Brian Edwards Media

Poor choices? Here’s some food for thought.

Just come across an excellent article by Rachel Goodchild – My food parcel poverty (thanks to a Facebook link by Tau Henare).

If you’ve been following the debate on my post Poor choices? Or just poor?  you’ll find this thought provoking.

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  1. There is also this feature by Kim Knight of the SST. Very well-written and encapsulates the issue well:

  2. I do not think anyone makes a choice to live in poverty. However there are those who do not regard living on the DPB as poverty and are quite happy to make that lifestyle choice.

    I also dispute whether anyone born in NZ knows what real poverty is. To many New Zealanders poverty is not being able to afford a Sky subscription; not being able to buy beer or cigarettes. These same people, together with lots of other bleeding hearts, seem to regard it as tragic that they ‘have to’ buy coke instead of milk. Nobody ‘has to’ buy coke. They could try tap water and use the money saved to by some fruit/vegetables.

    To some extent John Key was right; on the basic benefit people can live and eat nourishingly. It is not a comfortable existence but a benefit is meant to be short term assistance, not to fund one’s overseas travel.

    I can speak from personal experience having been brought up in post war London by a single parent, who had to work all her life and for whom it was a constant struggle to put food on the table.

    So whilst I feel sympathy for those with short term problems, I get rather impatient with those who think DPB is theirs of right and who have six children and call the PM a ‘political arsehole’ because he has not poured even more money into their cavernous gut.

  3. A great if sobering article. Might be me or my family next.
    Wonder why Tau Henare would post such a link?

    JC: He’s an interesting one, our Tau.

  4. Its nice to see facts from a beneficiaries point of view.I am tired of John Key making statements with little or no factual information to back him up.The situation of Welfare dependancy was created by the Government to start with. It was cheaper to pay a benefit than share the national pie out fairly amongst everyone.The public service was really a employment service with a way of shAring the national wealth with all.We do not know the true depths of poverty in New Zealand but that does not make this situation any fairer

  5. Beneficiaries should be given food vouchers which would restrict what they might buy. EG no ice cream, crisps, soft drinks, chocolate etc. Mainly just staple food like bread, pasta, veges (but not expensive fancy stuff like sweet corn and shallots) potatoes, pumpkin. They don’t have the right to buy what they want. there are over 350,000 receiving support from the State. Some hard decisions have to be made.(Hopefully we will see them tomorrow) They also should be made to perform work, even if it’s helping to keep the streets and parks clean.

  6. Ben, the travelling guy was one man. He wasn’t complaining about benefit levels, he was an admitted fraud. He and your hypothetical 6-child parent are very unusual and don’t illustrate anything. “Straw beneficiaries”, if you like.

    The fact is that current benefit levels were deliberately set in the early 90s by Ruth Richardson at 10% what Treasury calculated as the minimum subsistence level.

    You could just about get by for food, rent and utilities at basic level but you will not be able to deal with any shocks because you can’t get a benefit till you’ve used your liquid assets, nor can you save.

  7. Here’s another interesting read for those beneficiary bashers out there. It’s always useful to think and read about issues in more than sound bites I find.

  8. Let’s not forget it is election year. Beneficiaries and mark my word crime are easy topics to get political attention.

  9. Stephen, the six child parent I cited is not hypothetical. She lives in auckland. JK met one her children and took her to Waitangi with him. If the reports are correct that child is now in care with the woman expecting her sixth child.

    I accept that these examples are extremes but the fact remains that there are too many who have chosen to remain on benefit by deliberate choice.

  10. @Ben can you give any specific numbers of “those who do not regard living on the DPB as poverty and are quite happy to make that lifestyle choice.” or is that just something you made up??

    I was in the Tenderloins in San Francisco recently. A place where poverty is extreme. The American welfare system is extreme in that it barely exists. Many people I spoke to made the claim that those in poverty had made a lifestyle decision. It struck me how uncaring many people where. That said it didn’t surprise me that society appeared to be on two levels, the extreme poor and the quite well off. Not exactly a well rounded society.

    I for one am glad that the Social Security Act of 1938 came into existence. It’s a New Zealand law, and the call to emulate other countries and laws don’t really do anything for me.

    Is welfare a problem in NZ? Not as far as I can see. It is a solution, and whilst not perfect (just like human beings), I feel it is undoubtedly better than nothing.

    Some things that may impact peoples ability to eat healthily on a benefit, including lack of basic cooking knowledge, lack of cooking facilities, cost of other utilities. There are many other factors obviously.

    JK could do well to look at the cost to the economy of legal tax avoidance by corporations

    Abano Healthcare Group Limited in 2010 paid 3.19% in tax.
    Ryman Healthcare Limited in 2010 paid 6.5% in tax.
    Infratil in 2010 paid 10.4% in tax.
    The NZX in 2010 paid 10.9% in tax.

    I wonder which is a greater drain on the economy?? And when will National / the JK Party crusade against this??

    (stats pulled from here

  11. Although I disagree with the food voucher idea, I am in favour of making healthy options more accessable for everyone.Government subsidies for fresh fruit and vege and perhaps milk and bread would be a sympathetic way to improve the health of our nation.Taking Gst off is not sufficient incentive to move people in the right direction.

  12. Key has obviously never checked to see what actually happens when someone goes to a Salvation Army food bank.

    Key’s advisers have not checked the research done on the use of food banks. The findings absolutely contradict his statement.

    I had the misfortune to hear a replay of his statement this morning. Because it was not new to my ears I paid close attention to his delivery.
    It was rehearsed, it pandered to the National Party bias and ideology.

    I think English and his Treasury cabal wrote the statement. Key clearly knows nothing about the reality that exists on the streets of this country.

    David Farrar, at Kiwiblog displayed not only ignorance but also arrogance on his blog, and on National Radio, by attributing the increased demand on students having a jolly.

    Believe me it ain’t easy getting food from the food bank.

    It is easier to get money from a money bank. Both key and Farrar ought to know that.

  13. As a NZ born pacific islander with immigrant parents I know what it is like to live in poverty. Judging by some of the comments here, some visitors have not. My parents worked hard, two jobs each, and never received a benefit. Growing up, we never had a television, and for years did not have a landline. My parents invested in a computer, when it became affordable, to assist us in our education. But my parents often had to defer payments for various bills to pay for unexpected medical visits, or to fix the car etc. There were definitely weeks where we had less money to spend on food in order to pay for bills. There were a couple of times where my parents had nowhere else to turn but visit a foodbank. My siblings and I are all university graduates and hold professional jobs. But I know we would never blame my parents for having to go to a foodbank. It wasn’t a choice.

  14. Targeting beneficaries again shows just how bankrupt in ideas the current govt is.Felix 5’s example of how much tax coys pay is another example of the inequality that is a feature of the capitalist model.As the gap beween the poor and rich widens here,the middle class vote with their feet.Future NZ a tourist stopover ,also producing milk powder controlled by overseas interests.

  15. @ stephen judd – it was set at 20% below the lowest level.

  16. I’d suggest Rent is a key issue for many beneficiaries. I believe here in Wellington the Unemployment benefit + maximum Accommodation supplement is about $250.

  17. There are of course a few to choose not to work… but to classify the majority of beneficiaries as bludgers is just vile.

    I cant think of many people who choose to live a life of limited choices and poverty…just cause they are lazy.

    Thank god for the welfare state…..i have used it once or twice in my life….

    PS anyone who thinks its easy to get a benefit and to keep it obviously have not been on a benefit in the past 10 years!

  18. a Government Job is easily the best benefit,long term anyway.