Brian Edwards Media

Milk and Honey off the menu

 

Photo: Dorothea Lange

Today  the Herald published a story lamenting the extra cost of local, free-range and organic foods, the very foods we’re being encouraged to buy and eat.  They estimate that the clean, green Kiwi options cost us on average 25% more. For people on a limited budget, that isn’t an option at all.

The Taranaki Daily News got closer to the heart of the problem with a story headlined ‘Free food draws poor kids to class’.  It quotes principals from Taranaki schools who say that some of their students rely on their school to provide breakfast and even lunch, just to survive.

Poverty in New Zealand is a problem we often conveniently ignore, preferring to see our country as a land of milk and honey.  Unfortunately, milk and honey are off the menu for hundreds of thousands of Kiwis. More than 200,000 of our kids are living below the poverty line; over 48,000 of them go to school without breakfast.  

This is a disgrace. No child in this country should go hungry. No New Zealand child should be cold or ill-clothed or living in an unhealthy or overcrowded house.  No child should be denied an education just because learning is too hard when you arrive at school cold, wet and hungry – if you get there at all.

The government has prioritised a number of policies to stimulate the economy in an effort to get us out of the current recession. None of these policies, to my mind, tackles head-on the most urgent task of all – eliminating ‘child poverty’.

This should be the number one priority. Nothing is more important. Nothing is going to stimulate the economy better in the long run than having our kids grow up healthy and well educated.  It’s a damn sight more important than ultra-fast broadband and super-highways.

‘Child poverty’  is a misleading term. It implies that the only people affected are the children.  But every child living in poverty is part of a household that is also living in poverty.  Whether that’s the result of generations of welfare dependency or a lack of jobs is not the issue.  The issue is how to break the cycle and get these kids into a situation where we can be confident they have a better future – by giving them a better present.

Brian and I used to support hungry kids in Africa; today our donations go to Kids Can to support hungry kids in New Zealand. If you’d suggested a few years ago that people might need to do this, we’d have scoffed.

But this isn’t a problem that can be solved by donations and charities and volunteers. This needs a full-frontal government assault; it needs policies and budgets and resources; it needs cross-party co-operation.  Above all, it needs the courage to accept the reality of the problem, and the will to make this shameful situation one of the past.

, , ,

89 Comments:

  1. Congratulations on a good article that avoids benefit bashing and addresses the issue of poverty. The more journalists that highlight poverty, the sooner something might be done. How about free school lunches instead of more motorways? And why can’t Fonterra provide free milk to all decile 1-5 schools instead of trialing it in a few schools. All wealthy Kiwis need to consider what sort of society we are creating by supporting the huge gap between the rich and the poor. I do have a concern for the elderly too, having watched a respectable looking pensioner hungrily devouring grapes beside a stand in a supermarket recently, while she pretended to choose some for her shopping. Perhaps if big business paid their fair share of tax, the vulnerable could be supported a little more.

  2. “Perhaps if big business paid their fair share of tax, the vulnerable could be supported a little more.”
    Not only big business – very high income individuals as well. But a majority of Kiwis isn’t of a mind to rectify the situation right now. They’ve just voted back in the party least likely to make such a change, so we have to live with the status quo for at least another three years.

  3. “so we have to live with the status quo for at least another three years.”
    Lets not give up too easily Keith – this government can also be influenced by stories such as the Taranaki Daily News quoted here and indeed more blogs like this. I didn’t see any Labour policy focused on Child poverty , the greens and Mana had a strong focus but hey its a problem with a broad base. Individuals can do something – as Judy pointed out – with our charity donations or directly.
    We all may find less than 3 degrees of separation between each of us and one family in poverty. Then, for that family at least, the solution is in our hands.

    BE: Labour wanted to indirecly address the problem of poverty in families by raising the minimum wage, taking GST off fruit and vegetables and a number of other policies. However, I’m inclined to agree that the Party had its priorities wrong and misread the concerns of the electorate. There was a conviction that opposition to asset sales was a surefire winner. This was what the party’s polling and focus group research was apparently telling it. My own (expressed) view was that opposition to asset sales was indeed widespread but it was not a gut-level issue. When asked, people agreed that we shouldn’t sell our state assets, a sort of jingoistic knee-jerk response, but they really didn’t feel strongly about it. In the 12 years that Judy and I were associated with Helen Clark and more recently and briefly with Phil Goff, I formed the strong view that Labour relied far too much on focus group research, in my view the most inexact of sciences, and may well have suffered damage as a result.

  4. Come on? Breakfast is the cheapest meal of the day, if parents aren’t capable of providing a few dollars for a bowl of cereal for that or a slice of toast with vegemite/spread on it then they are the ones failing as parents. Even beneficiaries can manage that on their budgets.

    Many kids go without breakfast because their parents aren’t organized enough in the morning to make it for them. Many parents don’t have the skill to even make toast these days and rely on takeaways. Some kids won’t eat breakfast, I didn’t as a child and still don’t. Hate it.

    As emotive as the whole “going to school hungry” notion is, the nation isn’t failing at it, parents are and should be the ones wearing the responsibility.

    JC: I don’t care who’s to blame. The Blame Game just allows us to shrug off responsibility, both personal and political. And there’s a helluva difference between choosing not to eat breakfast and having no food in the house.

    BE: I think it’s wonderful how you toss out these non-facts as if they were Holy Writ. How do you know that beneficiaries can manage on their budgets? How do you know that ‘many kids go without breakfast’ because their parents aren’t organised enough or lack the skill ‘to even make toast and rely on takeaways’? What’s the relevance of your not liking breakfast to the argument? What’s your first-hand experience of the lives of people on low incomes, the unemployed, beneficiaries? But you’re right about one thing: kids going to school without breakfast is an emotive issue. And so it should be.

  5. While I accept that there might be some hard-up families, you’ll find the overwhelming majority of the guardians of these underprivileged kids are in de facto relationships or solo mums etc always have money to buy KFC because they’re too lazy to cook, buy fags (and worse), sculling handle-after-handle down at their local pubs, plenty to feed the slot machines at the casino etc, and love to play the ponies at the TAB.

    Child poverty, for the most part, is a misnomer; a little self-discipline and privation in regard to the above, might go some way in overcoming the problem.

    BE: I thought this racist and elitist claptrap went out in the 70s!

  6. HOh come on Brian, you are using an article about organic and free range foods, arguably the choice of Ponsonby fussy eaters to moan about poor people not feeding their kids.

    Next thing you will write a post about housing affordability in south auckland based on the price of a mansion in paritai drive.

    Or maybe a post about motoring being out of reach of the poor because the average price of cars t counts and continental cars is over $100k.

    JC: Did you bother to read past the first paragraph, Cameron? Or was that the limit of your concentration span?

  7. I dont really care about the reasons parents arnt supporting their children ,to me its far more important to deal with the initial problem of child welfare and deal with the other issues after children have been cared for first.
    I have yet to see any reliable evidence that solo mums etc spend all their money at the pub and ponies. SHOW ME THE STATS TO SUPPORT THIS .

  8. According to this [1] article on the children’s commissioner’s site poverty line is defined as:

    “households with incomes below the 60 percent median income poverty line, after taking housing costs into account [..] and means one adult and one child were living on $430 a week before housing costs”

    These numbers are based on 2006/7 figures so are 5 years old.

    So in numbers of children in “poverty” is solely based on New Zealand’s income distribution curve. The numbers say those households are poorer than most, not if they are unable to afford to bring up their children properly.

    The US has poverty line [attempts] to calculate an income level that is needed by a family and defines everybody below that line as being in poverty. Perhaps something similar could be done here so we know the real extent of the problem and have goals to fix it rather than complaining about a meaningless number.

    [1] http://www.occ.org.nz/home/childpoverty/about_child_poverty

  9. Agree with the appalling state of the Child Poverty in NZ, the land of plenty.
    Both my sons however, refused to eat breakfast before school and even now as adults they seldom eat anything for breakfast. Just a side issue I know, but there are similar kids fronting up breakfastless who too may also fit into the ADHD problem.

  10. Brian, I see the big Tories are attacking you? Interesting development. Trickle down has been around for years, long before Reagan and Friedman. In fact, the notion that the concentration of wealth and power at the top of society is not the natural order of things is a relatively new one. The real challenge is, now we have had a little taste of fairness and equity, more or less, since the 1930s, are we willing to see it go?

  11. JC, the whole article that you first linked is about and headlined “shopping with a conscience”. It details fairtrade, organic (don’t get me started on that description of food) and free-range. It even uses the term “ethically-based”.

    At no stage anywhere in the article does it mention the alleged problem of poor not being able to feed their kids. That is a bow you yourself drew. You conflated the issues to make your pwn political point.

    The rest of your post links to another article entirely that has no linkage, other than you putting it in the same post, with fair-trade, free-range or ethically based food at all.

    Your final paragraph says a great deal and succinctly summarises the whole post…a whole lot of whining and a demand that someone else come up with ideas because you haven’t presented anything other than a call of “something” to be done…most likely by getting someone else to pay for it.

    Was that reply sufficiently long enough for you to exercise your obviously considerable attention span. I did have to take 5 minute breaks to complete the task, so deficient is mine.

