The New Zealand government released its annual budget yesterday, with a key focus on tackling climate change, addressing child poverty and prioritising Pacific communities’ wellbeing as they rebuild and recover from the pandemic.
The appropriately-named Wellbeing Budget 2021 includes a NZ$300 million investment into low-carbon technology and over $100 million to other initiatives working to bring down greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change.
Another major area of focus centres around lifting up to 33,000 children out of poverty, to be achieved by increasing weekly benefit rates to adults by as much as $55 each.
"Increasing incomes for our most vulnerable both secures our recovery by adding targeted stimulus to the economy, while also addressing one of our most pressing long term challenges — child poverty,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
Over 150,000 children — around 1 in 7 — continue to live below the relative poverty line in New Zealand.
The government has also pledged to help its closest neighbours recover from COVID-19’s widespread impacts.
A $108 million Pacific package will be disbursed through tailored business, health and education initiatives, all of which will be led by Pacific communities.
Among the package is funding to help support businesses get back on their feet, money for public health providers and support for quality bilingual and immersion provision in 23 schools.
“This is a significant investment for Pacific communities who have been hard-hit by the outbreak of COVID-19 in the past year,” Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio said. “The Pacific package puts a strong focus on Pacific wellbeing and continues the Government’s commitment to ensuring that Pacific peoples are leading this work to achieve confident, thriving, prosperous and resilient communities.”
The brand spanking new Budget interactive is live! Explore the data for yourself here: https://t.co/4jiLNclvO6— Keith Ng (@keith_ng) May 21, 2021
In the lead-up to the official release of the budget, Aupito revealed $120 million would be reprioritised from the nation's official aid budget to support Pacific economies this year. He said the country was specifically providing protection against COVID-19 for 1.2 million people throughout the region.
New Zealand promised to provide COVID-19 vaccines to the Cook Islands from mid-May, followed by Niue and Tokelau.
New Zealand’s portfolio of vaccines will also cover any excess required by Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu to immunise their entire populations.
The three nations have received their first shipment of vaccines from vaccine distribution partnership, the COVAX Facility.
Fiji will collect enough vaccines to cover 250,000 people, while Papua New Guinea will receive $4 million to aid its rollout.
In total, New Zealand has donated enough COVID-19 vaccines for 800,000 people through COVAX.