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MPs at odds over Budget 2024 details

Except for being cheered by funding for the rail network, local Labour list MP Keiran McAnulty could probably summarise his response to the Coalition Government’s first budget as “deeply disappointed”.

From the lack of funding for new capital health projects – such as an extension to Masterton Hospital, which he described as “cramped and unsafe” – to the fact he sees “nothing in this budget for housing”, to the government’s “claim they’ve not borrowed for tax cuts”, McAnulty doesn’t see much in Finance Minister Nicola Willis’s budget debut for those living and working in Wairarapa.

“There’s not enough in this budget to keep up with cost pressures,” he told the Times-Age.

Reflecting on the public service jobs cuts to date and Willis’ strong signal that the government will continue “looking for waste and rooting it out,” McAnulty noted that the costs are being felt locally: “It’s our neighbours who are losing their jobs.”

He’s also concerned that some of those job losses will cut into frontlines services “critical” to Wairarapa’s rural economy, such as the year-on-year operational savings that the Ministry for Primary Industries must find [totalling $117 million by 2027/28], and the cessation of funding for biosecurity monitoring.

“Under Labour, we got rid of mycoplasma bovis [a bacterial disease found in cattle]. We don’t want to go backwards.”

Local Green Party list MP Celia Wade-Brown was also critical of the budget, although funding for Predator Free 2050, which she is particularly interested in, appears to be safe – at least until next year.

“There is nothing in this budget to tackle the climate change and inequality crisis we face in Wairarapa and nationwide,” she said.

“This coalition has probably cut more from environmental protection and conservation than we had feared. The government’s just thrown all [the initiatives] on the scrap heap.”

Like McAnulty, Wade-Brown was disappointed by the cuts to housing initiatives favoured by the Green Party, including cutting short the Affordable Housing Fund Innovation Pathway and ceasing funding to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority [EECA] for the Warmer Kiwi Homes programme.

“Successive governments have underfunded EECA but kept it going. And now it’s being slashed,” she said.

“If we want children to grow up healthy, they need warm, dry homes. The government could have chosen to ensure everyone has a warm and healthy place to call home, but what they’ve done is dish out $2.9 billion in tax cuts for landlords.”

Wairarapa MP Mike Butterick, however, was sanguine about the criticism from his parliamentary colleagues about the budget squeeze.

“Fundamentally, disciplined spending will help bring inflation down, which will help lower interest rates, and everybody – our farmers, businesspeople, households –benefits from that,” he said.

The focus of spending on frontline services, including health and education, will benefit all New Zealanders, he said.

“It is not a kick in the guts because tax relief benefits all New Zealanders. Everybody benefits from an investment in those key priorities.”

For Butterick, the $2.93 billion going to education has the potential to be “a game changer”.

“I’m really pleased to see new funding go into education because it’s a passion of mine,” he said

“We all want our kids to be educated as best as they possibly can be. The best pathway to alleviate any inequity or inequality we have in this country is a good education.”

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