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Pacific peoples benefit from Budget 2015, minister says

Saturday 23 May 2015 | Published in Regional


WELLINGTON – Pacific people in New Zealand will benefit from Budget 2015 through our government’s focus on supporting families and reducing hardship, Pacific Peoples Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga said.

At the heart of Budget 2015 is a $790 million package to help children in New Zealand’s poorest households.

“The package targets 160,000 of our lowest-income families, those earning less than $36,360 a year. It strikes a balance between helping families who have fallen behind other households while ensuring there remains a strong incentive to move from welfare to work,” Lotu-Iiga says.

“National is increasing benefits for families with children by $25 a week. This is the first increase in benefit rates beyond inflation since 1972. We’re also increasing Working For Families payments to low-income families of $12.50 a week in most cases.”

The package includes greater work obligations for sole parents on a benefit and more childcare support for low-income families to help parents into work, education or training.

The budget delivered $8.396 million for the Pacific Peoples portfolio. This will ensure the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs can continue working to achieve its outcome of more successful Pacific peoples, the minister said.

Figures for the quarter to March show there are now 123,300 Pacific peoples employed – up 7100 on the last quarter and up 17,500 on this time last year. This is the most Pacific peoples employed since records began.

“We want this trend to continue. Employment is the key to improving the lives of families,” Lotu-Iiga said.

“Pacific peoples will also benefit directly from this government’s investment in other critical areas including health, education, housing and Whanau Ora.”

The additional $1.7 billion announced for public health services over the next four years includes $12.4 million to extend the Waitemata DHB bowel cancer screening pilot and $76.1 million to help hospices expand palliative care services.

In education, there will be 300 extra trades academies places to support students to achieve NCEA Level 2 and $8.4 million to increase Maori and Pacific trades training, up to 500 new learner places per year from 2016.

“Pacific peoples will benefit from our government’s commitment to increase the housing stock and help families get into healthy and safe homes.

“This includes housing development on crown-owned land, $3.6 million to support the Homestart programme and $30.2 million for rent top-ups for some people,” Lotu-Iiga said.

Pacific health, education and social services provider The Fono, which specifically targets Pacific families under the Whanau Ora banner, will benefit from the $49.8 million boost to Whanau Ora over the next four years.

The Fono provides affordable services including medical, dental, pharmacy, health promotion, social services and education to Pacific families.

“Many Pacific families are doing well under the National government but there are still some who face hardship,” the minster said.

This Budget ensures that Pacific peoples, particularly our children, have the best chance to lead healthy lives in warm and safe homes, with better education and employment opportunities,” Lotu-Iiga said.