    BE: Well, it seems to me, Whaleol, that you have a devoted a great deal of your valuable time to the fairly inconsequential matter of what you see as an uncomfortable segue in Judy’s piece, while largely ignoring the core issue which she raises of poverty in New Zealand families. As for asking for something to be done without speficying exactly what it should be, perhaps you are unaware that Judy and I have worked very hard over the last 15 or so years (and with some success) to get Labour into power and keep it there, and to keep your lot out. At the heart of family poverty is the wide and increasing gap between rich and poor in this nation, a situation philosophically endorsed and promoted in practice by the National Party and its leader. National is the enemy of the poor. While it remains in office, the rich/poor gap will remain and grow and with it the numbers of families unable to provide adequately for their children. I’d have thought therefore that the starting point for solving the problem was fairly obvious.

    Happy New Year.

  12. Wrong sort of picture; it should be that of a Maori or an Islander family. And every time this topic gets dredged up, I become more indifferent to them because they are clueless by having one kid after another, without any thought as to how to provide for them on their own. They blithely fornicate away because they expect the State to pick up the tab.

    If they choose to breed like rats, don’t expect the State to provide the blocks of cheese.

    BE: Well, clearly I’m wrong – this sort of racist, elitist claptrap did not die out in the 70s.

  13. Just reading through these comments after a well considered and thought provoking blog article makes me realize why we are so far from doing anything realistic to start solving this problem. For starters, some of you are such speed readers that you fail to see that Judy Callingham was the writer, not Brian Edwards. Then I see a number of people taking up their entrenched political stances with scant regard to the tragedy which is being played out daily before us. Aotearoa – New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world that can still be self sufficient and self sustaining but that’s not going to happen until the politicians realize this and act immediately to set us on that course. Everything else the politicians do is puffery – short term thinking for short term results.
    Poverty is the major obstacle to the goal of a fair, balanced self sustaining economy and society. If this problem is not addressed immediately the upsurge of a desperate underclass will put even more pressure on our social welfare, justice and health systems. The cost of doing nothing will be far greater than the cost of acting now. Free lunches for all primary school children would be a good start.

  14. Yes, but wait…the ‘brighter future’ is coming. Isn’t it? The big crumbs will be falling from the tables then.

  15. 15

    christopher mitson

    Off point, but I wish you hadn’t used Dorothea Lange’s historic photograph with political commentary disfiguring it. That classic photograph should never be mutilated. It stands, and always will stand, as a symbol of undeserved despair.

    That said, your analysis is entirely accurate.

    What the loonies seem incapable of understanding is that for a raft of reasons, some people just can’t cope. Instead of playing the blame game from the comfort of their middle class background they might be more usefully employed in examining their own humanity – or lack of it.

    Despite their entertainment value, I’ve stopped reading a couple of blogs recently because of their unrelenting mean-spirited nastiness.

  16. This is a good article. I totally aree with its contents.

    In south Auckland for example, children are being admitted in the A&E suffering of diptheria. We are also getting cases of TB which is now resurfing.

    In New Zealand we have the highest infant mortality rates in the OECD, child abuse both emotional and physical. Problem is, its been going on for decades, just ignored.

    Yes its shamefull, and a disgrace. The PM is ignoring it, so have the one million Kiwis who did not get of their backsides to vote.

  17. Child poverty itself doesn’t exist – it’s parent poverty we’re talking about here. And kid yourself not, mostly, the conversation’s about the ethnic minorities in South Auckland.

    If you can’t afford kids, don’t have ‘em! How simple is that? Problem is, the welfare state encourages brainless couples to breed like vermin in the sure knowledge that anyone else with a job doesn’t mind feeding their litter. And reading half of these posts, who can blame them?

    At this point I would genuinely reason that whilst you lot may have scruples, I can’t afford ‘em. But if there was a real way in which I could help one poor NZ family feed, clothe and educate one of it’s offspring I’d be glad to do it. Sadly I have a conviction that donated cash would simply be deemed as Golden Eagle Shit by such families, who would end up with rum instead of beer, Nike instead of Rivet and LCD instead of CRT – if it’s not too late already. Worse, Destiny might get a dollar.

    The solution lies not in the wealthy of the land donating a year’s salary to the self-created underclass – but in denying that underclass any succor whilst training them to stand up and take responsibility for their lack of social sense.

    Stop thinking the problems of the poor can only be solved by all of the rest of us, and we’ll all live in a far better world.

    BE: Must be close to getting your postgraduate degree in eugenics now, Zinc. What was its title again? Ah yes: Reflections on the Future Role of New Zealand as a Master Race I’d love to read it, but I have a sensitive nose.

  18. “it needs the courage to accept the reality of the problem”

    To do that the reality of the problem – problems actually – needs to be identified. Children “in poverty” is a symptom of many things, not a cause that can be fixed.

    It would be very sad if the responsibility of feeding kids moves to schools. Already school is seen as a safe haven by a lot of kids, and that’s not because of a lack of money at home, it’s due to a poverty of parental decency. Should we set up hostels at schoos for kids who don’t feel safe at home?

    “over 48,000 of them go to school without breakfast.”

    “Without breakfast” means nothing on it’s own. I grew up in a family that would now be regarded as below the poverty line by today’s measure, I often went to school without breakfast and often skipped lunch, but I always had enough food available to prevent hunger.

    And “more than 200,000 of our kids are living below the poverty line” means nothing without identifying the causes, and the proportions of kids (and families) affected by each cause.

    Just calling on other people to fix problems with other people’s money is not going to achieve anything much. Even if money could be reallocated so the poorest families all had, say, a 20% increase in available money how many kids lives would be appreciably improved?

    Has any research been done on the numbers that really matter?

    BE: An interesting piece of logic: If we don’t know the exact causes of a problem or can’t specify the exact solutions to to a problem, then the problem really has no meaning. No point in saying: this is serious and we need to fix it urgently.

  19. Frank Macskasy has posted some useful thoughts on this subject
    http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/greed-is-good-part-deux/
    The graph ( sourced from “Inside Child Poverty NZ”) seems to indicate that child poverty rates are certainly influenced by both Governmental decisions and employment availability.

    There are of course many reports on poverty in this country. Here is one from Presbyterian Support Otago which is a reasonable starter.
    https://ps.org.nz/voices-of-poverty-2011

  20. organic and free range foods are cheaper than chips – plant a garden and share the excesses with friends and family when you have them. Not rockets science by a stretch and was done by many a few decades back.

  21. Bevan not a bad idea – planting gardens – but not as simple as you make out. You need space, the “many a few decades back” had quarter acre sections, they are a rarity now. It also takes some skill, knowledge and resources ( tools etc) to create a garden that significantly contributes to food needs. I know, I am a gardener, producing a good range of veges year round takes real skill, fruits are even harder.
    I think community based gardens (allotments) could really help here. Shared tools and experience, a collaborative approach, it would take some imagination from local govt ( an oxymoron perhaps).

    BE: Now that is an excellent idea, Richard.

  22. Mark S, Gordon and Zinc.

    Just highlighting some of your little nuggets of social philosophy

    “solo mums etc always have money to buy KFC because they’re too lazy to cook, buy fags (and worse), sculling handle-after-handle down at their local pubs, plenty to feed the slot machines at the casino etc, and love to play the ponies at the TAB.”
    “If they choose to breed like rats, don’t expect the State to provide the blocks of cheese.”
    “the welfare state encourages brainless couples to breed like vermin in the sure knowledge that anyone else with a job doesn’t mind feeding their litter”
    “If you can’t afford kids, don’t have ‘em! How simple is that?”
    “Stop thinking the problems of the poor can only be solved by all of the rest of us, and we’ll all live in a far better world.”

    When we start thinking of people like this we are just a step away from fully dehumanising them – it’s happened so many times in our history – and in thinking like this we lose our own humanity in the process. A humanity that then has to be carried by someone else.

    As an illustration , this is a prayer written by an unknown prisoner in Ravensbrueck concentration camp and left by the body of a dead child.
    “O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted on us; remember the fruits we have bought, thanks to this suffering – our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this, and when they come to judgement let all the fruits which we have borne be their forgiveness.”

    That’s humanity!

  23. “An interesting piece of logic: If we don’t know the exact causes of a problem or can’t specify the exact solutions to to a problem, then the problem really has no meaning. No point in saying: this is serious and we need to fix it urgently”.

    No, sorry, Brian. I’ll call “straw man” on your criticism of Pete George. By using the word “exact” you’ve tried to portray his views as that of a pedant, looking for excuses to do nothing.

    However, I’d suggest he is thinking deeply about addressing the issue of child poverty – by wanting to allocate our national resources to fences at the top of the cliff, or even secure pathways that keep folks away from the ledge, rather than putting everything we have into ambulances at the bottom.

    Appreciate yours, and Judy’s passion. I’d like to think many of those who vote for other electoral alternatives other than your choice feel exactly the same way – although I suspect that idea will get short shrift here given the PRIMARILY emotive approach the post adopted. Emotion has its place, certainly as a means of overcoming apathy, but not when it comes to determining the intricate specifics of public policy. A bit too much like televangelism.

