Date posted: 14/05/2020

Rebuilding together but are we rebuilding better?

Business Reform Leader Karen McWilliams FCA asks is this a missed opportunity to connect New Zealand’s rebuild with the Wellbeing priorities?

In Brief

  • $1.1bn investment creates jobs to protect the environment
  • Little investment in preparing businesses and the workforce for the future
  • Mental health and climate change priorities are noticeably absent

In 'rebuilding together', the Government also has an opportunity to rebuild better. As indicated in advance, maintaining and creating jobs is a key focus for this year's Budget. It is positive to see the direct linkage between creating jobs and environmental protection. In particular, a $1.1billion investment to create 11,000 environment jobs in regional areas.

This is broken down into areas such as pest eradication and management, regional environmental projects, a $200m Jobs for Nature fund and enhancing biodiversity. Investment in protecting our environment is also critical to the recovery and long term prosperity of the tourism sector. However, there is little to address the effects of climate change nor a just transition to a zero carbon economy.

The Government states in its Wellbeing Budget 2020 that it 'remains committed to its wellbeing agenda. While the Budget initiatives presented today are different to the second Wellbeing Budget we had planned, the aims behind them remain the same: prioritising the wellbeing of current and future generations of New Zealanders.'

A number of measures align to the original wellbeing priorities in addition to the environmental jobs package. For example, the $485m Māori recovery and $195m Pacific packages; and much needed investment in the early childhood sector which will improve child wellbeing and critical investment in the health sector. At the outset it was acknowledged that these priorities would need focus over multiple budgets.

This Budget is a starting point for New Zealand's recovery and rebuild from COVID-19. If the Government wants to embed the Wellbeing approach and engage with the community about its priorities, not linking the priorities explicitly to the COVID-19 rebuild represents a missed opportunity.

"This Budget makes investments in many of the right areas for the recovery of New Zealand but seems to miss an opportunity for truly rebuilding better."
Karen McWilliams FCA, Business Reform Leader, CA ANZ.

The Productivity Commission completed its review into the future of work and technological change earlier this year. Whilst there is $1.6bn investment in a Trades and Apprentices package, it is disappointing to see so little investment in preparing businesses and the workforce for the future.

This Budget includes just $10m to support small businesses with e-commerce compared to $27m to be spent on wallaby control. Hopefully the Callaghan Innovation administered $150m R&D loan scheme can be targeted towards programmes with an eye to the future, including clean tech.

Last year's focus on mental health also appears to have been 'put on ice' at a time when mental health for many who are struggling from the impact of COVID-19 is more important than ever.

This Budget makes investments in many of the right areas for the recovery of New Zealand but seems to miss an opportunity for truly rebuilding better.