Finance Minister Bill English is not ruling out making changes to Working for Families or the student loans scheme in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake.
As the full financial impact of last week's quake becomes clearer, the Government is looking at a bill to the taxpayer of up to five billion dollars.
The effects of the disaster will also be felt in the long term, with reduced commercial activity in the Canterbury region likely to lead to a smaller than expected tax take.
Finance Minister Bill English today confirmed that a number of government schemes would now need to be re-evaluated, in order to plug the hole in the government's finances.
“At this stage there’s not much we’re prepared to rule out, and it’s certainly too early to rule anything in. We'll just wait and see,” said Mr English.
Asked if the Government’s re-evaluation of spending priorities would see cuts in schemes such as Working for Families or the student loans scheme, Mr English said it was too early to say, though it would be nice to push through a whole raft of unpopular changes on the back of the Christchurch disaster.
“I’m not ruling out slashing social services, selling assets and destroying the welfare state,” said Mr English.
“I’m also not ruling out building a giant rocket, blasting it into space, and searching for viable new planets for the people of Christchurch to live on.
“Nor are we ruling out rebuilding the entire city on a giant wheeled platform, enabling the entire thing to roll back and forth gently in the event of an earthquake. While I have no doubt the engineering challenges would be immense, it’s too early to say for sure whether this is an option.”
Mr English confirmed that some tougher measures might be required to fund the recovery.
“We cannot rule out entirely the possibility that to pay for the reconstruction we will have to sell the entire population of Timaru into slavery. We could also decide to harvest the body organs of mimes, theatre critics and jazz aficionados for cash, but I want to stress now that no decisions have been made.
“It would also be reckless if we were at this early stage to rule out building a giant golden statue of the Prime Minister that can be seen from the Moon, and using the increased tourism revenues arising from our having a Wonder of the World to finance Christchurch’s recovery.
“But I can rule out one thing. We sure as hell won’t raise the top tax rate.”