Budget 2024: Tauranga reveals spending wish lists

Pāpāmoa couple Harpreet Singh Sandhu, 30, and Daljeet Kaur Sandhu, 29, with their daughter Amaanat.

Tomorrow, the coalition Government will deliver its first Budget, with Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and Finance Minister Nicola Willis promising “good” surprises and “bold moves” despite grim economic forecasts.

The Bay of Plenty Times spoke to a local family and leaders from several sectors about what they want to see in Budget 2024.

Tax cuts for low-income earners, removal of GST on fruits and vegetables and restrictions on what landlords can charge in rent.

That’s what Pāpāmoa couple Daljeet Kaur Sandhu, 29, and Harpreet Singh Sandhu, 30, told the Bay of Plenty Times they want to see in Budget 2024.

The couple’s daughter Amaanat, which means “God’s treasure”, was the first baby of 2023 born at Tauranga Hospital.

Daljeet, a first-time mother working fulltime, says top priorities for her and Harpreet, a delivery driver, are decent tax cuts and reductions in the cost of living – especially their grocery bills.

“Depending on how many days a week I work, I’m paying between $300 and $350 a week in tax, that’s a lot of money,” she says.

Daljeet says, fortunately, her parents live with them and look after Amaanat during her work hours.

She says the couple bought a three-bedroom home in Pāpāmoa about a year ago and she returned to work in September 2023 to help pay their mortgage.

“We are paying too much tax and the cost of living, especially the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables, is going up all the time. Our grocery bill used to be $70 to $80 a week but now it’s costing us $150 to $200 a week.

“I’d like to see GST removed from fruit and vegetables so young families like ours can afford to pay for healthy food.”

Daljeet says she will also like to see limits put on what landlords could charge for rental properties, as a number of their friends are new migrants struggling to find jobs and decent, affordable rental properties.

The family after Amaanat was born on January 1, 2023.

She says during the past two years, in her experience, the weekly cost to rent a three-bedroom property in Pāpāmoa has risen $200 or more.

“When we first moved to Pāpāmoa in 2022 we were paying $600 a week rent for a three-bedroom home, today it could cost you more than $800 a week. That’s way too much rent.”

Trade Me data for April shows at $690, Bay of Plenty had the highest median rent of New Zealand regions, and Tauranga is the third-priciest city at a record $730.

Daljeet says ultimately, they want to see more support for struggling low-income families.

“My husband and I work very hard and some tax relief and reduction in living costs would be most welcome.”

Community leaders share Budget wishlists

Tauranga GP Dr Tony Farrell.

Mount Maunganui Medical Centre director Dr Tony Farrell wants the Government to address the “chronic underfunding” of primary care services.

Tony says the 2022 independent Sapere report on capitation funding shows that across most primary care practices there is a 10 to 20 per cent median deficit in funding to support the true cost of effective and responsive GP services.

“High-needs practices were estimated to be 34 to 231 per cent short. One million people in New Zealand can’t get good access to a GP due to chronic underfunding.”

He says the majority of health consultations (20 million) in New Zealand are in primary care practices and he and other GPs want the Budget to “adequately” address the findings of this report.

Tauranga City Commissioner chairwoman Anne Tolley.

Tauranga City Council commission chairwoman Anne Tolley says she and the other commissioners hope to see a city/regional deal for the Western Bay of Plenty, to help deliver the much-needed infrastructure required by the fast-growing city.

“This should include funding to support State Highway 29 improvements within the next 10 years. And a commitment to delivering key transport projects that will unlock housing supply and improve productivity and economic growth across the region – home to New Zealand’s largest export port and key freight networks.”

Tolley says these investments are critical to helping people continue to live, work, learn and play in an “affordable and enjoyable way”.

Tourism Bay of Plenty general manager Oscar Nathan.

Tourism Bay of Plenty general manager Oscar Nathan says it's a “tough time” for the economy.

Oscar says while the tourism sector has rebounded to become the country’s second-largest earner of GDP, there remains “some fundamental” investments he will like to see in the Budget.

“Some sustained investment in key visitor data sets, such as visitor spend, stay, and the cruise sector would be useful.

“So too would an offsetting of existing local government investment into supporting regional visitation and tourism through a potential subsidy from the International Visitor Levy. That would be great to see.”

Nigel Tutt, chief executive of Priority One.

Nigel Tutt, chief executive of economic development organisation Priority One, says to help boost the economy, investment in infrastructure is the most important focus.

“It is a core role of government, but in this region, we have a deficit that negatively affects our housing market, transport congestion, productivity and New Zealand’s economy.

“We expect to see confirmed investment to upgrade key roads as quickly as possible, with SH29 Tauriko and Takitimu Stage 2, and Hewletts Rd as priorities.”

He says these investments will achieve ample benefits for the Government via increased export earnings and tax takes, as well as “better social outcomes”.

Bay Financial Mentors Tau Awhi Ora manager Shirley McCombe.

Bay Financial Mentors Tau Awhi Ora manager Shirley McCombe says one of her key concerns is to see proposed tax changes benefit those in most need: middle- to low-income earners, beneficiaries and people on NZ Superannuation.

“I’d also like to see the Government review the accommodation supplements and thresholds for eligibility – this will need to be accompanied by legislation to prevent an inflationary flow-on to rents.”

She wants more money put into health, particularly mental health services.

“We have a lot of wonderful people giving their heart and soul to the wellbeing of our community without the support and resources they need.

“Finally, and unapologetically, I would like to see funding for our sector, which has been decimated by funding cuts, at a time when our work is needed more than ever.”

Tauranga Business Chamber chief executive Matt Cowley.

Tauranga Business Chamber chief executive Matt Cowley says ultimately, inflation is “public enemy number one”.

The Government needs to do what it can to reduce it and demonstrate it has an economic recovery plan in mind once inflation has been reduced.

“The plan should focus on improving New Zealand’s low productivity by catching up on key infrastructure, ensuring we have a skilled workforce, and supporting businesses to become savvy with technology.”

Craig Pentecost, principal of Ōmokoroa No 1 School and president of the Western Bay of Plenty Principals Association.

Western Bay of Plenty Principals Association president Craig Pentecost says investing in teacher training programmes, professional development opportunities and competitive salaries is paramount to attracting and retaining talented educators.

Many schools were also in “dire need” of infrastructure upgrades to ensure the safety and accessibility of students and staff, including repairs to ageing buildings, installation of modern facilities, and extra teaching spaces at Western Bay of Plenty schools experiencing significant roll growth.

Craig says every child deserves an “equal opportunity” to succeed.

“The Budget should also include provisions for special education programmes and resources to support students with increasingly diverse learning needs.”

-Bay of Plenty Times.




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