25 May 2023

Budget 2023: The things you might have missed

4:00 pm on 25 May 2023
Finance minister Grant Robertson showing the cover of Budget 2023 the day before its reveal

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Last week's Budget generated the usual flurry of political and economic news, but there's always some details that get buried by the big new projects.

A week on, RNZ has delved into some of the smaller but still noteworthy items in the government's list of spending.


Resilience has been a buzzword for years but has become more pronounced as Prime Minister Chris Hipkins promises to "build back better" from Cyclone Gabrielle.

A big part of being resilient is ensuring things are secure - whether that's your roads and rivers, your IT systems, your ocean territories, or your defence capabilities.

The government announced a big spend up on the Defence Force just ahead of the Budget this year, but the documents reveal the vast majority of funding for upgrading communications equipment - 96 percent - is going to the new Bushmaster utility vehicles.

Comms upgrades for the country's frigates only cost $3.4m of the $93.7m, but the ships do also get a $59m maintenance boost.

An Australian Army Bushmaster Infantry Mobility Vehicle (IMV) on patrol at an undisclosed location in Iraq.

The Defence Force's 43 Bushmaster vehicles, which weigh 11 tonnes each, are produced in Bendigo, Australia. The purchase was announced in July 2020, and the first have just recently arrived in New Zealand. Photo: AFP

Police is also getting a $146.5m chunk over two years (2025-2027) for a new emergency communications system announced in November.

The new network covers the core emergency services - Police, Fire and Emergency, and the St John and Wellington Free ambulances - and will connect them up by replacing their current radio comms with a single voice, video, messaging and data service delivered over broadband. It would also have a land mobile radio network which would work even when comms systems are knocked out by natural disasters and the like.

Billed as New Zealand's "most significant advancement in public safety communications in decades", the total cost has been estimated at $1.4 billion over 10 years, so this initial kitty just gets it started.

Other security-related tidbits include nearly $5.2m to develop "options" to make New Zealand's core infrastructure resilient against foreign interference risks, and $2.2m a year for assessing the impacts of foreign interference activities in New Zealand by working with ethnic communities.

As well as cost-pressure related increases of nearly $6m over the next four years, the NZ Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) is set for a $645,000 bump of "additional funding" for "capabilities and activities".

The National Maritime Coordination Centre also gets a boost to address "growing maritime security pressures", and a further $28.5m has been reallocated from Customs to "address threats to New Zealand's maritime supply chain posed by transnational organised crime groups".

Stats NZ is set to upgrade its systems and statistical infrastructure to the tune of $14.292m, including decommissioning its older systems in favour of more secure modern ones; and the Ministry for Pacific Peoples is being given about $1.7m for a project to improve data and data access for Pacific communities.

Some $2.5m is also coming out of the government's weather recovery package to address the delays to a new quarantine facility being built to prevent harmful organisms - like unwanted weeds - crossing New Zealand's borders. The facility is expected to be in place for five to seven years, until a new Plant Health & Environmental Laboratory has been completed.

Benefits and housing

The government's set aside another $176m over two years to continue paying for motels to be used as transitional housing - expect the opposition to continue to criticise them over the cost.

About $28.5m is being spent to employ 100 Community Connectors over two years, whose job is to advocate for people facing hardship and connect them with the benefits they are eligible for. The funding boils down to an average salary of $142,500, but that does not account for any other expenses like admin or additional supports.

More than $13m has been somehow recouped this year from the programme, while more than $25.8m is being added next year, dropping to $15.9m in 2024/25. And there's another 65 roles added from about $13m as part of the cyclone recovery package - catering specifically to affected regions, but no more funding from 2025/26.

Some $100m is set down for a strategy that aims to improve the performance of MSD, including boosting trust and equity in Work and Income's benefit supports. This strategy targets three things: a positive experience every time; partnering (with whānau, iwi, providers and communities) for greater impact; and supporting long-term social and economic development.

The Early Response Redeployment Support and Rapid Return to Work schemes are also set for expansion. Funded through MSD, these offer support to people at risk or within six weeks of being made redundant to retrain, or develop new skills. While the funding includes a more than $7.4m boost next year, it dwindles to just $150,000 the year after with nothing more after that.

Then there's the $71.9m pumped into Kāinga Ora's baselines for next year to urban, climate change, sustainability and Māori engagement, and the delivery of housing-related Crown products.

More than $5.4m is going towards developing a new management system for housing providers, dealing with their properties, contracts and services.

Business and industry

The Screen Production Grant was given a top-up in this year's Budget to the tune of $20.6m, but that's just for the current year and to support productions "already provisionally approved".

