New Zealand issues 1st wellbeing budget to tackle long-term challenges

Health Minister David Clark and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the government's response to the mental health inquiry report

Health Minister David Clark and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the government's response to the mental health inquiry report

"The Botched Budget comes in the middle of a sharp slowdown in the New Zealand economy, from near 4 per cent growth at the tail-end of the National Government to the low 2 per cent range now".

"You should thank us for not punching you in the face", is the analogy Shane Jones seems to be using to justify the absence of a solid economic plan in the Botched Budget, National's Economic and Regional Development spokesperson, Paul Goldsmith says.

"I'm proud we're getting on with the job of fixing really hard issues like mental health, poverty and family violence because they affect so many, and everyone is better off when our collective wellbeing is improved".

"As a country we just haven't seen the kind of investment in mental health that reflects how serious an issue it is - all of us know someone suffering from depression or other mental illness".

The funding will be used to tackle a growing mental health crisis facing the country. Nearly all of us have lost friends or family members.

The budget covers a 1.9 billion-NZ dollar (1.24 billion-U.S. dollar) package over five years, including new universal frontline mental health service aimed at helping 325,000 people by 2023-2024; 40 million NZ dollars over four years in suicide prevention services; and 1 billion NZ dollars to re-develop the rail system, including purchasing new wagons, locomotives, tracks and infrastructure.

Ardern argued the wellbeing approach provides real-world benefits, citing reducing child poverty and family violence as a practical example of how it works.

The 1,000 extra Housing First placements will see more children sleeping in warm and dry homes instead of bunking down in cars, she said, adding an end to school donations in lower socio-economic regions means children will no longer miss out of extra activities just because their parents can not afford the voluntary donations. And an end to school donations for decile 1-7 schools means children will no longer miss out of extra activities just because their parents can't afford the voluntary donations.

Despite enjoying a "rockstar" economy for years, some New Zealanders have felt left behind due to the rising inequality.

The release of this week's Budget may have been marred by leaks providing information of key announcements but in prioritising spending on mental health, Robertson, in my view, got it right.

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