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Cutting Jobs Won’t Fill Tax Cut Hole

Representational Image/Photo: NZME / Niklas Polzer
The decision by the coalition government to implement severe job cuts across public
services is not just a fiscal adjustment; it’s a decision with potentially dire consequences for
the nation’s most vulnerable populations. In the past few weeks alone, the government has
cut more than 2,500 jobs and it will cut even more in the coming weeks and months in a bid
to save $1billion.
While the government frames these cuts as necessary to rein in debt that it hopes will help
it fulfil election promises of tax cuts, the collateral damage is significant, particularly in
crucial sectors like education, child welfare, healthcare and a range of government services
to taxpayers.
Education, often considered the cornerstone of a prosperous society, stands to bear a heavy
brunt. With over 550 full-time roles proposed to be axed within the Education Ministry
alone, the repercussions are alarming. These cuts not only destabilise families but also
whole communities, as highlighted by the Secondary Principals’ Council. It’s not just about
the loss of jobs; it’s about the ripple effect on the quality of education and support services
for children across the country.
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One of the most concerning aspects is the impact on initiatives like the school lunches
programme, Ka Ora, Ka Ako. With reduced funding and staff, ensuring the success and
sustainability of such vital programmes becomes increasingly precarious. Health Coalition
Aotearoa rightly questions how the same results can be achieved with fewer resources. The
risk of hungry students, financial strain on families, and heightened barriers to educational
attainment cannot be understated.
Cuts to agencies like Oranga Tamariki threaten the safety and well-being of at-risk children.
Valid concerns have been raised about the ability of these agencies to listen to feedback and
implement necessary changes without adequate staffing. The loss of experienced
professionals weakens an already fragile and under resourced support structure for
vulnerable youth, potentially leaving them even more marginalised and underserved.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is among the government
departments implementing job cuts, with over 286 positions already eliminated, costing
over $6 million in redundancy pay outs. While the total expense of these cuts across all
departments remains unclear, Finance Minister Nicola Willis, who will present this
government’s first Budget in May, believes the savings will outweigh the costs.
assurances that senior management positions won’t be spared, concerns persist about the
disproportionate impact on junior staff. Willis aims to ensure the public service remains
balanced and efficient, with a review of managerial roles planned after the Budget in May.
The government’s argument that these cuts will redirect funds to frontline services seems
dubious at best. While Education Minister Erica Stanford assures that redirected funds will
enhance student achievement, the reality is starkly different. The assertion that the Ministry
of Education has bloated in size without evidence of productivity overlooks the critical roles
these professionals play in supporting teachers and addressing the complex needs of
National MP Chris Bishop’s argument about the sustainability of public servant numbers
fails to acknowledge the human cost of these cuts. While there may be a need for efficiency,
it cannot come at the expense of essential services. Labour MP Kieran McAnulty rightly
points out that these professionals are not idle; they are integral to supporting teachers and
vulnerable children. Passing the burden on to already overstretched educators is not a
solution but a recipe for further strain on an already burdened system.
During a recent session of the Finance and Expenditure Committee, Willis acknowledged the
necessity of borrowing to meet the upcoming Budget’s requirements. This acknowledgment
directly contradicts previous statements made by her during her time in opposition, where
she asserted that the tax plan would not entail any additional borrowing.
Ultimately, the government’s approach to debt reduction through slashing public sector
jobs lacks foresight and compassion. The long-term consequences on education, child
welfare, and healthcare could be profound, exacerbating inequalities and undermining the
nation’s future prosperity. Rather than focusing solely on short-term fiscal goals, a more
balanced approach that prioritises investment in vital services and social infrastructure is
imperative for New Zealand’s well-being.
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