    I’d like to think I’m of an open mind, and I suspect Pete George is to. I think it would be worthwhile to robustly research issues like whether (or NOT) WFF and a legislated minimum wages provide a worthwhile and cost effective temporary benefit to alleviate child poverty, at the expense of long-term opportunity.

    Does WFF, minimum wage legislation, and similar left-wing policies create long-term poverty traps? If so – how? If not, then why not? More importantly, I’d like to think I’m prepared to put aside my prejudices, and agree we shape public policy based on the findings of such research. Are you?

    Or is this really, just as you posted to Whaleoil, an unpaid party political broadcast? Fair enough if it is. However, I prefer to direct my passion to INCLUDE a dispassionate discussion of how to both alleviate and also eliminate child poverty, and to consider the possibility that some measures that seemingly alleviate poverty actually serve to make it worse in the longer term.

    And a question I have after watching Annette King caterwaul, and wail over this issue last year. If Labour had nine years in power to provide a long-term structural means to address child poverty, and National has kept the basic foundations in place since 2008 (WFF, legislated minimum wage, top ups to address the 2.5% increase in GST), then how come child poverty is supposedly getting worse? And if it is, at what point do people begin to at least contemplate the possibility that Clark’s and Cullen’s solutions had the long-term resilience of a candy floss umbrella?

    BE: “I’d like to think I’m of an open mind.” I really don’t think so, Kimbo. But then ‘open’ often means “empty” in this context, so this isn’t a criticism. One can’t really be ‘open-minded’ about poverty. However, I’m sticking to my point that, on the evidence of his first term in ofice, ably assisted by Paula Bennett (accurately dubbed ‘class traitor’ by grafitti artists in her electorate), and despite his photo-op visit to McGehan Close, the $50 million dollar, all singing, all dancing foreign exchange dealer really is the enemy of the working class, beneficiaries and the poor. Labour might do better next time by being less polite to this farceur.

  24. This shouldn’t degenerate into a petty party political debate. That’s the side-road argument that prevents major issues from getting the traction they need. I don’t care if Don Brash, Peter Dunne or the daft West Coaster from NZ First comes up with a solution, or a path to a solution – let’s just stop the bickering and start making a difference here.

    Yes, Kimbo, I’m emotional about this problem. I’m angry. I’m bloody angry. “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

    The New Zealand I grew up in had plenty of poor people; solo parents and abandoned spouses had damnall State assistance, prejudice was rife and there was rampant xenophobia, so I’m not living in some sort of nostalgic fantasy. I went to school with barefoot kids in second-hand clothes. But no-one was hungry and anyone who needed a job could get one. In fact, being on the dole was a matter of shame.

    This is the country that created the Welfare State, and somewhere along the line we’ve blown it – I don’t care where or whose fault it is. The current reality is that we’re letting down hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders and, most importantly, we’re letting down our kids. It’s a bloody disgrace that we now have poverty and Third World diseases in this country. We’ve got an epidemic on our hands and it’s time we woke up and dealt with it.

    I want a call to arms. I want us collectively to make enough noise, enough commotion, to force our Parliament – all parties – to recognise that this must be the country’s first priority. I want our Government to throw the best minds, the best policies, the best resources into solving this problem. And I want us all to support this action, to take responsibility and to help individually as much as we can.

    It’s not going away, folks. We need to do something, and we need to do it now.

  25. “BE: “I’d like to think I’m of an open mind.” I really don’t think so, Kimbo.”

    Why? Because I don’t immediately agree with you? Or more to the point, because I asked questions that I note you’ve sidestepped?

    “But then ‘open’ often means “empty” in this context, so this isn’t a criticism”.

    Sounds like it to me. Either way, a deft rhetorical sleight of hand that avoids the issue that Pete George and I took the time to raise, which, thus far you’ve dismissed with a straw man argument.

    “One can’t really be ‘open-minded’ about poverty”.

    Another rhetorical sleight of hand. I made the point that in terms of finding the causes, in order to best address child poverty in both the short and long term, an open mind is a useful, indeed necessary attribute. Just as it is with any problem, social or otherwise.

    “However, I’m sticking to my point that…”

    Indeed you are.

    So I take it you’ve decided not to answer the question, let alone even contemplate the possibility that the policies of the 1999-2008 Clark government MAY HAVE (nb: not even “DID”) created a poverty trap in which many children now find themselves? What a curious attitude, given the “call to action” nature of the original post. Do everything – but think!

    Or are we just meant to nod and accept the wisdom that Judy and Brian dispense, and follow their orders like a bunch of drones? Because if you don’t, well, you’re really nothing other than a manifestation of a heartless and grotesque Dickensian villain. And thick with it too.

    Just out of interest – do you provide a cloth cap, so that I’m a properly attired propaganda warrior, fit to wage “class warfare”?

    A suggestion: Next time, just save us all time, and post “John Key is a rich prick – vote Labour”. At least then you wouldn’t be acting as the farceur of a reasoned discussion on how we are to best “do something” about child poverty.

    Oh yes, and not that I’m expecting an answer as it doesn’t seem to be your style (fair enough – it’s your site, although having prompted a discussion, some may argue you and/or Judy have a moral obligation to properly engage) – what “evidence” of “his first term in office” are you referring to that makes John Key an “enemy of the working class, beneficiaries and the poor”?

    I’ve mentioned his government retained WFF, maintained (and slightly increased) the minimum wage, and compensated for the increase in GST – all at a time of extreme national financial peril.

    However, I’m all ears as to the specific egregious cases of “land clearances”, “deportation to Botany Bay for stealing an apple”, or “casting people into the poor house” which must have surely prompted such militant phrase as “class warfare”.

    I’m open-minded to hear your examples…

    BE: Here’s the thing, Kimbo. You’re on the Right of the political spectrum, I’m on the Left. For you that’s all about dialectics, argument, who’s right, who’s wrong. For me it’s got everything to do with rage – rage against what I perceive as intolerable injustices in the areas of economic, social and criminal justice. We’re never going to agree, because we think differently. We start from different premises and with different value systems. We’re wired differently as every committed Right-winger is from every committed Left-winger. I’ll write a post about this shortly, but one basic symptom of this is that the Left tends to concern itself with causes while the Right tends to concern itself with effects.

    In the spirit of Judy’s call for a truce, I’m making no value judgements here. But you need to understand that no amount of clever dialectics will make the slightest dent in my rage. Bob Tizard tells a story about a Cabinet meeting with Norman Kirk after the ’72 election. Someone said, ‘The thing I can’t stand about the National party is X.’ Someone else said, ‘The thing I can’t stand about the National Party is Y.’ And so on. Kirk finally said, ‘What a pack of useless pricks you all are. I can’t stand anything about those bastards.’ I can relate to that. Sad but true.

  26. “This shouldn’t degenerate into a petty party political debate…”

    Indeed. And I didn’t want it to head that way. Alas, however, I’d suggest that your presumption that chld poverty isn’t already a major, if not the primary concern of the present government, has landed us there.

  27. Forget free range and organic – you checked the price of ordinary milk and honey lately?

    BE: I’m the supermarket shopper in our family and I’m amazed that anyone can afford to buy anything, least of all fruit and vegetables, from these rip-off merchants. While the growers are on the bones of their arses, the supermarket near-monopolies are creaming it at your expense and mine. It’s a bloody disgrace.

  28. “National is the enemy of the poor.”

    Interesting comment Brian. I would go further and add:

    National is the friend of the self-serving.

    The self-serving, like ship rats, have the biggest and sharpest teeth and jostle for the best position closest to the food source. They epitomise the ‘rat-race’.

    The self-serving, like ship rats don’t give a monkeys about caring for others unless there are immediate rewards in return. That is why the self-serving are vehemently opposed to anyone getting near the table without being fully fledged members of the ‘rat race’ self-serving society.

    Like ship rats the self-serving have no compunction in destroying others including even their own to maintain their place in the ‘rat race’.

    Any notion that equal share of the fruits from the tree may create harmony is anathema to the self-serving. The self-serving don’t want harmony or even polyphony for that matter.

  29. “..BE: Labour wanted to indirecly address the problem of poverty in families by raising the minimum wage, taking GST off fruit and vegetables and a number of other policies..”

    the reality check there is that yes..gst off fruit and veges wd help a bit…

    ..but the other measures were $5,000 tax-free..

    ..’well and good’..i hear you say..

    ..but this ‘over three years’..(do the math..)

    ..and to include sole-parents in working for families..

    ..(and this is/was the real curly-one..)..

    ..this exercise to be completed by..2018…

    ..so really..as far as the poorest are concerned..

    ..(as a sole-parent on dpb count me in..)

    ..labour were offering s.f.a…

    ..and virtually no relief to the nightmare they did so much to create..

    ..(as an aside..the article farrar has done off this post is gag-inducing…and right up there with the fake maori woman beneficiary he cooked up on kiwiblog..)

    ..and as another aside…

    ..britain has just tested a new more comprehensive/accurate measure of poverty..

    .. http://whoar.co.nz/2012/poverty-2-0/

    i wd post it/argue on his blog..

