The Commerce Commission, Financial Markets Authority and Serious Fraud Office were among agencies to get a funding boost in today’s budget, addressing not only existing cost pressures but also expanded missions.

The commission will get $30.4 million over four years, which Commerce Minister Kris Faafoi described as sharpening its teeth to focus on potential impacts on competition due to the covid-19 pandemic, although the antitrust regulator has already taken on board a much bigger workload with the introduction of annual market studies.

“We’re going to make sure this recovery is one that all New Zealanders share in, and have a chance to be a part of – whether they’re an entrepreneur with a new idea to take on a multi-national or a consumer trying to get the best price,” he said.

The Budget document said the rapid expansion in the commission’s regulatory responsibilities coincided with increased demand and tougher government expectations, which meant it couldn't meet those expectations within its existing funding.

The FMA is also facing a bigger workload with the new adviser regime and looming conduct obligations for financial services firms. It has received an extra $1.3 million of operating funding for the next four years plus $3.8 million in new capital spending. Its litigation fund also got a $3 million annual boost over the four-year Budget horizon, with the bigger licensed adviser sector seen as lifting demand.

Alleviating pressures

“Furthermore, the costs of undertaking litigation and legal fees have risen, while technology has made proceedings more complex and increased data management costs,” the Budget said.

The Serious Fraud Office, which last year warned it was struggling to cope with its workload, got an annual increase of about $2.4 million over the next four years, plus $126,000 for capital projects.

The increase “will help alleviate pressures driven by case volume and complexity” and meet existing demand for increasingly difficult investigations.

The Overseas Investment Office will get an increase in funding to see off mounting cost pressures. The government will spend an extra $12.5 million over four years for operating costs and $3 million for capital projects, saying the funding is needed to meet legislative requirements from a first phase of reform that included the effective ban on foreign buyers of existing residential property.

A second round of reform will need even more funding, with almost $2 million a year set aside from the June 2022 fiscal year.