Are the PM's policy changes enough to help with the cost of living?

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

Massey University Professor Matt Roskruge (Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Tama) says Prime Minister Chris Hipkins's policy changes aimed at cutting expenditure by about $1 billion were needed.

Hipkins had argued the changes were needed to free up funding to address the cost of living and respond to natural disasters.

“They absolutely needed to look at cutting money in other places so it doesn’t drive up inflation. It also tidies up that portfolio post-Ardern going into the next election,” Roskruge says.

“It looks like they’re going to start to focus on real, perhaps working-class centrist issues, which will be interesting for Labour, I think, going into the [2023] election.”

Annual inflation sits at 7.2 percent in the 12 months up to December last year, according to Stats NZ, so the changes are welcome, he says.

'Really difficult tradeoff'

But, while the benefits were increased by around the same percentage to keep up with inflation, Roskruge says it won’t be enough in the long run.

Even as it seems to be economic well-being vs climate change, "or current well-being vs future well-being", the moves being made mean the government is doing what can be done for both, Roskruge says.

“While we absolutely need to be doing big picture things to address climate change, the things that were cut probably weren’t going to have a huge impact on climate change. Probably that money is going to be more urgently needed for whānau.

“But it is a really difficult trade-off. I’m pleased I’m not the one making it.”

For Māori, who have been affected hugely by Cyclone Gabrielle and the cost of living, Roskruge believes the focus needs to be on building and rebuilding wealth for whānau to better prepare for events from a financial standpoint.

“If we’re looking at Māori resilience, it’s about how we rebuild the economic wealth of whānau to be able to help them get through these crises.”

Public Interest Journalism, funded through NZ On Air