The 2013 budget is a relatively bland document. Much of the controversial content was announced pre-budget so there were no major surprises. It is good however, to see the increasing emphasis on science and innovation with significant extra funding being made available including the establishment of the Advanced Training Institute, which is important and we hope will be well represented in Christchurch.
Education has received significant attention with some clear signals about some changes and emphasis in the education system. From a Christchurch perspective we have an enormous challenge ahead of us, with about three quarters of a billion dollars worth of damage to schools, while a challenge, this will provide us with an opportunity to change the way we do things with respect to education and to look at a much more integrated education model from a tertiary education perspective again, an emphasis on science and engineering which should play well for the city’s future.
The particular reference in the budget to the importance of rebuilding Christchurch comes as no surprise to Cantabrians. It is essential that the Government continues to support the second city in New Zealand and we are looking forward to a strong Central Government involvement working with Local Government and the Community including the Business Community to optimise the outcomes for the recreation and growth of our community.
This time last year the Government was anticipating the cost of the earthquake in it’s budget announcements to be $15 billion, we know now that the total cost of the seismic events will be well in excess of $30 billion. That just reinforces the need for the Government to make continuing and strong commitments to the earthquake recovery. We note that the Government has spent $1.6 billion of the $5.5 billion it allocated to earthquake recovery and it expects to spend the rest by 2014/2015.
We are pleased to see an extra $115 million for CERA. It is really important that CERA and the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) are strongly resourced to take the city to where it needs to go to. It is also good to see $13 million provided for NGOs to support the community and funding available for further land assessments. The figures quoted in the budget for residential investment are impressive and a little frightening however, the continuing commitment to a strong Central Government presence working constructively within our community to ensure that we get the infrastructure we need, the housing and land issues sorted and the central city developed at a rapid pace can only be encouraging. One of the issues that we will face as we go forward is developing mechanisms to manage unprecedented growth across all aspects of our economy in the context of the rebuild.
It is disappointing to see no specific reference to the linkage between the rebuild of Christchurch city and the accelerated development of our regional economy. We know the Government has already set aside significant funding for irrigation development and it is important that much of that investment goes into this region. It is also critical that the emphasis on science, engineering and research all fitting into the realm of innovation be captured as much as possible in Canterbury. The earthquakes have presented us with the opportunity to travel in new directions, to work in new collaborative models, to streamline Government functions and to go to places we have never been before. It is going to be important that Christchurch is seen to be a place where new ways of doing things can be experimented with, can be supported and then be cloned across the rest of New Zealand. Christchurch and Canterbury have always had a reputation of doing new brave things and being a good place to conduct pilot projects. We have in this region the opportunity to assist the Government to achieve its’ business growth agenda by re-developing our city and our economy in a way that faces the future. As Dutch Leonard, the Professor of Public Affairs at Harvard University said “as we rebuild Christchurch we must rebuild it to ride the great tailwinds of our time, not the tailwinds of yesterday”. I hope the direction laid down in the budget with the emphasis on the Christchurch Rebuild and some of the critical elements of our economy such as science and engineering that are important to the whole of New Zealand, can be concentrated on and developed right here at home. That will help all of New Zealand.