Go back

Budget a ‘dark day’, says Public Service Association

Image: Kobus Louw, via Getty Images

New Zealand organisations say public science must be funded to meet national goals

New Zealand’s Public Service Association has described the national budget on 30 May as “a dark day” for public sector workers.

Across-the-board cuts to government department budgets will undermine public work that is “tackling our environmental challenges, building our climate change resilience and supporting New Zealand businesses”, it said.

Cuts of NZ$374 million to the Ministry for the Environment and NZ$903m to the science, innovation and technology sector, while income tax is being cut, are “the wrong choice”, said Duane Leo, the association’s national secretary.

Struggling system

Other bodies representing scientists had already slammed the budget.

The New Zealand Association of Scientists labelled it “worse than a nothing burger for science”, pointing out cuts to science institution funding and planned cuts to major research grant programmes.

Nicola Gaston, co-director of the MacDiarmid Institute for advanced materials, said in a statement that “the long-term trend is of attrition in the sector due to inflation relative to flatlined baseline funding”.

She said that although the National Science Challenges, which wind up this month, were at the end of their planned life, much of their funding had been “existing research funding that was reallocated”.

“Losing that money from the system means a funding cut relative to 2014 even before we worry about adjusting for inflation,” Gaston said.

“Any of the outcomes that this government would like to see—tech skills development, commercialisation, business investment in R&D and the all-important economic contribution that innovation can make—will be severely hampered when so many parts of that system are struggling.”

Fewer grants

Frédérique Vanholsbeeck, director of the Te Whai Ao Dodd-Walls Centre for photonic and quantum technologies, said that the budget was “very sad” for the tertiary sector.

“Funding for research is losing as well. The Health Research Council and Marsden [Fund] allocations have not increased so given the galloping inflation, it will mean fewer grants or grants that won’t cover as much of the researchers’ salaries,” Vanholsbeeck said. Her analysis also found “a net decrease in contestable funding”.

“This government is not investing in Aotearoa New Zealand as a knowledge-based economy.”