    ..but i am banned..eh..?..)

    ..the only person/party who offered real/immediate relief to this curse of poverty was mana/harawira..

    ..and i still claim that ruling him/them out could well have cost goff the election..

    ..but having lived thru this one…

    ..i must say i am cheered to at least seeing it being discussed in the media/by the chattering classes..

    ..and as bad as these bastards promise to be..

    ..as a person who’s grandmother had a framed picture of michael joseph in pride of place..

    ..it both saddens and sickens me what labour became..

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

    BE: With you, I’d like to see a bit more of MJ Savage in Labour’s policies, but I don’t think you can dismiss the Party’s initiatives at the last election, unless you prefer (literally) f.a. to something at least. And you can’t ignore the major economic platforms such as the Capital Gains Tax which would have gone some way to closing the gap between the super rich and the super poor. As for Hone, I rather like him, but the easiest position to make promises from is where you have no hope of exercising real power.

  30. trying to synthesise the realities/serial-dismay of life for the poorest under labour –

    – can be attained by watching vid of her crying crocodile-tears of how a couple on $75,000 are ‘struggling’..

    ..and therefor they ‘need’ working for (some) families…

    ..it wasn’t pretty to watch..

    ..and how clark/labour just turned their backs on the poorest..

    ..for those nine long years…

    ..will for the present..and for future historians..

    ..be a defining mark/stain of her time…

    ..something she and her compatriots will never be able to rub out..

    ..and one of the best things going for shearer..

    ..is his late arrival on the scene..

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

  31. Simple solution:

    Remove all welfare entirely.
    Construct labour camps for the shallow end of the gene pool to earn their keep.

  32. Hi Richard,

    I don’t believe vege gardening has to be an all or nothing approach requiring local govt assistance and drive, much like getting a bowl of food organised for your kid(s) in the morning.

    Oats and a bit of dried fruit go a very long way for very little money.

    There’s nothing wrong with making a foray into producing your own food with some pots and line of veg somewhere. It all helps reduce a grocery bill or two with some lessons learnt along the way.

    Takes a little personal drive to look for a better solution within one’s own power.

  33. It would seem that you want the problem fixed by putting more money into the homes of beneficiaries with children? Most of the children in poverty live in benefit-dependent homes (although not all). That’s what I take from your call for immediate action.

    Labour promised this through its policy to give the IWTC to beneficiary parents. It was a significant turn-around on their previous stand – that work is the best way out of poverty. They had, under Clark, stuck by the IWTC as an incentive to work throughout court challenges from the Child Poverty Action Group (still ongoing).

    Anyway, the public didn’t vote for it. I don’t think they see this as the answer any more.

    Note that in the article from the Taranaki Daily News two school principals made these comments:

    “Waitara Central principal Sharren Read says mismanagement of income and unaffordable debt mean basic needs like housing suffer.

    Devon Intermediate principal Fiona Parkinson says her students come from all walks of life and there are families attending the school bordering on poverty.
    “It comes back to the Government and their priorities for spending. The issue is a societal one – not just a school one – and it needs to be addressed at a high level. It’s to do with the support given to families and isn’t just a case of throwing money at them,” she says.”

    BTW I still support children in Africa because I see the money used to make communities self-sufficient and viable. I don’t support KidsCan because I see their intervention in schools as well-meaning, and maybe even useful in the short term. But aggravating in the long.

  34. “Remove all welfare entirely.”
    “Construct labour camps for the shallow end of the gene pool to earn their keep.”

    The Ministry of Works which provided jobs and dignity for many was disemboweled by National in idealogical support of the private sector’s mantra for the necessity of market competition.

    An ironic display of political ‘shallow gene pool’ capitulation and one huge mistake wouldn’t you agree Comrade Hulun?

  35. be said:..’And you can’t ignore the major economic platforms such as the Capital Gains Tax ..”

    ..once again..’well and good’..

    but i can’t see exactly how that would actually help the poorest..

    ..and i wd maintain my thesis that a few bucks off fruit..

    ..the minimal annual gain from the tax free five grand..

    ..and working for families by 2018..(!)..

    ..really comes within a hares-breath of s.f.a..

    ..and of course the defining moment in the capital gains tax debate for me was that show holmes did on entrepeneurs…

    ..when he deviated from the script..and asked a studio full of (‘self-made’) millionaires..

    ..for a hands-up on how many of them supported the idea of a capital gains tax..

    ..it was a tumbleweeds tumbling moment..

    ..the silence screamed..

    ..the only background noises were them nervously licking their lips at the very idea..

    ..and them clasping their hands by their sides..

    ..any cent of any tax will have to wrenched from their greedy/grasping claws…

    …and where the debate in america is to raise their capital gains from 15% to what the mug-punters pay..

    …here our uber-rich don’t want to pay even one cent…

    ..says it all really..eh..?

    oh..!..and as another aside..

    ..around that time one of those multi-millionares received a $4 million+ dollop of corporate welfare..

    ..not a loan..

    ..just an outright gift..

    whoar..!

    ..eh..?

    phil(whoar.co.nz

  36. “We’re wired differently as every committed Right-winger is from every committed Left-winger. I’ll write a post about this shortly, but one basic symptom of this is that the Left tends to concern itself with causes while the Right tends to concern itself with effects.

    In the spirit of Judy’s call for a truce, I’m making no value judgements here”.

    Thank you. Brian – truce agreed, and I look forward to your post. I would have thought it was the other way around – the left deals with effects, the right with causes, which means you’ve whetted my appetite even more.

    And even though you (maybe rightly, I’m not sure) assume I’m a right-winger, that book you edited on the 1972 election (Left Right Out) was one of my first introductions to NZ politics. Accordingly I still regard Big Norm Kirk as one of my heroes – even though I’m unsure of the current applicability, effectiveness, and sustainability of his anti-poverty policies.

    Either way, and despite the disagreement he had with you on talk back radio a few weeks before he died (I’m recalling from memory the details in the excellent book by Kirk’s secretary, Margaret Hayward), I’m sure we probably agree he NZ’s first genuine minister of foreign affairs (in contrast to British or American foreign policy with a Kiwi accent as he succinctly put it), and an outstanding one at that.

  37. For a really good debate about the issues that JC raised with this post, go to
    http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2012/01/liberal-elite-whinging/britsucc.html
    (I jest)

  38. One of the great myths in this country is that National is the business friendly party, the upholder of free enterprise and defender of the rights of the individual. This theory of course appeals to the middle classes who usually make up the numbers for the nouveau-professional, the sole proprietorships, the independent contractors, the farmers and the generally self-employed. By whatever title, these are the ‘hard working’ that seem to subscribe to this myth like a religion.

    However, National really is about retaining the control of wealth in the hands of their self-serving cronies in the top echelons of society.

    The ‘hard working’ middle class devotees having hedged their bets and tut tutted and chorused the obligatory bashing of the poor whilst containing their envy of the rich will, wanting more, ultimately turn on the cronies and bite. The media will refer to them as ‘floating voters’. A new government will be elected.

    The make-up of the next Labour led government will be crucial. Whatever the mix I suspect there could be a resurgence of framed pictures of the then Labour PM being hung on kitchen walls.

  39. BE:
    There’s nothing “racist” or “elitist” at all in my post. Just an uncomfortable and unpalatable truth.

    Why can’t you be more open and identify the race of people, who are in this so-called “poverty”?

    And why don’t you direct your pent-up anger to that parade of filth on Page 12 on the HoS?

    And WTF should I foot the bill for their sloth and indolence, and they expect the State to pick up the tab so that they can promulgate a colony of leeches and parasites? How can anyone help this lot when they won’t even help themselves. Not only do they want to be provided for, they also want to be spoon-fed. Community gardens for this lot? Can you imagine them lifting up a trowel or getting their hands dirty? What a ridiculous joke!

    I wouldn’t give them the pickings from my nose let alone the steam from my tea.

    BE: I’m not moving an inch on my assertion that your views are racist and elitist. Re-read your own comments. Your extravagant and inflammatory language betrays you in almost every sentence.

  40. It’s kinda ironic when you think about it…

    When suggestions are made to raise taxes on the rich, their fellow-travellers and groupies scream the loudest; “You shouldn’t tax the wealthy – they work hard for their money!”

    When workers (such as those of the Maritime Union) go on strike for higher wages, those same groupies scream that they are wrecking businesses and the economy.

    I guess that irony is kinda lost on neo-liberals, reactionaries, and the plain Selfish Mob.

    Just as it’s lost on them that raising incomes for the poor isn’t about the parents – it’s about their children.

    As one person posted here (who is famous for criticising the unemployed and solo-mothers);

    “BTW I still support children in Africa because I see the money used to make communities self-sufficient and viable. I don’t support KidsCan because I see their intervention in schools as well-meaning, and maybe even useful in the short term. But aggravating in the long.”

    Yeah. ‘Cos looking after our children is just so darn “aggravating”.

  41. By the way, Brian & Judy – I’m putting a link to Kidscan on my Blog.

    Every little bit helps.

  42. I must admit that my first reaction is “how can anyone not afford to feed their kids in NZ?” (and I’m not a Nat voter) so I read that Presbyterian Support report linked to above. It’s insightful.

