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Poverty in New Zealand
New Zealand is a lush island country in the Pacific Ocean. It comprises of two main islands; the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui) and the South Island (Te Waipounamu) in addition to about 600 smaller island landmasses. With a total population of approximately 5 million people, it is not the most populous of countries, but New Zealand has garnered worldwide recognition as a tourist destination. This is partly due to its stunning ocean views, rolling green hills and jagged mountainsides. In fact, New Zealand is a sought-after location for film, with popular movies like “the Lord of the Rings” showcasing the natural beauty of the area. However, such an idyllic and prosperous country has a darker underbelly. Poverty exists in New Zealand despite it being a developed country.

The Facts

One can define poverty in New Zealand as living in a household that makes 60% less than the average, taking housing costs into consideration. In New Zealand, massive economic restructuring beginning in the 1980s has resulted in prosperity for some, and poverty for others. In 1984, the national poverty rate was 9%. Comparatively, in 2016, the poverty rate was 15%. This represents a decrease from the peak poverty rate of 22% in 2004 but still remains significantly higher than before the mid-1980s, as a direct result of economic change including hard hits during the 2008 recession. Today, about one in seven households experience poverty, with one in five reporting that they do not have access to food or healthy food due to a lack of money according to The National Children’s Nutrition Survey. This means that around 290,000 children (or 27%) were living in poverty in 2017.

When people do not have access to financial and emotional resources, their health is more likely to suffer. New Zealand shows this as children experiencing poverty are more than twice as likely to visit the hospital than those who are not. They are also far more likely to experience health consequences like heart disease, obesity and addiction. These problems often follow children into adulthood, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Who is Most Affected?

There is an inequitable distribution of poverty in New Zealand, with Pacific Peoples and other indigenous groups like the Māori and Pakeha peoples experiencing higher levels of poverty than other people. A shocking 40% of Pacific Peoples have an income below the poverty line, with Māori coming in second with nearly one-third of their population experiencing poverty. Additionally, children are harder-hit than other groups. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of child abuse in the developed world.

According to UNICEF, a child dies every five weeks due to violence. Experiencing or seeing violence as a child can lead to negative long-term effects like drug-use, early pregnancy, anxiety and mental disorders and can compound the effects of poverty into adulthood. It is important to reduce childhood poverty rates because statistics have shown that where poverty rates drop, birthrates decrease as well.

Families that are living in poverty need to spend their time and energy on survival, and by necessity spend less time on things like education, emotional health and community. This creates a cycle of more people living in poverty, making the problem bigger over time. If more people come out of poverty now, fewer people will continue to live in poverty in the future. Preventing the inequitable effects of poverty on certain populations is vital in increasing the standard of living for many people and children across New Zealand, especially native populations.

Steps to Fix the Problem

By 2030, New Zealand aims to decrease the number of children living in poverty by half. This is part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Some policies that the government of New Zealand implemented include tax breaks and affordable housing strategies, as housing costs are a huge reason many residents struggle to pay the bills. New legislation has emerged, including the Child Poverty Reduction and Wellbeing act. This passed in 2018 and outlines a detailed, 10-year strategy that includes measures like extending parental leave to 26 weeks, providing increased resources for abuse victims, increasing the minimum wage to $20 per hour by 2021, and expanding parenting support resources. Over the past 10 years, New Zealand has reduced poverty rates and with new, aggressive legislation, should see a boost in those numbers as time goes on.

– Noelle Nelson
Photo: Flickr

poverty in new zealandNew Zealand is an island country located southeast of Australia. The population of the nation is estimated to be 4.8 million with 1.1 million of its people under the age of 18. The issues of income inequality and poverty impact children heavily. The children living in this unfortunate situation lack quality meals to eat, sanitation products and adequate opportunities in education. COVID-19 threatens to increase the number of children affected by these hardships. The child poverty rate in New Zealand stands at 27% which is higher than the 13% world average. However, government officials have a plan for the next 10 years to lower poverty in New Zealand among children.

