the Overseer tool which was “not fit for purpose”.