Last year's Budget included a $60m for 2022/23, and the extra money in this year's is tagged to the same year - meaning the days of subsidising film productions in New Zealand may be coming to an end - at least until next year's Budget.

The government has been reviewing the scheme - which gives rebates of 20 percent to international productions and 40 percent to local ones - since December 2021, and uncertainty about its future has turned some productions away from New Zealand's shores. That compares to the new 20 percent rebate being offered to local video game developers.

The New Zealand Growth Partners Elevate NZ venture capital fund, which invests into New Zealand startups, got another $40m as the final part of a $300m investment.

A package of over $3.1m is set to help the Pacific Business Trust become the Pacific Economic Development Agency, as well as supporting the capability and capacity of Pacific-owned businesses. It's unclear from the documents how much of the money is going towards the rebrand and how much is being spent on business support.

Violence and abuse

A decent chunk of funding is going towards various services aimed at responding to the Abuse in Care and Christchurch Terrorist Attack inquiries, as well as tackling violence in the home.

To start with, $4.7m has been allocated to ensure those inquiries - and other public and government inquiries - can continue to meet their legislative responsibilities.

About $50m is being spent on supporting the response to the Abuse in Care inquiry, including more than $6m on setting up an apology from the Crown and "accompanying tangible actions".


There's also more than $19m for setting up a new redress system, and more than $15m for keeping the listening service going. Another $8.2m is being spent on improving record keeping, so those who have been in care can more easily request, receive and understand the information held on them.

There's a one-year (read: one-off) funding grant of more than $1.5m for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to continue the Christchurch Call work programme, which aims to curb violent extremism online.

To tackle violence in the home, more than $50 million across multiple porfolios has been tagged as "maintaining momentum" across Te Aorerekura, the government's strategy for curbing family and sexual violence led by Marama Davidson.

This includes:

  • $10m to continue providing a family violence help portal
  • $8.6m over three years to expand delivery of kaupapa Māori sexual violence services for victims, perpetrators and whānau
  • $7m for court support services for young people
  • $6.1m over four years to address barriers disabled people face in getting safe and tailored support when affected by violence
  • Nearly $6m to continue funding the Child Advocates programme, which at eight Women's Refuge centres provides specialist support to children affected by family violence
  • $5.3m over four years to support the Family Dispute Resolution service to continue to do its job and meet new legal requirements
  • $3.9m over four years for data collection and continuation of an online "insights and learning" pilot
  • $3.4m for a contestable fund to help family and sexual violence services cater to people with disabilites


This year's extra spending on education in early childhood was a big headline item this year, but you may not have realised funding for early learning pay parity was partly because more services signed up than the government was expecting.

Other education funding was also overshadowed. The government's looking to recover academic achievement after Covid-19 and is putting over $43.7m in to tutor and support intermediate and secondary students make up for "lost learning", and about $15.5m will extend a free home internet programme started during the lockdowns for another 18,000 students, keeping the scheme going until June next year.

Students of the eleventh grade sit with face masks in a classroom of the Phoenix high school in Dortmund, western Germany, on 12 August 2020, amid the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

Some funding is continuing to help secondary students recover from "lost learning" during Covid-19. Photo: AFP

Along with the pre-Budget announcement of 300 new classrooms and four new schools, there's also a bit extra for school property.

A little over $43m is being spent on rejigging three Blenheim schools: Marlborough Girls' College and Bohally Intermediate are currently right next to each other, but the plan is to combine the Girls' College with Marlborough Boys' college, rebuilding and relocating Bohally.

Some $10m has also been assigned over four years for temporary classrooms and design of an intermediate and high school in Hāwera.

An unknown amount is being spent out of contingency funds for expanding five Public Private Partnership schools to their maximum capacity, addressing roll pressures and increasing total student places. The Budget noted the amount was not being reported because negotiations were still under way.

Pay rates and teacher training also got some specific mentions. Professional development programmes for teachers are in "high demand" enough that $26m has been assigned to them, and fixing the holiday pay of long-term relief teachers has come at a bill of over $67.1m.

School bus driver pay is also getting a nearly $26.4m boost, to be relative to that of public transport drivers.


There's some extra funding to keep Parliament running as it should.

Parliamentary Service, which employs MPs' staff, does the administrative work and manages the actual Parliament buildings, gets an $8.3m bump over four years for wages, and $10.5m more for replacing its payroll system and technology.

There's more than $9.9m added to salaries for MP staff, and another $14m increase to security measures at Parliament, and at MPs' homes and offices.

An extra $10m has also been assigned to keep the Office of the Clerk up to par, handling most of the actual running of Parliament processes.

Clerk of New Zealand's House of Representatives, David Wilson tallies party votes from the Table in the Debating Chamber.