4 Ways New Zealand’s Government Fights Child Poverty

  1. Free sanitary products – Government officials have agreed to help girls in school between the ages of 9 and 18 years by providing them with free sanitary products. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that this addresses the concern that young women potentially stay home from school because of the lack of access to these products, which may hamper their educational development. Ardern says she hopes this will ease some of the stress girls experience while in school and thinks it will improve attendance rates.
  2. Exercise – The country’s Ministry of Health implemented guidelines to promote physical wellness for its adult and child population. Children living in the poorest areas are expected to live almost nine years less than those who reside in the wealthiest areas. Exercise can help increase the lifespan for children in poverty, especially as child obesity is a growing concern. The guidelines for children under the age of 18 recommend one hour a day of participation in recreational activities such as sports and no more than two hours a day of engaging in other interests like watching television.
  3. Housing initiatives – The nation’s government is working on fighting poverty in New Zealand by providing better affordable housing options. The initiative has created an opportunity to assist those living in impoverished areas and provide other resources besides housing. Access to doctors for little to no cost, as a part of the initiative, has benefited families experiencing “material hardship” by helping them receive medical treatment for their children and themselves.
  4. Addressing child abuse – New Zealand has had a high number of child abuse reports over the years. With COVID-19 forcing schools to shut down across the globe, some officials have worried about a sudden spike in child abuse.  The country’s Chief Executive of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Gráinne Moss, says social workers have been given tools to help combat this issue and be there for children at risk. Poverty in New Zealand remains one of the biggest factors for the occurrence of child abuse. Effective methods such as sending meal kits, arts and crafts and virtual chatting between children and social workers have helped to lower the number of abuse cases during the pandemic.

The government of New Zealand believes these steps will lower the poverty rate among children in the country. Over the next ten years, officials plan to add more items to the list of solutions to help children suffering from a lack of needed resources. The added items will focus on the purposes of improving child health and wellness.

– Donovan Baxter
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in New Zealand
One of the most tragic effects of poverty is large populations of people going hungry. Many poor people cannot afford to feed themselves or their children. While New Zealand might not be on the list of countries in dire need of poverty assistance, families there are suffering. The top 10 facts about hunger in New Zealand highlight this.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in New Zealand

  1. A study in 2017 discovered that 23 percent of the elderly population in New Zealand were malnourished.  Many elderly citizens find it difficult to access the supermarket and purchase groceries. This leads to the inability to cook meals and they end up being hospitalized due to malnourishment. However, once elderly citizens are moved to hospitalization or residential care, they have better access to food and nourishment.
  2. In 2016, the need for help from the Salvation Army had gone up by 9 percent. The organization handed out over 54,000 emergency parcels to citizens of New Zealand in the span of a year. There were 319 new individuals who required help each week. The head of ministries of the New Zealand sector stated that requests for aid came not only from those who were in extreme poverty but also from those living off minimum wage.
  3. In Auckland City alone, the request for food parcels went up almost 50 percent between the middle of 2015 and the end of 2016. The City Mission, a volunteer-based program in Auckland City, exceeded its budget by $100,000, leaving a huge hole in the city’s budget. According to the City Mission, with rising housing costs, bill costs and changes in other benefits, people were more inclined to cut back on their food spending to cover the price of every bill.
  4. According to The New Zealand Herald, The Red Cross used to have a program that fed children breakfast every day in low-income communities. However, due to lack of support from funders, the program had to end. This created a dramatic rise in hunger among children. In 2011, it was determined that this rise in hunger was due to a 7 percent rise in the cost of food. So, the 2.6 percent rise in income did not help most families
  5. Two programs, Kickstart and KidsCan, replaced the Red Cross breakfast program and went on to feed almost 40,000 children in schools across the country. This number was almost a fifth of the child population in schools which was around 229,400. At the time, there were 20,000 children on a waiting list to join the program since the government did not have enough funding to feed more than 40,000. To fix this, the community members pledged $15 a month to the program.
  6. Another one of the facts about hunger in New Zealand is that growing food on their own is not a simple solution for many who go hungry.  In order to grow a sufficient garden, you need quite a bit of resource. According to the Spinoff, a New Zealand paper, low-income citizens find it difficult to get access to the needed resources. Also, since they have to work hard to earn, they do not have enough time to invest to grow a garden.
  7. Housing in New Zealand is not as permanent as American housing. On average, families move every 15 months. To build a sustainable garden that will provide food for a family, people need to live in the same place for longer than 15 months. Also, growing a few plants in small pots is not enough for a family.
  8. Some claim that one of the reasons for hunger in New Zealand possibly comes from the “media bombardment” of eating healthy or dieting. Cutting back on food and exercising works for people who have plenty of nourishment, but when citizens who are already malnourished see this, it makes them feel as though the small amount of food they can manage is not good enough.
  9. On the other hand, there are reports on how fast food is killing the impoverished population in New Zealand. Fast food is cheap and easy to access but does not provide enough nutrients. It is also creating the opposite problem of hunger: an obesity crisis.  If elementary schools conducted nutritional education programs, it would help battle obesity problems as well as problems of malnourishment.
  10. On a brighter note, The Hunger Project, an NGO based all over the world, has a special division in New Zealand. They are aiming to cut back the hunger significantly by 2030 to meet the poverty reduction goals set by the United Nations. In New Zealand, the organization has been working since 1983. It has helped lead a strike against hunger with various communities across the country.

