Now it’s time for reality
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 . . . "