NZ wealth gap divide gets wider
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.