12 Dec 2022

PM Jacinda Ardern on plans for next year: 'Making sure the economy is our priority'

8:49 am on 12 December 2022
Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Cabinet members will be looking at where to trim back over summer to ensure the economy was top priority, but would not say whether that meant changes to the RNZ / TVNZ public media merger.

"We have had as a government a lot on our agenda - and it's because there's been a lot of issues.

"Going into 2023 we do need to make sure we are totally focused, we prioritise, and that we will be making sure that where we need to pare back we will."

Over summer Cabinet members would be expected to look again at what is on their agenda.

"And just asking ourselves whether or not either from a spending perspective, investment perspective or just from a focus perspective those are things we should be prioritising at this point in time.

She would not say if the RNZ / TVNZ merger would be put on the back burner as part of a fresh spending focus.

"I do want my colleagues to go through those exercises, I'm not making any specific comment on those."

Ardern said the refocusing had already been done on spending initiatives used to get the country through Covid.

"We've been really focused on making sure, during this particularly tumultuous economic time we're in, that we are trimming back and making sure that the economy is our priority."

The government would give clarity by the end of the year on what will happen to the temporary fuel tax cuts, she said.

"Given that reduction is due to come off at the end of January we will be making sure that we give clarity to people before the end of the year over what will happen over the coming months."

The temporary reduction in fuel excise duty and road user charges by 25 cents per litre has been aimed at cutting the price of petrol at the pump, to tackle the cost of living.

The government had considered staggering the end to the fuel tax cut, but there were challenges in implementing that.

Ardern has told RNZ she will announce a "handful of retirements" this week.

She said it was separate to the reshuffle signalled for the new year and was not a case of people seeing the writing on the wall.

"It's not unusual, government or opposition, people do have a little look at whether or not, particularly often in their personal circumstances, whether they want to commit to another three years.

"Naturally at election time is when people start thinking about what they're doing next."

The Hamilton by election result was "disappointing but not unexpected", she said.

National's Tama Potaka won comfortably with 6629 votes, more than 2000 votes ahead of Labour's Georgie Dansey.

Given turnout was just 31 percent of enrolled voters Ardern said she was cautious about extrapolating too much from the result.

She did not see the seat as a bellwether of what happens at a general election, but would take lessons from it, including the need to be focused next year.

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