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Budget 2018: Better lives for children a focus of Budget 2018

17 May 2018

Most of the new operational spending will be soaked up by health, education and housing.

Good afternoon, welcome to today's live coverage of the 2018 Budget, to be delivered by Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

"Our priorities are different from the previous government".

For weeks now, Robertson and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have been hinting the Government would unveil a big spending in rebuilding core infrastructure they say was neglected by the previous Government.

The Government has already delayed some promises and our political editor says there could be more.

"This Government is looking ahead to the next 30 years".

$3.7 billion surplus by 2018-19.

Unemployment is expected to fall to 4.1% in late 2019, according to Treasury.

The amount of new operating money Robertson had to allocate for this year's Budget increased from $2.6 billion to $2.8 billion because of extra tax revenue - and increased over four years from $21 billion over four year to $24 billion.

Robertson says the investment into the health is the biggest capital injection the sector has seen in a decade. We are extending very low-priced general practitioner (GP) visits to all Community Services Card holders and extending the Card to all Housing New Zealand tenants and New Zealanders who receive an accommodation supplement or income-related rent subsidy.

It was special case to address an inequity with hospital-based midwives.

· Elective surgery, maternity services, air ambulances and the National Bowel Screening Programme are among the health services receiving extra funding. And we'll find out more details of that in the Budget. Includes $62m for Christchurch schools rebuild and $332m nationwide.

The government has come under pressure over the support provided for children requiring extra learning support.

That left $204m over four years for a 1.6 per cent increase in the funding schools get for their day-to-day running costs - $43m more than in 2017 but short of what schools might have hoped for. The budget provides $234.4m of new money for both Housing New Zealand and community housing providers.

It says the housing spend-up, as well as the families package announced in December, will help lift children out of poverty. Early childhood education gets a $590.2 million operating boost over four years, benefiting over 200,000 children.

The new policy direction also stripped out and reprioritised $163 million over the four-year period, cancelling subsidies for irrigation and the primary growth partnership and dropping the food export value and trusted trader programmes. It is still unclear whether research and development grants will be scrapped once the incentive is in place.

The budget also confirms the $1b a year for the Provincial Growth Fund, which Mr Robertson says represents the biggest investment in the regions in his lifetime.

The $1.6b will include $370 million to fund 1500 new teacher places - about $70m more than National had set aside.

Clark estimates this will give roughly 600,000 New Zealanders "better access to healthcare from December 1, this year".

As dairy farmers face the risk posed by the cow disease mycoplasma bovis the Ministry for Primary Industries gets an extra $38m over four years to keep the country safe from pests and disease.

Education has received a significant boost in funding as well, getting an extra $1.5 billion over the next five years.

Budget 2018: Better lives for children a focus of Budget 2018