Accelerating our economic recovery
We are driving our economic recovery through investment in business, infrastructure, and tourism support
Our economy has been resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic. Decisive action to eliminate the virus; strong and early efforts to save jobs and support businesses; and innovative and nimble responses from our businesses have positioned the economy well. However, we are still operating in the shadow of COVID-19 and significant global uncertainty remains.
At the beginning of this term, the Government laid out a comprehensive plan to support the economic recovery from COVID-19. Budget 2021 builds upon that plan by making significant investments in training, businesses, infrastructure, and tourism to stimulate and grow the economy.
Getting more Kiwis into education and training has been a key focus of our recovery plan, particularly for those groups who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Budget 2021 extends funding for the Training Incentive Allowance to New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) levels 4 to 7 for four years to support around 16,000 sole parents, disabled people and carers with the costs of getting degree-level tertiary qualifications. We are also increasing student support rates by $25 per week from 1 April 2022, and extending the Temporary Hardship Fund for Learners to ensure that the most vulnerable New Zealanders have the support they need to continue their learning.
Small businesses are at the heart of our economy. The Government will continue to support small businesses, including in the transition to future ways of working. Budget 2021 embeds the gains made during COVID-19 around transitioning to a digital economy by investing $44 million in a digital skills programme that will provide:
- digital skills training to up to 60,000 small businesses, in addition to the 20,000 trainees currently in the programme
- advisory services to assess needs and create bespoke digital business action plans for 30,000 small businesses.
Investing in the success of our regions continues to be a significant focus for the Government. Budget 2021 provides funding to improve rural connectivity by repurposing a spectrum band to promote the widespread rural rollout of 5G technology. As part of the $200 million Tourism Communities: Support, Recovery, and Re-set Plan, we are providing targeted support to businesses in the communities hardest hit by the impacts of COVID-19, such as Kaikōura, the Mackenzie District, Queenstown Lakes, Fiordland, and South Westland.
Infrastructure is also at the core of the Government's economic recovery plan. It creates jobs, provides key services, and enhances the long-term productivity of the economy. As we began this term, we already had a record $42 billion of infrastructure investment in progress over the next four years in roads and rail, schools and hospitals, housing and energy generation. This includes the $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme and the $3 billion for the Infrastructure Reference Group as part of the COVID-19 response.
Budget 2021 adds to that infrastructure investment through initiatives such as:
- $1.3 billion further investment in a reliable and resilient rail system that supports freight and gets our cities moving (comprised of $810 million capital and $535 million operating)
- $700 million for District Health Board capital investment
- $761 million for capital funding in the Education portfolio.
Our Crown infrastructure investment over the next five years now totals $57.3 billion.