Feilding Herald

Columns
Thursday, March 31, 2016


On April 1 many New Zealanders will benefit from the extra support for families, which has been made possible by this Government's careful economic management.

For the first time in 43 years, benefit rates are rising beyond inflation for families with children and they will receive an extra $25 a week from this week.

At the same time, we're also continuing to make returning to work a priority. That's why childcare assistance is increasing - so sole parents are in a position to go back to work when their youngest child turns three instead of five. While parents in work will be better supported by an increase in Working for Families payments of up to $24.50 a week.

Together the increases to benefits and Working for Families tax credits will help more than half a million children, including 190,000 children in benefitdependent homes.

Paid parental leave will increase for the second time from April 1, which means new parents will get 18 weeks paid parental leave to spend with their newest family member. Paid parental leave is also being extended to cover more work circumstances, and to include non-biological or adoptive parents. In addition, parents of premature babies will now be entitled to extra weeks of parental leave payments.

The minimum wage is increasing again too, as it has done every year under National this time from $14.75 an hour to $15.25. We are mindful of doing this in a way that means people on the lowest incomes are able to be paid more without risking losing their jobs. Laws banning zero hour contracts will come into force too.

April also brings $232 million of ACC levy cuts to work levies paid by employers and selfemployed people, and to the earners' levy that everyone in the paid workforce pays. Later in July there will be reductions to motor vehicle levies, which will save motorists around $65 each on average.

Reflecting on our commitment to keep superannuation and veterans' pensions at 66 per cent of the average wage, it's great that these entitlements will be increasing as well. In fact superannuation has increased by more than 34 per cent since 2008 that's double the rate of inflation.

Without a doubt, these April changes show our growing economy is translating into real benefits for New Zealanders.

One more thing - I note that New Zealanders have voted to hold on to our existing flag.

While I'm disappointed with the outcome I am certainly very happy with the robust process that created some healthy debate about who we are, where we've come from and where we're going as a nation. That's got to be a good thing!