    It does also make me wonder why no one has set up a charity here that could pair those of us with enough (or more than enough) with others who are struggling. I’d happily contribute to Kiwi kids’ breakfasts/shoes etc than buy goats for African villages via Oxfam et al.

    It also strikes me as increasingly perverse that students are granted access to interest-free credit, yet people on low-incomes who get, say, a traffic fine that they can’t pay, which then goes to court, can end up owing hundreds if not thousands in penalties. And thus condemn their families to poverty because of debt repayments.

    There should be some way for people who get into a financial mess to put their hand up, admit they’re in a mess, and actually get state agencies to wipe that sort of debt (or at least wipe all the penalties/costs if the original fine is paid) so they can start afresh. Kinda like diversion for bad debtors…

    JC: Here’s the link to Kids Can – an organisation that supplies breakfasts, raincoats and shoes to kids in NZ schools. http://www.kidscan.org.nz/ You can support a child for as little as $15 a month.

  43. Frank

    If you want to understand the ‘aggravation principle’ read Overcoming Welfare by James L Payne available from libraries.

  44. The left concerns itself with causes and the right with effects.

    Hmmm. I don’t see that here. My greatest frustration with the left is its tendency to subsume complex and difficult issues in emotive cliches about the downtrodden and underprivileged, thereby obscuring causes.

    This debate is a case in point. Much has changed since our parents day. It may well be that the structure of society from an economic perspective has changed so as to deepen and entrench inequality. I’m not really in a position to comment with any authority.

    However, from my perspective, only someone with their head in a paper-bag would deny that the values and expectations of the average punter have changed markedly. There is a greater willingness to resort to welfare as a life-style option. There is a greater reluctance to do the right thing by the kids and sacrifice some degree of personal happiness to provide them with the best start possible. Hard work is seen less as a solution to anything.

    These things are subtle but they are causes. As real as economics. It helps no one when those who raise them are shouted down as if they have no heart for the poor and weak.

    The “rage” is one-dimensional. It needs to look more to causes and has by no means arrived as a satisfactory response to where we have got to.

  45. “rage against what I perceive as intolerable injustices in the areas of economic, social and criminal justice”

    Well, quite. But Labour was in power for 9 years and in that time it mercilessly attacked Achmed Zaoui, who was in prison for many months without charge and without, apparently, having committed any crime. The State was relentless in denying him justice and it spared no cost in the process.

    Then there’s the curious case of Peter Ellis, who continues to fight for justice (his lawyer announced just after Xmas she would apply for a pardon, the 4th time such an application has been made). Where are all the Labour MPs supporting him and fighting for justice on his behalf? None that I am aware of. Maybe they think that supporting a convicted paedophile is politically incorrect.

    I don’t recall either you or Brian giving your support to Ellis, and rallying against the criminal justice system and successive governments that have denied Ellis justice. Maybe I have missed it.

    Simon Power, the previous Minister of Justice, opinged during his valedictory speech last year that the case “troubled” him. Obviously not enough to do something meaningful. He was as weak and ineffectual as Phil Goff, who had grave concerns about the case whilst in Opposition but as soon as he became Justice Minister was easily manipulated by his officials.

    A Minister in the last Labour Government had strong family connections to two complainants (and would-be prosecution witnesses) in the case. Maybe that affected the stance taken by Labour.

    The evidence is clear and compelling that Ellis has not received justice.

    One can hope that under David Shearer Labour will rediscover its conscience, but I am not going to hold my breath.

    JC: “rage against what I perceive as intolerable injustices in the areas of economic, social and criminal justice”
    This is Brian’s comment, not mine. Right now I’m concentrating on rallying support for a change of policy focus to combat poverty in this country. I’m not sure my stance on Peter Ellis has any relevance to that issue.

    BE: “I don’t recall either you or Brian giving your support to Ellis, and rallying against the criminal justice system and successive governments that have denied Ellis justice. Maybe I have missed it.”

    WEll, You clearly missed my lengthy interview on Top of the Morning with Deborah Manning, the young lawyer acting for Zaoui. I have always thought the Peter Ellis trial was a disgrace and made more than one attempt to get Ellis to agree to an interview with me on radio and television. My requests were denied by his lawyer. Best to check your facts befor making these assertions.

  46. I agree with the core point that we do genuinely have a major problem with child poverty in NZ, along with severe child neglect and abuse issues. And we do need to find efficient and effective solutions – not just throw more money blindly at the problem, or on the other hand pull money away just as blindly across the board. There are a number of genuine beneficiaries should actually be paid more in my view.

    Here are some proposed solutions;
    1)Meals should be provided in all decile 1-4 schools. Breakfast and/or lunch.

    2)On site health care in these schools as per the doco so that kids get a decent chance of overcoming poverty related illness, and also so that abuse and neglect can be spotted early and acted on

    3)More controversially, some sort of tiered controlled electronic payment system, using chip cards rather than the old voucher systems that have been used with some success overseas. One of the major problems with the current welfare system is that benefits are paid out in cash, with no control whatsoever on how it is spent. And too much is spent on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

    At the top level, beneficiaries with no prior track record of criminal activity or substance issues would be given the current benefit on a controlled chip card, which would be usable anywhere for anything bar alcohol/cigs and pokies etc. There would be no cash out capability. They would be able to use online trading sites such as Trade Me etc. Effectively it would be some sort of credit/debit card which would operate exactly like any other bar the previously mentioned restrictions In addition they would get some money in their account, say $20 a week, with which they could treat themselves to a nice bottle of wine or something if they felt like it

    The next level would be those with a prior history of substance abuse issues or criminal history or who had tried to rort the system by flogging off stuff they’d bought for cash to buy alcohol/cigs/drugs etc. These people would get the controlled amount on the card only, and there would be some restrictions on where they can use it, so they wouldnt be able to buy easily flogged off stuff like electronics, DVD’s etc without pre approval.

    The thrid level would apply to those with serious and current criminal and/or substance abuse issues, and/or had abused the level two provisions These people would receive goods/services only, not even a card or vouchers, and on a preapproval only basis. They would get accomodation, food, power, etc paid and supplied. Anything else,they would have to go to WINZ and ask for it

    Yes there will be issues with enforcement and bartering, and some degree of leakage is inevitable but it would be a major improvement on the current scenario and allow us to put more resources towards helping out the deserving majority of beneficiaries.

    The State must stop acting as an Enabler for addicts. This will also have big payoffs for health and justice. It will also hurt the alcohol and tobacco barons, good job, stick the boot in and really punish them as far as I’m concerned.

    4)I would also put in place some additional incentives and rewards to encourage people out of the poverty trap. Beneficiaries who managed to get through a year with no substance abuse issues and/or criminal offending of any sort would get paid a bonus just before Xmas, say $500.

    In addition,those in State housing that got through a year without any problems or damage to the property would also get a bonus, say a fortnights free rent. Other incentives could be put in place for parents and those on sickness benefits to reward them for meeting realistically achievable goals that will make their lives better and others

    5)Remove children from criminal/ gang families where both parents have records of violence and/or substance abuse This would also do a great deal to alleviate child poverty not to mention our shocking rates of child neglect and abuse. Unfortunately I cannot see this happening any time soon sadly

    We need solutions rather than partisan bickering and points scoring. Lets help those that need it – most of all the children who have no choice in the matter

    Regards
    Peter J

  47. Ross: What does Peter Ellis Ellis and Achmed Zaoui have to do with alleviating poverty? Is there a link – or are you simply trying to trumpet your own issues at the expense of others?

    (And by the way, my views on Ellis and Zaoui might mirror yours. But I don’t try to beat others over the head with it.)

    Lindsay: Does James L Payne’s work address Bryan Bruce’s excellent documentary on child poverty in NZ, where he said,

    ““I’m a baby boomer,” says Bruce. “I went to primary school in the late 50’s when they gave us free milk, free health care and a free education. In those days, Kiwi’s were able to boast that New Zealand was a great place to bring up kids. So when I learned that we’d dropped to number 28 on the list of 30 OECD countries for child well being, with just Mexico and Turkey behind us, I decided to find out what’s gone wrong and what we have to do to fix it.” ” – http://www.tv3.co.nz/Shows/InsideNZ/InsideChildPovertyASpecialReport.aspx

    Tony: “My greatest frustration with the left is its tendency to subsume complex and difficult issues in emotive cliches about the downtrodden and underprivileged, thereby obscuring causes.”

    Really? Considering that the “Left” tends to deals in issues, and it’s the Right who resort to stereotypical cliches (some of which are downright obscene), I think your point is lost.

    Examples? I could give you plenty. But just visit any Right Wing blog, and I think you’ll soon get the point.

    The reality is that we’ve had free market “Rogernomics” since the mid-1980s. The promised “trickle down” not only hasn’t worked, but (according to the OECD) the income/wealth gap has widened in the last 30 years.

    Plain english; the top 150 Rich Listers increased their wealth by 20% in 2010 (during a Recession!?!?) – whilst poverty increased.

    And every time, the New Right find someone else to blame for their failures.

