Budget 2023: What you need to know before the big day

2:01 pm on 17 May 2023
Grant Robertson with background of cyclone recovery, money, and groceries.

Photo: RNZ

Budget 2023 will be announced by Finance Minister Grant Robertson on Thursday at 2pm.

The government has made it clear it will be a "no frills" Budget, with a focus on cyclone recovery and helping Kiwis through the cost of living crisis.

RNZ has everything you need to know about what to expect on the day.

What is the Budget?

The Budget is laid out every year and is an assessment of how much money the government has to spend and where it will spend it.

It sets out the priorities of the government and, in simple terms, it's somewhat like a household budget on a larger scale.

The Budget must be approved by Parliament each year.

Here is what the government said it would spend money on at last year's Budget announcement.

Finance minister Grant Robertson showing the cover of Budget 2023 the day before its reveal

Finance Minister Grant Robertson, pictured with Budget 2023 on Wednesday morning. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

What do we know so far?

Cyclone recovery is a priority and will feature heavily in Budget 2023 - the name of which has been revealed as Support for today, building for tomorrow. The government has already announced a nearly $1 billion flood and cyclone recovery package, as well as funding for climate change, the New Zealand Defence Force and education.

The government has also made it clear it would be a "no frills" Budget with a focus on supporting Kiwis through the current cost of living crisis. It's not yet known exactly what this will look like.

"It's not right for households to be tightening their belts if the government isn't also seen to be doing the same," Prime Minister Chris Hipkins previously said.

Speaking to media at the start of Budget Week, he said it was "a Budget that speaks to the times that we are in at the moment".

"I'm very proud of it."

The cyclone recovery package will go towards road, rail and school repairs, flood protection, and mental health support.

Hipkins said the money would cover the basics and get roads, rail and schools "back to where they were before the extreme weather hit this year so communities can get back to normal as soon as possible".

Of the money, $275 million was to go to Waka Kotahi and local councils to repair roads, $209m would help fix railways and $117m would go to affected schools.

Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said $35m of it would fund mental health initiatives, GPs in community, primary, and residential care, and frontline health workers.

The government has also announced a cash injection to its green investment bank, taking it to $700m. Climate Change Minister James Shaw announced the extra funding for Green Investment Finance, a commercial, independent entity which aims to help drive down the country's climate emissions, last week.

The government views the company as crucial to getting the private sector to do its part to meet the country's climate obligations.

But there is concern not enough money will be allocated to climate change at a time when some argue it is desperately needed.

For the New Zealand Defence Force, the Budget will see staff get pay increases of between $4000 and $15,000, at a cost of $419m over four years.

A further $328m will also be spent on upgrading NZDF assets and infrastructure.

Last month, it was announced RNZ would get an annual increase of $25.7m to ensure its financial sustainability.

Broadcasting Minister Willie Jackson has also announced an additional $10m for NZ On Air "to strengthen its public media role".

On Monday, Hipkins and Education Minister Jan Tinetti announced the Budget would fund 300 new classrooms, and up to four new schools.

Tinetti said the government wanted every young person in the country to be learning in "warm, dry, beautiful buildings".

No major new taxes promised

Hipkins has ruled out an additional levy to help pay for the recovery from recent natural disasters.

He has also ruled out including any major tax changes such as a capital gains tax or wealth tax in the Budget, but these could be included as election policies later in the year.

"We'll be very clear what our tax policy is well in advance of the election so that people will know that when they go to the ballot box and they know what they're voting for. The election is zooming up fast so you won't be having to wait very long to get those answers."

So what happens on Thursday?

Thursday is a big day for the government - and New Zealand.

In previous years, former prime minister Jacinda Ardern has given Robertson a new tie and the pair enjoy a cheese roll for breakfast.

There has yet to be confirmation that this will continue with Hipkins now in charge, but it has become tradition.

At 11am, journalists, economists and commentators will be locked in the Beehive banquet hall and receive early access to the Budget documents. This gives them time to read through and understand what they entail, and prepare stories to be published at 2pm.

At midday, Robertson will make a speech to those in the hall, with his comments also to be published at 2pm.

At 2pm, the Budget will be made public. News outlets are able to report on its contents and opposition parties get their first chance to comment on it. The Budget will also be published online here.

After 2pm, Parliament will sit and speeches from all parties regarding the Budget will be made.

What is the opposition saying?

In a speech to Auckland's Chamber of Commerce on Monday ahead of the Budget, National Party leader Christopher Luxon outlined a trio of new policies aimed at transparency in government finances.

They would include policy reports, taxpayer receipts and a government 'report card', as well as performance pay for public sector businesses.

"I can tell you it's going to be very achievable within our baselines and it's a core function of what we expect from the public service to do, and they just stopped doing it."

He said he would be looking for three things in the government's Budget: returning to financial discipline, getting the economy moving, and tax relief.

"I think there's a real chance Labour will deliver something on tax, but it's likely to be too little and too late and offered only in an effort by the government to secure a third term."

Also on Monday, the ACT Party released a document titled A Time For Truth which set out its priorities andshowed what its budget would be if it were in power.

Seymour said his party's budget would cut taxes by $34b over four years.

"The net result is a simpler, cleaner tax system with only two rates, and every taxpayer better off. More importantly it sends a message: we are not here to punish success," he said.

"We don't assume everything in life is luck. We do believe that your efforts should make a difference, not be sapped away by ever increasing taxes."

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