Water infrastructure projects are important to our rural areas for sure. High speed broadband is, in my opinion, much more important.
Investing $200 million here, a $130 million boost there, multi million dollar recognitions everywhere!  The headlines of press releases around last week’s budget seemed to be focused on growth and opportunities.

I will not read the entire 2013 Budget as such.  It’s a rather dry read.  The press releases were so much more exciting!

Alongside the spin of government-focused press releases, social welfare was the standout portfolio in terms of the number of publications.

Then came the education portfolio, followed by Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples who had a lot to say but not a lot to spend.

Fourth spot on the press release stakes is held jointly by the health portfolio and big spend ups on Research and Development in the science and innovation area.

But the things that I see as being important, rated hardly a mention.

Climate change.  To me, climate change is the biggest issue that we face today, yet it got only a passing mention.

For the climate skeptics out there, a University of Queensland study shows a consensus amongst scientists who published a peer-reviewed climate change study.  They agree, overwhelmingly, that climate change is real and that human activity is the cause of it.

That’s good enough for me, yet our government back away from addressing the issues around climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Small business.  John Banks, the small Business Minister had nothing to say despite SMEs – Small and Medium Enterprises – being a crucial part of our economy.

The stats tell us that over 97% of all firms have fewer than 20 staff but employ nearly a third of workers. Enterprises with fewer than 50 employees create nearly half of all jobs and contribute over a third of New Zealand’s Gross Domestic Product.

“Science and innovation are key drivers of economic growth and international competitiveness.” says Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce.

Yet the new Research & Development (R&D) growth grants are targeted at businesses that spend more than $300,000 and 1.5% of revenue on R&D.  How many SMEs have revenues of more than $20 million to qualify? And a new R&D project grant for smaller firms is only available to cross-industry projects, limiting its availability to fewer firms.

A new proposal around R&D tax breaks has promise for SMEs but the details will not be known until next month when a discussion paper is released by Revenue Minister Peter Dunne.

High Speed Broadband.  Amy Adams, as Minister of Communications and Information Technology, did not get a word in.  There are clear benefits of high speed broadband underpinning growth in the economy and employment.  And in reducing costs in the education and health sectors.  Yet nothing is being done to ensure that rural people have equal opportunity of access to high speed broadband.

Instead, we see the Minister concentrating on the mechanism of the 700MHz digital dividend auction, and on curtailing the legal obligation of the Commerce Commerce to regulate broadband wholesale prices.

NO-climate-ChangeRural New Zealand. The budget gave nary a fillip to rural New Zealand with only the confirmation of $80 million in funding for regional irrigation projects.   Water infrastructure projects are important to our rural areas for sure.  High speed broadband is, in my opinion, much more important.

As a sector, rural New Zealand generates around 66% of our productive exports.  With exporting promoted as the liberator of the economy, I had hoped for a budget that focused on the strengths and needs of this sector.

Is it likely that next year’s budget will address these issues?  Yeah nah!