The crisis is not as bleak as the facts about hunger in New Zealand may make it seem. The government is aware that things need to be changed and that the focus needs to be on children who go hungry. Various bills geared towards government-funded food programs have gone through the system. Also, the Salvation Army and other nonprofit organizations are working together to bring relief. New Zealand, thus, hopes to see a reduction in hunger by 2030.

Miranda Garbaciak
Photo: Flickr

Oranga Tamariki
With more than 300,000 children living in poverty in New Zealand, an increase of 45,000 since 2015, the country’s government has chosen to replace its Child Youth Family system (CYF) with the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki. The new ministry will begin operating by April 2017. It will aim to address the well-being of vulnerable children and help ease their transition into adulthood.

According to the UNICEF country executive director, New Zealanders have developed a lack of empathy for the country’s most vulnerable individuals, and child poverty has become a pattern in the island nation of 4.5 million.

The new ministry was named to reflect the fact that six out of 10 children in state care are Maori, aboriginal New Zealanders. According to children’s commissioner and judge Andrew Becroft, the new ministry’s Maori name represents the most vulnerable 20 percent of New Zealand’s children.

According to Social Development Minister Anne Tolley, “The new ministry, new name and completely new operating model reflects our determination to remain absolutely focused on the individual needs of each child.” Tolley said the new ministry will be responsible for child care and protection, youth justice services and community investments associated with vulnerable children.

Oranga Tamariki has received an initial primary investment of $200 million in New Zealand’s 2016 budget. The ministry has five focal points aimed at prevention, intensive intervention, care support services, transition support and a youth service dedicated to restricting reoffenses and providing trauma counselling for beneficiaries.

On September 13, State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes announced the appointment of Gráinne Moss as establishment chief executive of Oranga Tamariki. Moss is expected to serve a five-year term as chief executive once the ministry is fully established on April 1, 2017.

New Zealand’s treatment and protection of children is scheduled to come under review, with its five-year U.N. scorecard due.

Shanique Wright

Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in New Zealand

New Zealand is among the world’s most developed countries. The average life expectancy of its population is over 80 years of age, and the country’s education system is considered one of the best in the world. Unfortunately, poverty exists and is a challenge. In particular, child poverty in New Zealand is a real issue.

Approximately 305,000 children in New Zealand live in poverty. This means over a quarter of children living within the country are underprivileged. Additionally, 14 percent of these children cannot afford basic food, housing or clothing. According to UNICEF, “the economic cost of child poverty is in the range of NZ $6-8 billion per year.”

The organization states the failure to invest in poverty reduction efforts in the present will lead to major economic issues in the future.

Children that grow up in poverty–which is often in households with single-parents, large families or a disabled relative–are more likely to experience health problems, struggle to access education and become imprisoned in the future. Unfortunately, childhood poverty is cyclical and is not easily escaped from generation to generation.

In New Zealand, certain ethnic groups have higher rates of child poverty than others. Specifically, the Maori and Pacific populations face greater child poverty than the rest of the country.

Eliminating child poverty is not only a humanitarian responsibility but also an opportunity to help the country’s economy. According to UNICEF, eliminating child poverty can help improve New Zealand’s economy in the long run. Lowering child poverty rates would decrease the financial burden of healthcare and crime. Essentially, the entire community can benefit from aid programs.

Consequentially, many are calling upon the government to increase funding and programs available to the poor. There are multiple organizations dedicated to alleviating child poverty in New Zealand, including UNICEF, KidsCan and Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).

KidsCan is an organization working to provide impoverished children with essential food, clothing and healthcare. Organizations such as these are crucial to solving the child poverty crisis within the country.

CPAG is another independent charity raising awareness and funding for child poverty in New Zealand. The organization believes that the government has not implemented any substantial efforts to reduce the problem.

It is crucial to address child poverty specifically as newer generations can break the cycle of poverty when given proper resources.

Saroja Koneru

Photo: UNICEF