Timaru Courier - South Island farmers should take a bow

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Farming communities across the South Island should take a bow in the wake of the latest regional gross domestic product (GDP) figures. Whether based in Southland, Otago, Canterbury or the West Coast, farmers need to know our latest GDP figures are indicators of the important role their sector plays in sustaining our economy.

We hear a lot about Auckland and Wellington but at the end of the day it’s life down on the farm and the hard working families working on or supporting our rural sector who drive our economy and keep New Zealand growing.

Southland had the highest economic increase at 11 per cent driven by dairy farming. Canterbury was next, growing by10.6 per cent, driven by dairy and construction while Otago’s economy, was up 6.3 percent, also driven primarily by dairy.

For those of us residing in small towns and on farms it’s gratifying to know the role we play in promoting growth and supporting our economy. By the way, Auckland’s GDP increased by 5.1 percent, Wellington’s by 4.4.

And now for something completely different......

From April 1 a number of changes to benefit New Zealand families will kick in including an increase in paid parental leave by two weeks – and then by another two weeks from April next year. Parental tax credits jump from $150 a week to $220 a week on 1 April, and the entitlement will increase from eight weeks to ten.

The Government will also boost support for first home buyers. Our Kiwi Saver Home Start scheme will help 90,000 Kiwis put together a deposit on their first home. Support for buying a new home is doubling and the house price limits are increasing.

First home buyers will soon be able to withdraw all their Kiwi Saver savings except the $1,000 kick-start – this includes their tax credit. More people will be able to access Welcome Home Loans, as we’re aligning house price caps with the new Kiwi Saver Home Start Grant.

ACC levies, paid by employers and self-employed people, will fall to 90 cents per $100 of liable earnings, down from 95 cents. From July 1 Kiwi families with a standard car will also be $135 a year better off, as ACC levies are reduced.

The adult minimum wage will rise to $14.75 an hour in April, along with the starting-out and training hourly wage which is set at 80 per cent of the adult minimum wage.

Benefits and superannuation payments will increase on April 1. As well as benefit rates, this includes student allowances, student loan living costs, the foster care allowance and rates of supplementary assistance. We legislated for benefits to increase each year in line with inflation and we're committed to maintaining the married rate of superannuation at 66 per cent of the average wage.

Free doctors’ visits and prescriptions are being extended to children under 13 from July 1. This ensures cost is not a factor when parents consider taking their child to the doctor.