PM hints of further public underfunding revelations

The government is going to drip feed stories of public sector underfunding by the previous government in the run-up to next month‘s Budget, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has indicated.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with Finance Minister Grant Robertson at the weekly post-Cabinet news conference at Parliament in Wellington. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Ms Ardern is playing down expectations of a big spending budget next month saying her government did not realise how bad the under-investment in public services had been under National.

She said it was now clear National put budget surpluses ahead of the wellbeing of New Zealanders, and chronically short-changed public services.

“I‘ve always said that from the beginning we thought it would be bad, we didn‘t know it would be this bad.

“And the public is seeing just a snapshot of it now, the state of Middlemore Hospital I think is emblematic of what we‘re seeing across the board.”

Ms Ardern said Budget 2018 would be a rebuilding budget.

“This Budget is reinvesting in core services – that‘s what New Zealanders expect, that‘s what we have to do.”

While she refused to give any details of what‘s coming, Ms Ardern indicated the government would release stories of the public sector underfunding by the National government.

“What we are flagging is that as we‘ve gone through this process we‘ve uncovered things we didn‘t expect. We want to build more transparency around that as we lead up to Budget day.

“As ministers we have been engaging in this conversation for some time, we‘ve decided it‘s one we should be having with the public too.”

National Party finance spokesperson Amy Adams Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

National Party finance spokesperson Amy Adams said the reality of being in government is there was always going to be cost-pressures and unexpected events that have to be funded.

“We dealt with that successfully over nine years and we always made sure there were contingencies in our budgets to allow for it.

“Labour didn‘t, it overpromised, it has created all sorts of expectations.

“The penny is finally starting to drop and rather than admit they didn‘t anticipate any of that they are just trying to point the finger at everybody else.”

Ms Adams said rather than crying wolf the government should be thanking National for inheriting such a strong economy.