Relief packages to benefit Middle New Zealanders from April 1

Support to Middle New Zealanders is critical: Chris Hipkins and Carmel Sepuloni (Bloomberg/RNZ Photo)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, March 31, 2023

An increase in fortnightly payments to pensioners, a rise in allowances and loans for students, a rise in the minimum wage, and Working for Families tax credits are among the measures announced by Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Deputy Prime Minister and Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni announced in Wellington today (March 31, 2023).

The cost of these relief measures will be funded out of the 2022-2023 budget and in essence, these are end-of-the-year announcements.

Mr Hipkins said that more than 1.4 million New Zealanders will receive what he called, “a little extra help with the cost of living as a result of changes made by the government.”

“Across the world inflation is causing costs to rise and New Zealand has not been immune. That is why the government is focused on helping Kiwi families with extra cost of living support,” Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said.

He said that the government considers it a duty to support New Zealanders struggling to meet their living costs, in addition to the burden caused by flooding in Auckland and Cyclone Gabrielle which had had devastating effects on many parts of the country.

Opposition Parties such as National and ACT, which are usually critical of such payments have not said much because they know that the recipients of these packages constitute a significant vote bank, central in an election here.

Support to students, superannuants

Mr Hipkins hit it hard, when he said, “Right now, people need our support more than ever and an inflation-adjusted lift in the minimum wage, superannuation, benefits, veteran’s pensions and student supports will help more than a million New Zealanders. There is more to come, with the Best Start payment increasing, the Winter Energy Payment going to all beneficiaries and superannuitants from 1 May, and Child Support will be passed on to Sole Parent Beneficiaries from 1 July,” he said.

Mr Hipkins and his Deputy Ms Sepuloni will undoubtedly announce more populist measures in the next few weeks – we expect in the 2023-2014 Budget that will be presented by Finance Minister Grant Robertson to Parliament on May 18, 2023.

The Pay Agreement, which the government signed with the Nurses Association will also become effective tomorrow (April 1) that would cost the taxpayer $200 million annually.

The 15% pay rise, negotiated following a strike notice will benefit nurses in aged residential care, hospices, home and community support services, along with those in Māori and Pacific healthcare.

Childcare Subsidy

Mr Hipkins said that changes to childcare also become effective in the new Financial Year.

“More than half of New Zealand families with children are now eligible for subsidised childcare assistance. This change will qualify another 10,000 children for the Childcare Subsidy. It means more parents will be able to afford childcare and before and after-school care. We will continue to make the cost of living and bread and butter issues our priority as we navigate tough economic times,” he said.

Ms Sepuloni claimed that her government created a record since coming to power in 2017 in prioritising income adequacy and lifting the standards of living for New Zealanders.

“The packages represent another step on that journey. Including the changes coming in tomorrow, the amount paid to a couple receiving Superannuation or the Veteran’s Pension has increased by $326.68 total per fortnight since 2017, and the rate for a single person, living alone on Superannuation has increased by $212.34 per fortnight since 2017.

“A couple with children who are receiving a main benefit will be better off by $256 per week on average than they were in 2017.  And a sole parent is better off by $180 per week. In addition,  during the winter months all those receiving Superannuation or other assistance get $20-$30 a week more with the Winter Energy Payment, making sure they can afford to have the heater on and stay warm and well,” she said.

Ms Sepuloni said that the median wage has increased by 23.85% over the past six years.

“These are big shifts and demonstrate our government’s commitment to supporting New Zealanders. We know that there is more to do, but our record over the last five years shows we are committed to doing what is right for all,” she said.

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