21 May 2021

Watch: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Budget 2021 is 'a real milestone for us'

11:32 am on 21 May 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern fielded questions from reporters today on the Budget after taking a tour through a social supermarket in Newtown, Wellington.

Watch the stand-up again here:

There have already been various reactions to the Budget, with climate action groups saying it doesn't go far enough to reach the government's goals, Whānau Ora Commissioning agencies saying they are missing out, and BusinessNZ saying there could have been even more welfare support increases.

Asked why there was nothing for business in the Budget, Ardern said there was the need to support businesses during the environment that Covid-19 had caused - there was funding in there for instance to access digital support and training.

There had also been work since Covid-19 to ensure businesses keep operating, such as the wage subsidy scheme, she said.

Asked whether "middle" New Zealanders feel they have been left out, Ardern said the best thing for New Zealanders right now was jobs creation, with 200,000 being estimated from this Budget and over the forecast period.

She said she also heard from New Zealanders they want to see everyone doing well.

"People from all walks of life have often raised with me the issue of poverty."

"We've been looking across the board at tools we have to support children - we know representative in our child poverty statistics are working families for instance. That's why we've committed to doing work on Working for Families and the accommodation supplement.

"For all New Zealanders, they want to see our economy doing well, they want to see jobs created, they want us to be safe and well through the pandemic, they want us see us reconnect with the rest of the world - all things that this Budget is driving us towards, but of course we need to make sure that we are meeting the circumstances of all New Zealanders and their needs as each year comes upon us.

"On rents, one thing I would say, people have raised the question 'will these increases in main benefits go directly to rent increases or cause rents to go up?' We went back through the evidence through recent times we've had changes to the amount of assistance people receive and we haven't seen a correlation that rents go up as a result."

The government was also doing work on issues around household debt, as well as food security, Ardern said.

Asked if this was her favourite Budget as prime minister, she said: "It's an important one and I think I'll look back on this one and see it as a real milestone for us in just making sure that New Zealand is a place that we believe it to be, fair, a place when you need help and support that you're able to access it."

For superannuitants, older New Zealanders, she said things like the winter energy payment were still appreciated and "highly valued".

"Keep in mind, Super is adjusted through indexation to try and keep pace with those extra costs they face," she said, adding that they would continue to try and see "movement in the support they [older New Zealanders] receive".

With the housing package that was announced earlier this year, she said the government wanted to see a good balance in house price growth and home ownership.

"You can see Treasury now is saying they believe we'll be successful, because those massive house price increases were not good for anyone, including for those who already own homes.

"We don't want massive house price growth but also for many New Zealanders once they are entering the housing market, their house is often the most important asset they have, so if you see a sudden dive in the value of that asset that equally creates problems for the New Zealand economy and homeowners."

Asked if she was a Socialist, Ardern said: "I"ve always described myself as a Democratic Socialist" but she has not found these terms particularly useful in New Zealand because we do not tend to talk in those terms here.

On why the disability allowance was not raised, Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the government could not do everything but "there's certainly policy work coming my way around the Disability Allowance".

While there was no set timeline yet for Working for Families review recommendations, Ardern said changes were made when they first came into office.

Ardern said it was a major piece of work but also a good vehicle to address child poverty and she committed to it during this term of government.

Asked when she would get the Covid-19 vaccine, Ardern said it would be before the general roll out and definitely before July.

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