Mr Speaker, It has taken four-and-a-half years to even start to turn the legacy of inaction and neglect from the last time they were in Government together.
And we have a long journey in front of us!
But Aotearoa is at last heading towards a future that is fairer, cleaner and more prosperous.
And all within the limits of our fragile planet.
That is the vision on which the Green Party was founded some thirty years ago.
A vision of thriving communities, where everyone has the means to live in a warm, dry home.
Food that is healthy for us and for the land that it grows on.
A vision of vibrant, flourishing ecosystems that underpin the kind of healthy environment we all rely on.
Clean, healthy, swimmable rivers.
A vision of new jobs and prosperity for our communities and a sustainable, low-carbon economy.
With a strong Green voice in Government, today more people up and down Aotearoa New Zealand can now make ends meet, our communities are safer, cleaner and greener, and we are healing nature.
Mr Speaker, the Green Party are committed to progress, even if we have to fight for it inch by inch.
And so we will vote in support of Budget 2022.
Mr Speaker, in recent years, as we have battled a global pandemic, there has been more than one Budget to attract the label of historic.
None-the-less, Budget 22 is a budget of firsts.
The first budget – ever – with climate action at its centre.
It is the first budget – ever – to fund a national family violence and sexual violence strategy.
There is so much to celebrate in this Budget.
But there is still so much more that needs doing – for people and for planet.
This Budget continues to deliver on the foundations Green Party Ministers laid last term.
And it makes important progress towards some of the key priorities the Green Party campaigned on at the last election.
But Mr Speaker, this is not the exact Budget a Green Government would have delivered.
A Green Budget would have done what is necessary to raise incomes and make sure everyone has the money they need for the necessities of life.
A Green Budget would have done more to help the thousands of families struggling to meet that most basic of human rights: a roof over our heads.
A Green Budget would have done more to halt the degradation in our wild spaces and the harrowing decline of our taonga species.
Mr Speaker the Budget report shows that there has been no significant improvement in child poverty statistics.
A Green Budget would have done more to eliminate the scourge of child poverty in Aotearoa.
Mr Speaker I remember sitting in this house five years ago to hear Steven Joyce deliver the 2017 Budget. In a 40 minute speech, Steven Joyce did not once mention climate change.
But things have changed.
Our Government has last four and half years have seen more climate action than the previous three decades combined.
This Government has:
- passed the Zero Carbon Act, enshrining the 1.5 degree goal in primary legislation.
- reformed ETS to ensure polluters pay the real price of the emissions they put into the atmosphere and used the proceeds from that reform to establish the $4.5 billion Climate Emergency Response Fund; and
- published a comprehensive plan to cut emissions right across the economy.
This Budget is a landmark in our journey to continue that work and build a clean, green, climate-friendly future.
Through this Budget we will:
- decarbonise industry with $678 million of funding for smaller businesses, commercial heating decarbonisation, and energy efficient equipment.
- establish native forest at scale to develop long-term carbon sinks and improve biodiversity – with $65 million
- reduce and divert organic waste away from landfill and reduce emissions from waste overall – with $103 million; and
- give people more transport options and achieving significant mode-shift to public and active transport, with $375 million of funding.
All of this investment makes this the first climate budget, but it must not be the last.
This climate budget is a significant milestone that I will take a moment to celebrate.
Tomorrow, it is back to the work of turning around 30 years of inaction on climate.
Another Minister is also at the start of turning around an immensely challenging problem.
The Minister I’m talking about is of course my co-leader, the Hon Marama Davidson.
Marama continues to work tirelessly on the pernicious problem of family violence and sexual violence. A problem that requires bringing together many different government and community organisations.
Late last year Marama delivered Aotearoa New Zealand’s first ever national strategy and action plan to eliminate family violence and sexual violence: Te Aorerekura.
That work built on the foundations laid by Jan Logie in the previous term, as well as Marama’s own deep experience of working in and alongside vulnerable communities and tangata whenua.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Te Aorerekura is nothing short of a landmark in New Zealand’s social history.
Because this Government inherited an underfunded, largely ignored sector – broken up into many different groups that did not have a clear understanding of roles, let alone a national strategy.
Thanks to Marama that strategy is now in place.
And Budget 22 has provided the funding to deliver on it: $114.5 million over four years to prevent and respond to family violence and sexual violence across Aotearoa.
With that funding we will
- address the drivers of harm, enhance protective factors and shift community and societal norms that condone violence – with $38 million
- strengthen the existing Integrated Community-led Response approach with another $38 million
- develop workforce and organisational capability frameworks for the sexual violence sector, and fund the implementation of new family violence frameworks and tools with $7 million
- and more.
Mr Speaker, I simply cannot overstate the importance of this work. Everyone has a right to live in a peaceful home. To be respected. To be safe from mistreatment and violence.
We must have a future where children, families and whānau can thrive, knowing their homes are safe. The initiatives in this budget are crucial to getting there.
Our cooperation agreement with the Labour Party has delivered significant investments in people and planet in today’s Budget.
Last term we helped turn around decades of underfunding for conservation which had seen the health of our forests, rivers, and birds declining.
There is a long way to go yet, but we welcome today’s commitments to fund:
- new work to protect our forests from the damage caused by wild deer and goats
- renewed investment in Tiakina Ngā Manu to protect our taonga species; and
- investment in huts and tracks, so more people have the opportunity to spend time and enjoy nature walking, tramping, hunting, fishing and mountain-biking.