    Neo-liberalism – that great ideology which promised so much in the 1980s – has proved to be a hollow promise. It’s been a scam.

    In fact, look at the promises of marxist-leninist economic theory in the former Soviet Empire. They too, promised much – and failed to deliver. Their economy came close to collapse as well, as poverty increased.

    The more one looks at “free market” economics, one is left with the inescapable conclusion that it’s a failure.

    And our children are paying dearly for our self-indulgence in adopting that wacko ideology.

    It’s time that we dumped extremist ideologies and got back to basics.

    Jobs. Healthcare. Education. Feeding and caring for children as a community – not isolated individuals, some of whom cannot cope by themselves. A progressive taxation system that pays for our place as a First World, developed society.

    In a way, the children of low income families are like the canaries down the “mine-shaft” that is our society. And at the moment, those “canaries” are not looking very healthy…

  48. I can accept there is a problem. But as soon as someone says free breakfast at school is the solution I tune out. All that does is encourage the neglect that some parents display.

    Yes I know, at that point everyone says well show me those neglectful parents. I have lived in some of the most deprived parts of this country. I have seen them. I state as fact that there are many parents who became such because welfare via the DPB is an acceptable option for kids with poor skills, limited prospects, and already living marginally in any case.

    The silver bullet of free breakfast or any kind of universal welfare cannot be the solution.

    Is there a simple alternative to restricting welfare to encourage personal responsibility? I doubt it. Probably a mixed model is the solution. Bigger carrots but bigger sticks also, all
    supported by the ubiquitous “education”.

    I would never support “trickle down” as a solution but then its a gross misrepresentation to believe the present government does either. Everything about JK screams middle-of-the-road pragmatist far more than ideological demon as portrayed so often on this site.

    By all means lets look for a solution. But lets not pretend the entire population comprises chaste welfare virgins just looking for the right degree of support to throw off the shackles of imposed poverty.

  49. “Right now I’m concentrating on rallying support for a change of policy focus to combat poverty in this country. I’m not sure my stance on Peter Ellis has any relevance to that issue.”

    Judy, apologies for misattributing Brian’s comment to you.

    I am in agreement with you both about poverty and why it needs serious attention (and not just from politicians). However, I was looking at the bigger picture, especially Labour’s lack of conscience and its failure to address issues pertaining to social justice. If Labour can treat the likes of Zaoui, Ellis and others with disdain, why would you think it’s going to take the issue of poverty seriously?

  50. http://brianedwardsmedia.co.nz/2012/01/milk-and-honey-off-the-menu/#comment-17843

    A lesson in humility which will not be forgotten.
    Thank you, Richard.

  51. Wow, I simply astounded that the basic thrust of the argument – that every child should be getting fed every day – is getting such a debate. Surely it’s self evident that for a richer economy over the long term (if not common decency) it’s in our interests to ensure all of our kids are fed.

  52. suggested solutions:..

    ..we have a raft of regressive taxes..a mark of the neo-lib revolution of the last decades..

    ..this needs to change..so..

    a financial transaction tax..(treasury figures cited a 1% ftc would raise enough revenue to do away with gst ..twice over..)

    ..a capital gains tax..at the same rate wage-earners pay..and certainly not the current zero rate regime…

    ..a serious raise in the minimum-wage..

    ..the undoing of the richardson mother of all budgets..

    ..and the fixing/restoration of a living-wage for the poorest..

    ..the return of health/dental checks at all low-mid-decile schools..

    ..punitive/sin taxes on unhealthy food/booze/alcohol..

    ..no taxes on healthy foods…

    ..the restoration/encouragement of full education options for sole-parents/the poor…

    ..the ending of trust-funds

    ..the introduction/return of free/subsidised medical/dental care for all..

    (like many in my class..i share that current stigmata of poverty..the gap-toothed/shane mcgowan-smile..

    ..and when i last enquired about a medical check-up..from the gp i used to go to..the cost with community services card was $50…i didn’t bother..i eat healthy/exercise..so..)

    ..but those barriers to health/dental-care are a realty for most of my class..

    ..that..as noted by an earlier commenter..as in the other neo-lib countries the richest new zealanders got 20% richer during this last little while is a key fact/imperative to hold to….

    ..and couldn’t be a clearer indication of how out of whack we are/have become..

    ..our staus of lurking at the very bottom of all international comparisons couldn’t be clearer in telling us where we are/what we have become..

    (i have been covering/commenting/writing on/recording this subject since early 2005..
    the cache is sizeable..

    http://whoar.co.nz/?s=child+poverty

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

  53. We’re aiming to establish and maintain a garden and orchard in every school in New Zealand, and a strong, united network of community gardens and community resource centres. The FOCCCers began as the Friends of the Carterton Community Centre, now we’re known as Friends of Caring Cultivating Communities, operating the Circle of Love, Transparency NZ and Let’s Get Growing NZ as a united network of holistic community resource centres. We’ve achieved massive success with these programs, please encourage everyone you know to support us.

    These gardens provide primary health care in the community, teach basic survival skills, work skills, build confidence and self esteem, reform criminals and build safe, healthy, strong communities
    https://www.facebook.com/Lets.Get.Growing.NZ

  54. We’ve been trying to establish a strong and united network of community gardens in schools run by our organisation. We have been doing this for over eleven years and it’s had massive benefits for our community. It teaches kids, self sufficiency, confidence and good self esteem, good work habits and basic life skills. Friends of Caring, Cultivating Communities began as Friends of the Carterton Community Centre over eleven years ago, teaching kids to grow their own kai. Establishing vege gardens and orchards in schools, self sufficiency. We do it on the smell of an oily rag too, we need your support for this worthwhile initiative.
    https://www.facebook.com/Lets.Get.Growing.NZ

  55. Tony – “I can accept there is a problem. But as soon as someone says free breakfast at school is the solution I tune out. All that does is encourage the neglect that some parents display.”

    In which case, don’t you think that school meals are even MORE important???

    You don’t give medical treatment to a healthy person – you give it to one who is sick or injured.

  56. phillip ure @ January 9th, 2012 at 12:22 – I concur with every single point you’ve made. In fact, I could’ve written it myself.

  57. Frank, What Bryan Bruce failed to mention in his documentary is that the infant mortality rate when he grew up was 5-6 times higher than it is today. His opening assertion that a hundred and fifty more NZ babies would be alive if they had been born in Sweden or Japan also lacked context. They wouldn’t have been alive if they had been born in Australia, Canada or the UK which each have similar infant mortality rates to NZ.

  58. macskasy@13.22…chrs..

    i left out/forgot..stop borrowing for tax cuts for the richest…

    ..and introduce progressive taxation regimes modelled on those countries that are doing so well what we are doing so badly…

    ..this isn’t just a matter of tweaking welfare..

    ..it’s a whole new/fresh look at our society..

    …and how we want it to be..

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

  59. BE: “I have always thought the Peter Ellis trial was a disgrace and made more than one attempt to get Ellis to agree to an interview with me on radio and television. My requests were denied by his lawyer. Best to check your facts befor making these assertions.”

    My assertions were correct, Brian. Zaoui was badly treated by Helen Clark’s government. Maybe you agree. As for Ellis, you haven’t contradicted my comment at all. You haven’t pointed to anything you’ve done which has been supportive of Ellis. Instead, you say you tried to interview him more than once and his lawyer declined. Why did she decline your offer? Maybe she thought it wasn’t genuine. Did you ever make your feelings known to Phil Goff when he was Justice Minister, or to any other Labour Ministers? Did you ever tell them of your outrage at Ellis’ treatment? In 2003, it was reported that you and Goff had spoken about the case. “Mr Goff said he recalled Edwards mentioning the creche case and saying, after reading [Lynley] Hood’s book a second time, he had reservations about her conclusions.” Hmm, there’s no mention of you telling him you thought the trial was a disgrace or any other concerns you might have had about the case.

    BE: Pull your head in, Ross. You are not a moral prosecutor and I am not on trial here. On Zaoui, I gave Deborah Manning a lengthy and largely sympathetic oppotunity to present her client’s case on both Top of the Morning and the television programme Edwards at Large.

    I have never had doubts about Peter Ellis’ innocence or the egregious wrongs that were done him by the justice system. I did have doubts about some or Lynley Hood’s conclusions about Christchurch which I expressed to her in a television interview on Edwards at Large. She complained to the BSA that she had been unfairly treated, but her complaint was thrown out.

    It was not my job to make Labour Party policy or to advise the Prime Minister or any of her Cabinet on policy. That would have been entirely improper. Judy and I were media advisors.

    More importantly, I don’t have to answer to you on my moral obligation to publicly protest about individual injustices. Over the years I have done that through my writing – as a columnist for Metro and the Listener – in books I have written, speeches I have given, as a broadcaster and now as a blogger. You may be interested to know that I have twice been awarded the New Zealand Media Peace Prize. The second occasion was for my writing on justice issues in New Zealand.

    I suggest you find yourself a better target to attack.

  60. Come on, Ross.

    Unless you are a single-issue zealot like a Nicky Hager, Hone Harawira or John Minto, whatever the possible injustices involved, you can’t reasonably judge the sincerity or credibility of someone’s commitment to social justice by demanding they had to have thought and acted in a particular and prescribed manner, especially over highly vexed and complex issues like the Peter Ellis and Ahmed Zaoui cases.

