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English dips into Budget 2017 for $503m crime-fighting package including legal aid, district court funding

Friday 3rd February 2017

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Legal aid, district courts and corrections staff funding will all receive a boost from Prime Minister Bill English's 'Safer Communities' funding package.

The $503 million package, announced yesterday by English in his state of the nation address, includes $51 million for courts and $64 million for corrections over four years. The money is a pre-commitment against Budget 2017, English's office said. The package will cost $59.4 million in its first year, increasing to $100.4 million by 2019 and $195.9 million by 2021. 

The justice package includes a $16 million increase in legal aid over four years, Justice and Courts Minister Amy Adams said. Legal aid cost $139.3 million in 2016, with $137.7 million budgeted for 2017. The legal aid system has been repeatedly reformed as the government has attempted to keep a lid on rising costs.

Some $21 million from the justice allocation will be used to support the district courts in handling more cases, and $9 million will be spent on more judges under the package. $232 million was budgeted for the district courts for the 2017 financial year, while $131.2 million was allocated for judges' salaries.

The corrections funding will support rehabilitation and reintegration programmes and more staff, Corrections Minister Louise Upston said. 

In the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU) released in December 2016, Treasury predicted largely unchanged spending on police, Ministry of Justice and Department of Corrections until 2021. Some $1.5 billion was spent on police in 2016, with Treasury predicting that would rise to $1.55 billion by 2021; justice spending was estimated to decline from $468 million to $446 million over the four-year period; and the cost of corrections was expected to rise from $1.068 billion to $1.158 billion. 

English's office said the spending package hadn't been reflected in HYEFU as the decision had not been made at that point. It will be reflected in the Budget Economic and Fiscal Update, which will be published in May.

BusinessDesk.co.nz

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