$95 million to address teacher shortage
With Budget 2019 scheduled for May 30, this week saw the first pre-Budget announcements.
On Thursday, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced a $95 million funding boost to address the teacher shortage. It aims to draw more New Zealanders into the profession by offering scholarships and incentives.
Budget 19 will fund 2480 additional trainee teacher places through:
- 1860 TeachNZ scholarships - fees and living costs for trainees studying in hard to staff subject areas
- 300 Teach First NZ places to recruit graduates and professionals into low decile secondary schools where they teach while completing a postgraduate teaching
- 240 places in a new employment-based teacher education programme for secondary teachers
- 80 Iwi-based scholarships.
The number of New Zealanders enrolling in initial teacher education (ITE) plummeted by about 40 percent under National. The Government is stepping up to address the chronic teacher shortage which has resulted, and is investing in providing the world-class education which all New Zealand children deserve.
Pike River re-entry delayed
Friday’s long-awaited re-entry of the Pike River mine was delayed by “unexpected and unexplained” readings on atmospheric monitoring systems at the site.
Re-entry to Pike River was a bottom-line commitment for New Zealand First which is now entrenched in the Labour-New Zealand First Coalition agreement. Re–entry is about finding out the truth, and it is about doing what’s right for the families of those 29 men who have fought so hard to get to this point.
New Zealand First remains committed to re-entry of the Pike River mine, but only when it is safe to do so.
“Safety has always been our first priority, and will continue to be. In these circumstances the appropriate precaution is to temporarily suspend operations,” said Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry, Andrew Little.
“I back the Pike River Recovery Agency to take the time needed to fully understand the cause and significance of these new readings.
The Agency will know more after further testing and investigative work is completed over the next week. A meeting of ventilation experts will then convene later in the month.
Milestone for Research and Development
New Zealand First welcomed the passing of the Taxation (Research and Development Tax Credits) Bill, which introduces a research and development (R&D) tax incentive for New Zealand businesses.
“New Zealand First has consistently campaigned to introduce such a tax incentive, and increase public spending on R&D to encourage business and economic growth,” said New Zealand First Deputy Leader Fletcher Tabuteau.
“Under the previous Government’s failed grant scheme, R&D spending continued to lag behind international competitors. Finding a way forward to close this gap was a priority for New Zealand First during coalition negotiations.
This tax credit is an important step towards fulfilling the Coalition Agreement commitment to work towards increasing Research & Development spending to 2% of GDP over ten years, Mr Tabuteau said.
Unemployment down, wages up
Unemployment fell from 4.3 per cent in the December 2018 quarter to 4.2 per cent in the three months to March 31, and wages grew 3.4 percent over the year to March 31, according to official figures released this week.
Unemployment is now at its second lowest level in 10 years. With wages also up, this shows that the economy is strong and that the Government is implementing policies that support workers and business.
A closer look at the numbers shows more positive trends. The unemployment rate for Māori fell to 8.6 per cent from 9.6 per cent, and the Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) rate fell to 13.2 per cent from 14 per cent in the December quarter.
Winter Energy Payment starts earlier this year
The Winter Energy payment, a key Government initiative implemented last year to assist superannuitants, veterans, and beneficiaries meet additional winter heating costs, begins again this week.
The May 1 seasonal start date is earlier than last year, meaning a longer overall payment period for those eligible. Around one million New Zealanders will be better off with the financial assistance the Winter Energy Payment provides.
A single person will get an extra $20.46 a week tax-free, while a couple, or a single person looking after children, will get an extra $31.82 a week tax-free.
New Zealand First believes that everyone deserves a warm, dry place to call home and is proud to be part of the Government providing extra support during the winter months. It's a little bit extra, but it makes a big difference.
Government continues to run surplus
The latest Crown financial statements show a surplus of $2.5 billion in the operating balance before gains and losses for the nine months to 31 March 2019. The result is $329 million higher than the Treasury forecast in December 2018.
The surplus demonstrates that the Government is continuing to manage the books carefully in the face of softening global growth and international volatility. The Wellbeing Budget in May will outline the next steps in the Government’s plan to grow and support the economy.