The Clerk of the House of Representatives David Wilson tallies votes in the debating chamber, with Speaker Adrian Rurawhe looking on. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

The Parliamentary Counsel Office, which drafts and provides independent advice on all the legislation that ends up becoming law, is also getting a $9m boost over four years.

An extra $1.6m over four years has been set aside to replace the Hansard system, which faithfully records nearly everything said in the debating chamber - but the Budget also confirms Parliament proceedings will no longer be broadcast on radio, saving $5.6m in the next four years.

Cost recovery

Grant Robertson made a point of having saved $1b from reprioritisations ahead of the Budget, but the document itself reveals just how much and where those savings were found.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson delivers his Budget Statement, 18 May, 2023.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson with the 2023 Budget in the debating chamber at Parliament. Photo: Phil Smith

Here's some of the notable ones.

While the change to tax on Trusts was widely reported, there were also some smaller changes. This included an expected $25m in the 2026/27 year from taxing multinational companies paying less than 15 percent tax, as part of an OECD initiative to crack down on tax havens. The cost of administering the scheme is set down as $140,000.

The government is also expecting to gain $152.7m over four years from its policy of expanding GST rules for electronic marketplaces to also include ridesharing and accommodation platforms like Uber and Airbnb.

The $618.6m cost of removing the $5 prescription fee would have been more than $706m if not for more than $88m saved by clawing back amounts that would be paid out through Temporary Additional Support and Disability Allowance.

Then there's the so-called policy bonfire. Much of these savings were already known - having been publicised by the government at the time for saving $1b - already a year's worth of the savings Robertson extolled.

Despite media reports based on official information showed more than $16m having been spent on the scrapped RNZ-TVNZ merger, the returned cash from the project amounts to $364.7m. Considering last year's Budget spent $370.1m on the project, that suggests all but $5.4m was recovered.

Another $3.9m was also recouped from funding set aside to help support the media sector during Covid-19.

The cancellation of the Income Insurance scheme returned less than $4.2m.

The pandemic was another source of much of the funding Robertson managed to find. About $385.7m was regained from a health contingency fund held in case of more Covid-19 outbreaks, plus $150m from another contingency for Covid-19 testing.

More than $12m was recovered from Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ), due to "lower than expected costs".

Tourism also meant a sizeable return to the government, namely because schemes aimed at helping the sector recover did not end up spending as much as they'd planned.

About $45m of funding came from the Growth Partnerships and Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Grant, along with $4m from the Covid-19 Tourism Recovery package. Another $10m came from a fund for tourism innovation, due to "better than expected recovery" in the sector.

The Jobs for Nature scheme also spent about $7.7m less than it was funded for.

Fewer claims for the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service meant the government got to keep more than $6.2m.

Nearly $10m of the spending assigned in the 2021 Budget for regenerating the Defence estate has been clawed back, alongside $40m from the Veterans' Service due to the current level of deployments, and more than $3.6m of unspent funds from the 2017 Budget for "new capabilities".

As reported, lower-than-expected school and early childhood enrolments would save $425m over four years and lower uptake of the fees free meant $280m less in spending.

The Budget cut $10m in annual funding for universities' centres of Asia Pacific excellence, and $4.3m a year from the entrepreneurial universities fund.

An unknown amount is also being returned from a project that set up the Overseer tool, which gives farmers information about how to make their operations more sustainable.

Cost Pressures

When Robertson announced his $1b a year in savings, he said most of it would be going towards shoring up against cost pressures on core services - and the Budget laid this all out.

Here's a list, in order of most to least expensive. Unless otherwise stated, figures are over four years from 2023. Includes operational and capital spending as a total. Millions rounded to one decimal place.

