Family violence, mental health needs, and child poverty are all at the center of New Zealand’s new ‘wellbeing’ budget, with billions being newly allocated to causes that relate to the overall wellbeing of New Zealanders.
New Zealand has become the first western country to create a budget with a primary stated concern that relates to the health and wellness needs of the country and its citizens. While the financial influx into needed services will certainly have a profound impact, the New Zealand government’s explicit switch in priorities from economic to wellbeing is profound. Policy now dictates that in order for new governmental spending to be approved, it must specifically be allocated for addressing mental health needs, reduction in child poverty rates, oppression facing the indigenous Maori and Pacific Islanders people, technological advancements, and the economy’s transition to a more environmentally sustainable future.
Jacinda Arden, New Zealand’s prime minister, said of the budget to the New Zealand Herald, “One message I want to repeat is this – I have always said that politics is all about priorities. You have a limited budget and you have to try and balance the need to grow the economy, create jobs, balance the books, and look after our people and our environment.”
Over the next five years, the budget will allow for an influx of $1.9 billion to the country’s mental health services. An additional billion will be put towards children’s poverty and welfare efforts, and $320 million is allocated for efforts that relate to combating the pervasiveness of domestic violence. The Guardian has reported that New Zealand has one of the highest rates of domestic violence of any developed country, with police on average responding to an incident of domestic violence every four minutes. This new funding that is specified for preventing domestic violence will aim to relieve pressure on over utilized social service agencies and make the country an overall safer place to live for future generations.
What country will be next in officially shifting to prioritizing the wellbeing of its people? How can we make this shift in our own work, lives, and communities?