    Although I note Helen Clark may have attempted to do exactly that in 2008, when she questioned/raised the shibboleth/tried to initiate a witch hunt by questioning what exactly (the then Auckland uni student) John Key had done when the 1981 Springboks were touring…

    Either way, Judy and Brian’s concern is a real and valid one. Yeah, they are in part trialling a balloon for Labour. Good on them. However, as Judy has stated, she is looking for cross-party action for real solutions I think you’ll find their concern for child poverty is the primary motivation, with the question, “which political party, whatever their faults, in our opinion best addresses that concern” following…

  61. Be fair, Kimbo – Minto is not one you can fairly accuse of being a single issue zealot. He’s the Rubik’s cube of protesting.

  62. @ Zinc

    he he he

    He’s also about the most honest guy around. Like Joe Karam, I don’t agree with his views, but if I was ever in a fox hole, I’d like him beside me as a friend. At the very least because they would be more likely to attract enemy fire rather than at me!

    Just thinking more about that earnest exchange between BE and Ross. Seems to me to highlight the point that when you are motivated primarily by “rage”, or righteous anger, or whatever, rather than a dispassionate analysis and discussion of “clever dialectics”, then

    a. You view the issue, particularly the actions that must be taken in black and white.

    b. a polarising effect occurs, where those you disagree with your proposed course of action (i.e., not necessarily the importance of the issue) are inevitably take up an adversarial positions, and/or you psychologically do the same with those who you consider complacent or worse.

    c. it maybe highlights the point that Churchill made: “If you’re not a liberal at the age of 20, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative at the age of 40, you have no brains”.

    d. Also, often conservatives/moderates don’t need to try too hard deflect left-wing firebrands and reformers. Instead, they are more likely to tear each other apart over issues of orthopraxis.

    Righteous rage has its place – indeed necessary social change seldom occurs without it. But for those who don’t feel the same level of commitment, it often appears like the rantings of an unruly teenager.

    Which also highlights the skill and ability of Clark to lead a left-wing reforming government (albeit of a moderate variety) for nine years.

    Anyway that was in no sense designed to “break the truce”, and is written in anticipation of your upcoming post, Brian and Judy…

    BE: I’ll just comment on Churchill. His dictum sounds like an apology for complacency. One thing I have noticed is how money and success can undermine idealism. I’ve seen it in myself. When you’re ‘comfortable’ financially, it’s easy to become ‘comfortable’ ideologically. This can result in diminished tolerance for those less fortunate, often expressed as, ‘If I could make it, why can’t they?’ I suspect Paula Bennett may be an example of this ‘made it’ syndrome.

  63. @ Zinc

    Yeah, I agree: Minto’s a Rebel With Too Many Causes.

  64. “I’ll just comment on Churchill. His dictum sounds like an apology for complacency.”

    Maybe. Or alternatively wisdom that sometimes comes with age where you realise or assess what battles can be won (and how), and what maybe can’t, or they aren’t worth the cost of change, or the change you want may actually make things worse in practice.

    And we disagree on Bennett. :)

    Truce maintained.

  65. Interesting Article. Whilst you mention the story in the Taranaki Daily News, you elected not to quote the most salient points. One household receives $750 per week in assistance, yet the kids are hungry. Mothers, (note no males mentioned, probably have done a runner, the low life’s) who booze up, another who keeps the Kid home on Monday to help out as she is too much under the weather from Sunday night. The most telling part of this story is there is money in the house, its just being used on drugs and booze. Time for food chits that cannot be exchanged for booze & drugs.

    JC: There is no mention of any of this in the article I linked to.

  66. “I did have doubts about some or (sic) Lynley Hood’s conclusions about Christchurch which I expressed to her in a television interview on Edwards at Large…I suggest you find yourself a better target to attack.”

    I can see you’re sensitive about this issue which is a shame. I would note, however, that in the interview you’ve referred to, you said: “now we are having parliament look at this [case] again. You wonder how much is going to happen before people like you are going to be satisfied and I am just going to go through the opportunities he [Ellis] has already had. He started off with a deposition hearing, then we had the trial, then we had two High Court appeals, then we had an inquiry by a highly respected former high court judge, indeed, Chief Justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum. How much more do you need?”

    People like you? A strange choice of words when you and Hood, in effect, agree that Ellis has had a raw deal from the criminal justice system.

    My main point in my initial message was that Labour has lost its way and that I sincerely hope it rediscovers the sense of social justice that I believe it once possessed.

    BE: I’m not at all ‘sensitive’ on this matter. If I don’t correct your mis-statements, they remain on the record. As for the quote, which I assume is from the televised interview with Lynley Hood, neither you nor she appear to realise that, on a contentious issue like this, the role of the interviewer is not to allow the interviewee to state their case unopposed, but to act as devil’s advocate on behalf of the public. Lynley Hood was forewarned by me before the interview that this would be the case and expressed no objection. She then complained to the BSA about her ‘unfair’ treatment. They quite properly rejected her complaint.

    What I think is ‘a shame’ is your attempt to dismiss my response to your suggestion that I haven’t done much about social injustices in New Zealand by the cheap dialectical trick of concluding that the very fact of my response indicates ‘sensitivity’ on the issue. The alternative is to let you get away with misleading suggestions. There’s no end to this sort of argument. You can now include this response as further evidence of my ‘sensitivity’.

  67. Brian,

    It’s you who has been misleading. If you re-read my initial message I said:

    “I don’t recall either you or Brian giving your support to Ellis, and rallying against the criminal justice system and successive governments that have denied Ellis justice. Maybe I have missed it.”

    You haven’t provided me with anything to indicate that statement is incorrect. Where have I suggested that you “haven’t done much about social injustices in New Zealand”? I haven’t. I’ve criticised Labour for losing its way regarding social justice issues and I’ve provided examples.

    One final comment: you say that an interviewer’s job is not to allow the interviewee to state their case unopposed. I agree with you about playing devil’s advocate. But you also say that you “did have doubts about some or Lynley Hood’s conclusions about Christchurch which I expressed to her in a television interview.” So it seems you did let your personal views into the interview. It’s a shame you never interviewed Phil Goff and let him know that you felt Ellis had been hard done by.

    BE: You can continue wasting your time nitpicking about a television interview that took place 9 years ago, but I don’t intend to waste my time responding. I’ll publish your comments but I won’t reply. Your complaint is essentially the same complaint that Ms Hood took to the BSA, that I was overly aggressive and politically biased against her or Ellis and that she had been ambushed into agreeing to the interview. The Authority rejected every aspect of her complaint? If you want to be even-handed about this, I suggest you publish their findings. To assist you, here’s the link to their finding: http://www.bsa.govt.nz/decisions/show/3617

    For the record, my reservations about Hood’s book were not about Ellis’s innocence but about her depiction of the mentality of the citizens of Christchurch. That is perfectly clear in the interview.

    This was Judy’s post about child poverty in New Zealand. It should not be hijjacked by your and others’ obsessive preoccupation with a TV interview broadcast 9 years ago.

  68. “I agree with the core point that we do genuinely have a major problem with child poverty in NZ, along with severe child neglect and abuse issues.”

    Well, we didn’t have them when I was a child in the 40s and 50s. What the hell has happened to my country?

  69. Wake Up said, “Well, we didn’t have them when I was a child in the 40s and 50s. What the hell has happened to my country?”

    I think we did. It wasn’t until post-war that child welfare started being scrutinised. It still came under the auspices of the Education dept. Many more people were living rurally or in reasonably isolated communities. I have read reports from social workers of the 1950s who described conditions exactly like those we have today. Children affected by poverty, drunken violence, parental infidelity and disharmony, extremely unhygenic environments, etc. But the media didn’t report it.

    The first govt report into child abuse occurred in the sixties (as far as I am aware) and found similar incidence disproportion in respect of ethnicity and unmarried births (the official description of illegitimacy was abandoned in the sixties and with it the legal requirement to follow up on illegimate births and the well-being of those children) as exists today.

    A good source of information is Bronwyn Dalley’s Deep and dark secrets, a chapter which appears in Past Judgement: Social Policy in New Zealand History.

  70. Congratulations to JC for discussing an extremely important issue well. I consider the issue of poverty to be the most important current problem that has to be tackled in New Zealand. And I do not restrict my concerns only to child poverty.

    I like the graphic that JC has provided. But I’m not too concerned with trickle down theories. I don’t care whether it trickles or comes in a rush. What is required is a measurable and equitable amount that does come down.

    And we HAVE a way of measuring this. It’s called the GINI Index, which effectively measures the disparity in wealth between the rich and the poor. And it’s been climbing more rapidly in New Zealand than almost anywhere else, indicating that the wealthy in New Zealand are grabbing an ever increasing share of the cake, at the expense of the poor.

    We need more articles such as that provided by JC. And we need those articles to be translated into a political demand that our government commit to progressively lowering the GINI index, to at least where New Zealand was 25 years ago.

