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Surplus should be spent on housing, health and services

Government should spend surplus on housing, health and social services


Following the government announcement of a $7.5 billion surplus today, the Public Service Association says it is time to end the housing crisis, properly fund our hospitals and implement the recommendations of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group.

"Too many New Zealanders are fighting to keep their heads above the water, and more of the status quo is not enough," says PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay.

"We need the government to fulfil its mandate and build a country we can all be proud to live in."

New Zealand has around 130,000 fewer affordable homes than are currently required, and with a growing population this problem is likely to get worse.

Despite recent boosts to mental health funding and the announcement of new frontline services, studies indicate the sector has still been allocated over $130 million less than it needs.

People report losing weight and becoming mentally or physically ill as they struggle to survive on benefit payments, whether due to unemployment, illness or solo parenting.

PSA members employed by government agencies want to help people, not penalise them or continue their cycle of poverty, and the union believes this surplus offers a chance to make that happen.

The PSA calls on the government to:

- significantly increase building state houses, tackling the housing crisis head on with affordable healthy homes and creating thousands of jobs along the way

- address the historic underfunding of core health services by increasing sector funding to the level experts and medical professionals say is needed

- implement the recommendations of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group, ensuring beneficiaries no longer choose between feeding their children or feeding themselves

- allocate money to fund equal pay settlements for historically undervalued groups such as DHB admin and clerical workers

- invest in improvements to urban and regional infrastructure, to address the needs of a growing population and prepare New Zealand for the impact of climate change.

"It was famously once said that New Zealanders don’t want much, just someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work and something to hope for. When we have billions of dollars on hand and unnecessary suffering in so many communities, some important questions must be asked of us all," says Mr Barclay.

"What is your vision of the future? What sort of country do you want to live in? Do you want an extra twenty dollars in your pocket, or do you want to be confident someone you care about could walk into the Emergency Department and know there is a mental health nurse available to see them?"

In light of the significant surplus, the PSA urges the government to reconsider its self-imposed Budget Responsibility Rules and spend the money required to cover existing shortfalls and build a social safety net that can improve the lives of all New Zealanders.

"Will we be a caring society that looks after our neighbours, knowing our future is tied to theirs? Or do we listen to the whispers already coming from dark corners, telling us to be selfish and short sighted," says Mr Barclay.

"The message from members of our union is clear. They want to live in and work towards building a decent, caring society. That’s what this surplus should be spent on."

ENDS


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