Prior to the release of Budget 2023, we shared our views on the need for the Government to invest in the groundwork to build and fund resilience in our communities, our infrastructure (physical and social), and our climate response, for a more prosperous Aotearoa in the years to come.
In the lead up, the Prime Minister was keen to emphasise that Budget 2023 would be “no-frills”, reflecting the times and addressing cost of living pressures for New Zealand households, whilst also funding the recovery and rebuild from the second costliest natural disaster New Zealand has seen. And doing so in a way that wouldn’t further stoke inflationary pressures.
What we’ve seen announced in “Support for today, Building for tomorrow” is approximately $19 billion in new operating expenditure over the next four years but this is mostly to enable core spending to keep up with inflation - a point emphasised by the Minister of Finance. So, while there are some signals pointing to a future focus, the Budget appears very much focused on “let’s get through today”.
In the articles below, you’ll find our reflections on the 2023 Budget announcement (added to our pre-budget commentary).
There’s a basic problem with expecting our leaders to prioritise resilience. Resilience is often invisible. Resilience usually doesn’t attract feedback. There are no standing ovations for the hidden strength needed to build something that lasts.
Not many votes or accolades in the drudgery of maintaining something that is just ‘there’ all the time.
Resilience is invisible. Until it’s not.
We are a nation made up of diverse communities with diverse experiences, issues and needs. When thinking about recovery and resilience, we need to think about how we address the complexities of the social impacts felt by whānau, families and communities in New Zealand alongside the physical and economic impacts.
We need to consider how to carry our families and communities through the tough times causing immediate stresses, and also how we nurture and sustain our social resilience in the longer term, taking a multi-generational view.
It’s much easier to respond to a risk when it’s about to eat you. This is a fundamental truth of human psychological evolution; and part of the reason we’re so bad at responding proactively to climate change and investing in resilience.
What will it take for businesses, communities and individuals to feel the immediacy of climate change risks as truly the emergency that many of our national and local elected bodies have declared?
And how do we ensure the emergency is seen as dire enough to enable emissions reductions and adaptation responses, but not so dire that we freeze into hopelessness?
The resilience of our infrastructure is reliant on how we support the ongoing transformational shift to support New Zealand's climate action plan and continue the investment in public transport, expand the national energy network and transition to 100% renewable energy.
There are three competing priorities to be balanced:
Recovery – rebuilding critical infrastructure; Maintenance – of what we have already built; and Growth and transformation – ensuring the resilience of our infrastructure supports our nation’s strategic and transformative initiatives.
How New Zealand funds not just the immediate rebuild of flood and cyclone damaged roads, bridges, and other infrastructure but also adapts for adverse climate events is a multi- (potentially hundred) billion-dollar question.
The challenges around funding resilience are not short-term ones.
Changes, including any to tax policy settings, need to be viewed in that longer-term context.