A raft of new initiatives to support New Zealand’s economic recovery from COVID-19, while addressing child poverty, housing, and climate change come into effect today.
The initiatives include:
- Main benefits increase by $20 per adult, per week (after tax).
- Training Incentive Allowance will support higher-level study for sole parents on benefits, and carers and disabled people on Supported Living Payment.
- Unsupported Child’s Benefit and Orphan’s Benefit extends to short-term caregivers of children who are unable to live with their parents.
- Increasing paid parental leave rates: The maximum rate for eligible employees and self-employed persons will therefore increase 2.5 per cent from $606.46 per week (gross) to $621.76.
- Healthy Homes Standards will require landlords to provide properties with insulation, at least one fixed heating device capable of heating the living room to at least 18 degrees, openable windows in most rooms and extractor fans in bathrooms and kitchens
- Ministry for Ethnic Communities begins operating
- New rebates for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles start July 1 with up to $8,625 for new vehicles and $3,450 for used.
- Tourism businesses operating on public conservation land will have a further six months of fees waived to help them adjust to the downturn in international visitors in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The second round of changes to the rating of Māori freehold land will come into effect following the passing of the Local Government (Rating of Whenua Māori) Amendment Act 2021 earlier this year.
- Security Guards added to Schedule One of the Employment Relations Act helping protect their employment conditions.
- Introduction of the new Migrant Exploitation Protection Visa to protect migrants and help them leave exploitative situations.
“Together, today’s initiatives deliver on our priorities of lifting more children out poverty, improving the state of rental housing and reducing our climate emissions while supporting our economic recovery from COVID,” Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni said.
“From today, 355,000 New Zealanders on benefits will have more money to meet their basic living costs and their children’s needs.
“This is part of this Government’s key priority of laying the foundations for a better future and will also help secure our economic recovery from COVID-19, as this money will be spent in local and regional communities.
“These changes also directly address child poverty by putting more money in the pocket of parents,” Carmel Sepuloni said.
This is the first of two main benefit increases announced in Budget 2021 to lift weekly main benefit rates by between $32 and $55 by April next year, in line with a key recommendation of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group.
Alongside the benefit increase, complementary changes mean Childcare Assistance for families won’t fall when benefits or supplementary payments rise in the future.
“Around 2,100 families will be eligible for more Childcare Assistance and more families will benefit over time, with further improvements in April next year to index Childcare Assistance income thresholds to annual average wage growth,” Minister Sepuloni said.
Also from today, the rate of paid parental leave will increase 2.5% to from $606.46 per week (gross) to $621.76 and new Healthy Homes Standards will come into force.
“Improving our rental stock will provide renters with better homes, which in turn will improve the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders,” said Associate Housing (Public Housing) Minister, Poto Williams.
“From 1 July 2021, all boarding houses must comply with the healthy homes standards and private landlords must ensure their rental properties comply within 90 days of a new, or renewed tenancy. All rental properties must comply with the standards by 1 July 2024.
Today also marks a milestone for New Zealand with the establishment of the Ministry for Ethnic Communities.
“This is the first time our ethnic communities will have this level of representation,” Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities, Priyanca Radhakrishnan said.
“I’m determined that the new Ministry will meet the needs and the aspirations of the community it serves.
“Our ethnic communities, who make up nearly 20 per cent of our population, face specific challenges and the establishment of the new Ministry gives those communities a voice in Government.”
Another key initiative coming into effect today is the clean car discount scheme for Electric and Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles.
“The Clean Car Discount will make it cheaper for New Zealanders to buy electric and low emission cars. It will prevent up to 9.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and will help with the upfront cost of switching over with Kiwis getting up to $8,625 back,” said Michael Wood.
“Our transport emissions are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand so, in line with the advice of the Climate Change Commission, we need to start taking action now if we are going to meet our 2050 targets.”
Other changes announced in Budget 2020 which come into effect today include, improving support for caregivers who take on the care of children outside of the State care system for a short or uncertain length of time.
“From today, eligible caregivers may qualify for Orphan’s Benefit or Unsupported Child’s Benefit from the Ministry of Social Development, even if the child or young person is expected to be in their care less than 12 months,” Ms Sepuloni said.
“These caregivers are often members of a child’s whānau or extended family who have stepped up to care for a child who may otherwise be at-risk. They do a hugely important job that needs to be supported.”