NZ wealth gap di­vide gets wider

The Dominion Post - - Politics - TOM HUNT

New Zealand’s rich­est man added more than $4 bil­lion to his cof­fers last year, as more Ki­wis joined the queues at food­banks.

In­ter­na­tion­ally and lo­cally, the di­vide be­tween the haves and the have-nots grew in 2017, ac­cord­ing to a new Ox­fam re­port. But it was also the year a new Govern­ment rose to power with prom­ises to at­tack child poverty head-on.

Re­leased to­day, the re­port re­veals 28 per cent of all wealth made went to the rich­est 1 per cent of Ki­wis. The 1.4 mil­lion poor­est New Zealan­ders got just 1 per cent of that wealth.

Ox­fam NZ ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Rachael Le Mesurier is call­ing for a fairer tax sys­tem ‘‘by en­sur­ing the wealthy and multi­na­tion­als pay their fair share of tax by crack­ing down on tax avoid­ance – then us­ing that money to make our coun­try and the global econ­omy a fairer place’’.

New Zealand cur­rently had low un­em­ploy­ment and many of those 1.4 mil­lion Ki­wis were in em­ploy­ment and work­ing hard, she said.

While there was no sil­ver bul­let to fix the di­vide, the Govern­ment’s tax work­ing group was a pos­i­tive step in the right di­rec­tion, she added. ‘‘The gap has been grow­ing be­cause of the way prop­erty has been grow­ing in ex­po­nen­tial wealth.’’

Many of the nec­es­sary changes were in how multi-na­tion­als op­er­ated, but New Zealand could still play its part in ad­dress­ing that, Le Mesurier said.

That in­cluded: re­quir­ing multi-na­tion­als to pay a liv­ing wage and fair tax, as well as through the Govern­ment col­lab­o­rat­ing with other coun­tries.

‘‘[The gap] is ex­treme. In­equal­ity is not in­evitable – the gap can be re­duced.’’

Most of New Zealand’s wealth di­vide can be ex­plained by the rich get­ting richer rather than the poor get­ting poorer. Ox­fam has es­ti­mated New Zealand’s rich­est man Graeme Hart had in­creased his wealth in 2017 by $4.26b to $13.05b.

Welling­ton Down­town Com­mu­nity Min­istry di­rec­tor Stephanie McIn­tyre deals with peo­ple who are at the other ex­treme and in her view: ‘‘The poor are ab­so­lutely get­ting poorer.’’

Ba­sics such as rents and util­ity bills were go­ing up in cost, leav­ing less to spend on any­thing else, she said.

A Sal­va­tion Army spokesman said more food parcels were handed out in 2017 than the year be­fore.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Grant Robert­son said the Govern­ment was al­ready tight­en­ing up on multi-na­tion­als pay­ing their fair share. ‘‘There is al­ways more to do here and we want to look closely at in­ter­na­tional ex­am­ples.’’

Trade Min­is­ter David Parker said many of the is­sues were global but the new Govern­ment was tack­ling what it could. This in­cluded a tax work­ing group and end­ing for­eign buy­ing of ex­ist­ing homes.

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