Opinion: South suffering with increasing costs, cuts

National’s cuts will see people in Dunedin and Mosgiel worse off.

Before the election, Christopher Luxon told people that a National government could deliver tax cuts, reduce debt and continue to invest in the things that matter most — like health and education.

National told us that their promises were affordable and that they could balance the books by just cutting supposed "wasteful spending". But the problem is, their numbers don’t add up. And it’s people, including here in Dunedin and Mosgiel that will pay for it.

First, let’s be clear — increasing the number of teachers, nurses, doctors, and police we employ and the amount we pay them is not wasteful spending. And it’s certainly not wasteful spending to rebuild our local schools and hospitals, or our roads and water infrastructure.

I don’t think people in the Taieri electorate would agree proper support for veterans, or people with disabilities and those who care for them is wasteful spending.

Nor would they consider the school lunch programme, which feeds our children and makes a difference to their learning, as a waste either.

National promised it wouldn’t cut frontline services like our police, firefighters, border protection and health and education services — but these are already at risk. For example, there’s now a hiring freeze on non-sworn police officers, including those who answer our 111 calls in emergencies.

This freeze also means that we’ll see police officers off the street and doing paperwork, which is frustrating for them and for people in our community who want quick responses.

We’ve also seen a back-and-forth around other significant cuts, including to the Suicide Prevention Office, which may come at the expense of people’s lives.

National’s tax cuts will not help working people with the cost of living in the way that was promised. Before the election they admitted only 3000 households were getting the amount promised, and since taking office, they’ve brought in new taxes, too.

Day after day, it becomes abundantly clear: National’s tax cuts were never affordable and never properly costed, despite Mr Luxon claiming that their numbers were "rock solid".

According to economists at Westpac and ANZ, National will have to borrow between $10 billion and $15b more than previously expected to help pay for $14.9b of tax cuts.

Their decision to fund tax cuts through public service cuts, new taxes and increased borrowing is reckless and irresponsible, but it is also a choice. And it’s a choice that will see many in Taieri worse off.

While Christopher Luxon is scrambling to deliver on his impossible promise of cutting taxes, reducing debt and continuing to spend, National is missing in action on a plan to deliver meaningful cost of living support to people and families doing it tough right now. It’s not good enough.

National’s focus needs to be on making everyday life more affordable for people here in the South.