DOC rangers and other staff are on the frontline of protecting nature.
The Green Party welcomes the Government’s commitment to increase their incomes and maintain staff housing in remote areas, while also upgrading the DOC vehicle fleet to low emissions electric vehicles.
Mr Speaker, on Budget Day it is important to highlight some of the relatively modest amounts of investment that will make an immeasurably large difference to people’s lives.
Budget 22 delivers funding for eating disorder support services that will improve the lives of hundreds of young people and their families.
I would like to acknowledge the Hon Dr Ayesha Verrall for her collaborative work with the Green Party on this often unseen but deeply felt crisis in our communities.
And we welcome the continuation of Piki, the youth mental health programme begun last term.
And the expansion of Mana Ake to five more areas of Aotearoa.
For our rangatahi and their whanau, we welcome the expansion of child and youth mental health and addiction services for an additional 1,300 people.
The opposition makes a lot of noise about being ‘tough on’ drugs, Mr Speaker, but it is precisely that hollow rhetoric that has overseen exploding drug harm these past 40 years.
The Greens have always fought for evidence and compassion in drug policy, the approaches and the investments that genuinely build resilience and healing.
These are important initiatives in the Cooperation Agreement between Labour and the Greens.
And the Budget also delivers in areas the Greens have long campaigned for, which are not covered by our agreement with Labour.
For example, we welcome the Affordable Housing Fund that will provide support for not-for-profit rental providers.
And we applaud the commitment to give Pharmac the funding it needs to make more life-saving medicines available to the New Zealanders who need them.
I want to acknowledge the people who have been campaigning for this investment for years.
That is the strength of the Green movement’s tireless work to raise the political profile of important issues, raise public support, and put forward solutions that Governments adopt.
Mr Speaker, we are happy for any Government to copy our homework.
For decades, the health sector has been underfunded.
Today’s announcement is a good start at turning this around, and together with the Pae Ora reforms, will help ensure everyone gets the health care they need, regardless of where they live.
We welcome the funding announced for the Māori Health Authority.
But we need to see this paired with a genuine commitment to partnership, and Māori-led approach to determining how primary care is funded and provided to Māori communities – particularly in rural areas which have missed out for too long.
The Green Party is also clear that good health outcomes for everyone will only be possible when we fully address the social drivers of physical and mental health problems – including poverty and inadequate housing.
We will continue to work towards a future where everyone is supported in their wellbeing, at all stages of life.
We will continue to push for better wages for our essential health care workers.
The government needs to go further than today’s announcement and commit funding for pay equity across the whole sector – including for the lowest paid staff who do essential work in related areas like aged care.
Mr Speaker, many families around Aotearoa, on low-incomes, are struggling to manage rising costs and other pressures.
Budget 22 contains an array of measures designed to ease those difficulties.
And I am pleased to see yet more examples of making people’s lives better, while at the same time reducing emissions and taking care of our planet.
We welcome $73 million to expand and improve Warmer Kiwi Homes.
The continuation of this programme will mean more families will have access to warm, dry and safe homes – while at the same time making those homes more energy-efficient and climate-friendly.
We welcome the commitment to half-price bus and train fares for low income households, work begun when there was a Green Associate Transport Minister.
Funding announced today will help one million people ditch the car and switch to cheaper public transport – and at the same help to lower emissions in a critical sector.
New Zealand has an abundance of renewable energy sources.
We welcome new funding that will enable low-income communities to access cleaner, more affordable, and more secure energy supply.
Mr Speaker, while this Budget is a welcome step forward, the Green Party are firmly of the view that the next way to lift living standards is to lift incomes and make sure families have enough money in the first place.
That means fair wages and higher benefits.
And yes, we welcome the extension of half-price public transport – but wouldn’t it be better to make public transport free for all, for good?
Mr Speaker, there is a quiet revolution in this budget in the form of a new fiscal strategy.
For too long there has been huge political pressure to consistently and unnecessarily lower debt, at the expense of making important investments in our future.
This new approach will now mean that arbitrary debt restrictions will not stop good physical infrastructure projects that stack-up on all the other metrics.
Like reducing emissions.
Mr Speaker, the Green Party has never shied from the need for a fundamental shift in our economic thinking.
A shift that puts the wellbeing of our people, and the limits of the planet above the pockets of property speculators or the numbers on a GDP chart.
The way we will need to fund increases in public services in this new fiscal strategy is through broadening our tax base.
And it just so happens that there is a massive gap in our tax system where those who earn through a salary pay their fair share of tax, but those who own vast amounts of wealth do not.
A wealth tax would provide the money necessary to increase important operating spending, would plug a whole in our tax system and mean that the rich would pay their fair share of tax.
A triple win.
Mr Speaker, The Green Party has historically had, and will continue to have in this House, a clear, progressive voice.
A voice that says tax wealth fairly, don’t be happy to just sit by while many of the wealthiest have a lower tax rate than middle and low income earners.
A voice that says the environment and the economy are intertwined, and only with a healthy planet will we have healthy communities.
This is a budget of firsts.
But to solve climate change, to address inequality and our biodiversity crisis we need the next budget to break new ground and the one after that, and the one after that.
The status quo won’t work. We can do better. So much better.
The Green Party looks forward to a series of strong, bold, progressive Budgets.
We look forward to a future where everyone lives in dignity – comfortably within the limits of our planet.
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.