    A lower index means that if we share out the same sized cake, the poor, and those in poverty, will receive more. And the key issue is that it is measurable, so that any government can be seen to be successful, or to have failed in their goal..

    Reducing poverty by demanding a reduction in the GINI index will result in governments having to enact the sort of policies advocated by phillip ure (Jan 9th at 12:22). Which particular policies are changed is less important, at least at this stage, than the result.

  71. Congratulations to Ross for pointing out the miserable record of successive governments to concerns about injustice to individuals. The justice minister in the last Labour government told a public meeting in Hamilton that New Zealand was “too small” to have a Criminal Cases Review Commission, as has been implemented in England, Scotland and Australia. The willingness of governments to accept the appalling treatment given to Peter Ellis, and for the last few years George Gwaze, as examples, is sad. Where is Robert Muldoon when we need him?

    And what has this got to do with poverty? Governments may rest on their laurels with regard to their flowery proclamations of caring about social justice issues, and hopefully they will tackle the problem of poverty?

    But how can we trust any government to care about a group of people suffering an injustice, (such as poverty) if that same government thumbs their nose at individuals. I suggest that their failure to care about what has happened to Peter and George, is more to do with there being no political gain, than there is any philosophical caring about “justice”

  72. In reply to BE referring to his interview with Lynley Hood. BE makes the claim, as he has in the past that he was only acting as a devil’s advocate, on behalf of the public, and not to allow the interviewee to state their case unopposed.

    So as not to let BE away with misleading suggestions, the full interview is available for all to form their own opinion:.
    http://www.peterellis.org.nz/docs/2003/HoodComplaint/2003-0816_TV1_BrianEdwardsWithLynleyHood.htm

    In my opinion BE deserves a reply very similar to that which he has just given Whaleoil:
    “Well, it seems to me, BE, that you have a devoted a great deal of your valuable time to the fairly inconsequential matter of what you see as an uncomfortable segue in Lynley’s book, while largely ignoring the core issue which she raises of an injustice to Peter Ellis”

    I think the interview speaks for itself.

  73. According to the Herald on it’s website yesterdays most popular news story was the one about Nicky Watson.

  74. “your suggestion that I haven’t done much about social injustices in New Zealand.”

    For some reason, my reply doesn’t appear here. Of course I have never made the suggestion which you attribute to me. It’s unclear why you are putting words into my mouth.

    I agree that interviewers should, whenever posible, take on the role of devil’s advocate. That’s apparently the position you took with respect to Mrs Hood. But then in your comments above, you make it clear that you had some doubts about Hood’s conclusions “which I expressed to her in a television interview on Edwards at Large.” So it seems your personal views did colour your interview.

    It’s curious you would talk to Phil Goff and tell him that you had doubts about Hood’s conclusions, even though you largely agree with Hood. But you wouldn’t tell Goff that you thought the trial was a disgrace. “It was not my job to make Labour Party policy or to advise the Prime Minister or any of her Cabinet on policy.” I never suggested otherwise.

  75. For the record, these are the types of “people” the author of this blog is lamenting about.

    JC: Which people?

  76. This trash

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10778011

    JC: And this is related to child poverty how?

  77. JC: Yes! There’s no child poverty in NZ; it’s only poverty of behaviour as shown by those low-lifes that are featured.

    There’s almost no agreement with your blog that NZ kids are needlessly deprived or denied proper food and care, because the readers know that the welfare payments are misspent on drugs and booze; not on food. ALL the empirical evidence is there to see by those sub-humans caught shoplifting. One of the 3 was named by a You Tube commentator with a link to her Facebook profile — before that feature was disabled because of the virulent anti-maori comments — she’s a self-proclaimed proud marijuana user. Your hand-wringing is totally misplaced. And that picture of a downtrodden woman refugee from the Kansas dust bowl — a woman who’s struggling for survival in the depression era — is nothing like what you’re trying to portray here in NZ. The type of people you’re crying for are for the scum in that video.

  78. A comment to all those who,

    (1) Claim without evidence, like Hendo, that poverty is a result of misspending on drugs and booze

    (2) Claim without evidence, like Cactus Kate that poverty is a result of parents being disorganised

    (3) Claim, like Simon Lyall and Pete George that we need to find a better? different? definition of poverty as a first priority rather than solving the problem

    (4) Claim like Whaleoil … actually I cannot fathom what he claims …..

    (5) Claim like Gordon and Mark S that their racist bigotted opinions justify ignoring poverty

    We know and have documented evidence that there has been a significant redistribution of wealth in New Zealand over the last 30 years. The rich are becoming richer at the expense of the poor. I have never seen any arguments that justify this change, or suggest that the more equitable society we once had was a problem. Should we not strive to return to that more equal society?

    The unequal society and poverty go hand in hand. And I’ll close by saying that I would like to reiterate the complete post of Ken Sparks above (7 Jan at 20:44)

  79. I would like to see the issue of poverty taken out of the political debate, unless it becomes a competition between the two main parties to make _measurable_ promises to alleviate the problems we have.

    The truth is that both main parties have an abysmal record on justice issues, and including the issue of poverty. With poverty, there have been many political promises to enact ad hoc policies by both parties, while the actual problem has got progressively worse. With BOTH parties. The word “social” tagged to the word “justice has been just empty rhetoric, it seems.

    In the short term we need (1) an acknowledgement from the current government that the issue of poverty is one of the key problems facing New Zealand and needs urgent attention (2) a committment from both main parties to work across party lines, together with all other parties to solve the issues – with reforms that will survive elections and changes of government.

    We urgently need a statesman, or stateswoman to step up in the political arena, to tackle this sort of issue. Perhaps that will be Shearer, but there is no evidence so far. Smiling John, will offer a smile, I’m sure.

  80. And, maybe you should give credit to the photographer who made the photograph at the head of this story. Her name is Dorothea Lange 1895 – 1965. The photograph was made in Nipomo, California 1936 during the dust bowl drought. The subject is a migrant agricultural worker’s family in a rural tent town. The US Library of Congress (who Dorothea worked for at the time) describes the photograph as: Seven hungry children. Mother, age 32. Father is a pea picker. Because of the failure of the early season pea crop this family had just sold their tent in order to buy food. Of the 2,500 people in this camp, most of them were destitute. The women remains un-named.

    It is one of the great photographs of the 20th century.

    Cheers Brian I enjoy your site.

    JC: Thank you, Julian. I wasn’t aware of the photographer’s name. Credit will be given.

  81. At the risk of attracting opprobrium, an observation:

    If you’re going to be poverty-stricken, it does not help to have SEVEN children.

    BE: You’re not going to attract my opprobrium, Wake Up. This was entirely my reaction when I saw some of the impoverished women interviewed on television. What was remarkable was that the children were very close in age, in at least one case no more than a year apart at a guess. And there was no partner on the scene. I don’t condemn these women. They are clearly not in charge of their lives and need help and advice to gain control.

  82. I said (Jan 10): “I agree with the core point that we do genuinely have a major problem with child poverty in NZ, along with severe child neglect and abuse issues. Well, we didn’t have them when I was a child in the 40s and 50s. What the hell has happened to my country?”

    Lindsay replied (Jan 10): ‘ Wake Up said, “Well, we didn’t have them when I was a child in the 40s and 50s. What the hell has happened to my country?” I think we did. It wasn’t until post-war that child welfare started being scrutinised. It still came under the auspices of the Education dept. Many more people were living rurally or in reasonably isolated communities. I have read reports from social workers of the 1950s who described conditions exactly like those we have today. Children affected by poverty, drunken violence, parental infidelity and disharmony, extremely unhygenic environments, etc. But the media didn’t report it.’

    Well Lindsay, if that’s true, what was the cause? – because we didn’t have “Rogernomics” to blame back then.

  83. @Wake Up: B.E. has a point. Ever thought for a moment that the women involved are so low-status they’re regarded as property rather than people?

    And these days we’re not so shy about reporting child abuse now; if anything it might have swung to the opposite extreme and gone a little bit overblown. A major obstacle to tackling child poverty and abuse is the culture war pig farming that has hijacked the debate.

    To those wishing for forced sterilisation or a zero welfare state, be careful what you wish for. Alberto Fujimori, the former Peruvian President, had it done on as many as 300,000 mostly poor, rural and aboriginal women. It came back to bite his arse off – as a crime against humanity under int’l law – and that’s not counting the corruption charges he’s facing either.
    In Somalia there’s no taxation, bureaucracy or welfare state to impede your dream business. Just be sure to have a good entourage of mercenaries and razor wire to bail you out, in case the local warlord wants his cut of your profits.

    PS. My last post on this thread seemed to be moderated into oblivion as spam, so here’s another attempt.

    JC: And it’s suffered the same fate. That link is nauseating.

  84. “JC: And it’s suffered the same fate. That link is nauseating.”

    Fair enough, and each to their own. But what I won’t do is explain the punchline, in which case everyone’s free to look at it on my blog.

    @Julian Ward: the mother photographed by Dorothea Lange is Florence Owens Thompson.

  85. Thanks DeepRed. I know most of the names of people photographed by Walker Evens at the time, but very few of Dorothea’s subjects. I believe they both worked for the FSA (Farm Security Agencies). cheers