Now it’s time for re­al­ity

The Northland Age - - Local Life / Opinion -

De­liv­er­ing core pub­lic ser­vices is a key fo­cus for the Gov­ern­ment as our term well and truly gets un­der way. It’s about mak­ing sure the ser­vices we use are up to scratch and meet the needs of all New Zealan­ders.

As Fi­nance Min­is­ter Grant Robert­son has said, it’s be­come painfully ob­vi­ous how things have been left to run down. You get the sense that un­der the last gov­ern­ment it was about mak­ing things look good on pa­per — about per­cep­tion rather than re­al­ity.

Look at Mid­dle­more Hos­pi­tal, which serves many thou­sands of peo­ple in South Auck­land. Four of the hos­pi­tal build­ings are full of rot and dan­ger­ous mould that could make staff and pa­tients sick. There are also se­ri­ous ques­tions about the state of our men­tal health sys­tem, which has prompted the Gov­ern­ment to launch a min­is­te­rial in­quiry.

And look at the short­age of teach­ers, in­clud­ing te reo Ma¯ori teach­ers, which is putting pres­sure on our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem to de­liver.

Yes, New Zealand’s econ­omy has been do­ing well, but have the ben­e­fits been fil­ter­ing down? In First World coun­tries the gap be­tween rich and poor has con­tin­ued to widen, mak­ing life in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult for some.

That’s why it’s so shock­ing that peo­ple were liv­ing in cars be­cause of the hous­ing cri­sis. Many of these were work­ing fam­i­lies, but they couldn’t find or af­ford a place to live. That is com­pletely un­ac­cept­able. All New Zealan­ders de­serve a qual­ity of life.

And that’s what the Gov­ern­ment’s fo­cus on lift­ing chil­dren out of poverty is about. There is ro­bust ev­i­dence that grow­ing up in poverty can harm chil­dren in sub­stan­tial ways, which over the long term cost us all.

As a coun­try with rel­a­tive abun­dance, we have a moral obli­ga­tion to do bet­ter. The Gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to achiev­ing a sig­nif­i­cant and sus­tain­able re­duc­tion in child poverty, and we are cre­at­ing a frame­work that is durable enough to al­low fu­ture gov­ern­ments to do the same.

About 15 per cent of our ta­mariki live in poverty and we have the am­bi­tious goal of re­duc­ing this to 5 per cent within 10 years. Our Fam­i­lies pack­age, in place of the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment’s planned tax cuts, is a strong start. It is ex­pected to lift 64,000 chil­dren out of poverty, and see 334,000 fam­i­lies bet­ter off by an av­er­age of $75 a week.

As Correction­s Min­is­ter I see all too clearly where a fail­ure of ad­e­quate so­cial sup­port can lead for some peo­ple.

The im­pacts of poverty, poor ed­u­ca­tion and un­di­ag­nosed or un­treated men­tal health and ad­dic­tion is­sues are com­mon de­nom­i­na­tors for many who end up in prison.

Next month’s Bud­get will con­tinue our fo­cus on mak­ing sure ev­ery­one re­ceives the sup­port they need, and that our core pub­lic ser­vices are back to the qual­ity New Zealan­ders ex­pect and de­serve.

"Yes, New Zealand’s econ­omy has been do­ing well, but have the ben­e­fits been fil­ter­ing down? In First World coun­tries the gap be­tween rich and poor has con­tin­ued to widen . . . "

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