  • Public housing supply, meeting current pressures including extra funding for Tāmaki Regeneration Company - $4.32b over two years from 2025; adding 3000 new homes - $3.565 billion over three years from 2024
  • Defence Force, wages - $419m, asset and infrastructure upgrades - $328m (mostly over four years)
  • Schools, operational funding boost $233.9m; property maintenance (on top of the $300m for new classrooms) - $90m for one year (2026/27); Payroll remediation - a service to correct data and processing errors, including additional funding for Holidays Act corrections - $39.5m
  • Oranga Tamariki, wages $239.2m over five years; third-party services for prevention, early support and statutory services - $62.7m; supporting children with disabilities - $34.8m over two years
  • Ministry of Social Development, frontline staff - $95.5m over three years; frontline service delivery - $67m over three years; inflation-driven pressures - $89m
  • Attendance Services - $73.7m over five years
  • Waka Kotahi, repairs and renewals after severe weather events (but not Cyclone Gabrielle and the Auckland floods) - $60.7m for one year (2023/24); operations - $1.3m for one year (2022/23)
  • Resolving about 1000 Historical Abuse Claims - $58.4m for one year (2023/24)
  • Early learning opt-in pay parity - $46.5m over two years (2022 -2024)
  • Alternative Education - $41.4m
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade - $41m
  • Civil Aviation Authority, cost pressure - $31.8m for one year (2023/24); implementing new legislation - $7.3
  • Inland Revenue, technology - $36.8m
  • Whānau Ora, wages and workforce - $35m
  • Geonet and the National Seismic Hazard Model - $31.8m over one year (2023/24)
  • Environmental Protection Authority, operations - $25.4m over five years; tackling the backlog of hazardous substances work including compliance, consultation with Māori, and reassessments - $6.1m
  • Employment programmes and services - $30.7m
  • Growing Up In New Zealand longitudinal study - $30m
  • NZ Trade and Enterprise, services for exporters - $29.8m over three years (2024-27)
  • Immigration Portfolio, mostly for visa processing services - $29.4m over three years (2023-26)
  • Building Financial Capability, financial advice services - $29.2m (over four years but service being scaled down from 1 July 2024)
  • Mayors' Taskforce for Jobs (and Auckland Council's Ngā Puna Pūkenga) - $28m over two years (2023-25)
  • Stats NZ inflation pressure on data collection - $10.7m
  • Parliamentary offices and MP support staff, security $14m; wages $10m
  • WorkSafe NZ, including for an independent IT system, fully funded by the Health and Safety at Work Levy - $23.9m
  • Food Secure Communities - $22.5m
  • Customs - $22m
  • Maritime NZ, ongoing impacts of Covid-19 - $16.1m; operations - $4.8m
  • Parliamentary Service, supplier cost pressures - $10.5m; wages and workforce - $8.4m
  • Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) - $13.5m; enterprise planning support - $4.5m
  • Employment Relations Authority, low-level dispute resolution additional staff to meet high demand - $15.3m
  • Education payroll services, funding for managing increased costs associated with fortnightly payroll for about 96,000 people - $15.3m
  • GNS Science - $14.3m over three years (2024-27)
  • MetService - $13.6m
  • SPCA - $12.3m over five years
  • NZQA specialists, wages - $12m over two years (2023-25)
  • Office of the Clerk, operations $5.6m; wages $4.4m
  • Tsunami Monitoring and Detection Network - $10.6m
  • GCSB - $10.4m
  • Māori development fund - $9.3m
  • Parliamentary Counsel Office - $9m
  • Business.govt.nz small business services - $9m
  • Employment Services - $8.4m
  • Hiring extra staff to meet new requirements in creating asset management plans for 1443 trusts managed by the Māori trustee, plus infrastructure and capital works for Te Ringa Hāpai Whenua which aims to unlock Māori land for economic, environmental or social projects - $8m
  • Tāpoi Māori Aotearoa, boosting business support for Māori tourism operators - $8m
  • National Maritime Coordination Centre, to address maritime security pressures - $7.5m
  • Outdoor Access Commission - $7.2m
  • Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC), additional staff to meet demand - $4.5m; wages - $2.2m; replenishing cash reserves - $500,000 (capital)
  • Kāhui Ako communities of learning, extending until the end of 2023 - $6.9m for one year (2023/24)
  • Refugee and migrant education - $6.9m
  • NZ SIS, inflation-driven - $6m; extra funding - $645,000
  • Antarctica New Zealand, operations - $4.4m; wages - $2.2m
  • Department of Internal Affairs, non-wage cost increases - $6.2m
  • NZ Māori Arts and Crafts Institute - $5.8m over two years (2022-24)
  • Pacific early childhood education services - $5.3m over three years (2023-26)
  • Ministry of Culture and Heritage, for the management of memorials and other heritage sites - $5m for one year (2022/23)
  • Criminal Cases Review Commission (for people who have been wrongfully convicted), additional workers for higher demand - $4.8m
  • Statutory inquiry administration - $4.7m
  • Māngere refugee resettlement centre, for construction projects - $4.5m (capital)
  • Government Implementation Unit - $3.9m over two years
  • Regional Business Partners network - $3.2m
  • Office of the Privacy Commissioner - $3.1m
  • Education Review Office, primarily for travel, IT and property cost increases - $3m
  • Independent Children's Monitor - $2.8m
  • Climate Change Commission, wages - $2.6m
  • Employment Service in schools - $2m for one year (2023/24)
  • Software as a Service (cloud computing), upgrading key IT services - $1.4m (four years starting 2022)
  • Veterans' Affairs - $1m
  • Ministry for Women - $900,000 over three years (2024-27)
  • Law Commission - $848,000

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