Teamwork to defeat poverty by Susan Grimsdell

Every aspect of life and development of 6000 New Zealand children has been studied year on year since they were born.  They’re now 8 years old. The research entitled Growing Up in New Zealand, recently released its Now We Are Eight: Life in Middle Childhood report.

The have-nots

The results show that 25% of them have experienced poverty throughout their young lives. These children score higher on depression, they are behind in physical well-being and they are falling behind in many other respects as well.  More than one third of all children live in cold damp houses.   20% of the families of these children often or sometimes can’t afford to eat properly.  This is how life is for tens of thousands of New Zealanders.

The haves

Other thousands of us can afford to spend more than a million dollars on a house and we then install insulation and central heating so that our families will be warm and comfortable. Children in those families will have nice new school uniforms, proper shoes, holidays, lots of food (too much in many cases!) and a generally prosperous life.


Our Prime Minister assures us we are a team – a team of 5 million.   A team is defined as “a group of individuals, all working together for a common purpose”.  Are we only a team when our common purpose is to halt the spread of a virus?  What about being a team working together to ensure all the members of the team have a warm dry home to live in, and enough food on the table for the kids?

We now have a Labour government with the biggest mandate any party has had for decades.   The deprivation documented in this research study is to a large extent due to government polices from past years.  Policies can be changed, and if we believe that we are indeed a “team of five million” we as members of that team will support whatever measures this government takes to try to reduce the inequality that is so destructive to our society and to any society.  That means some of the richest among us will have to agree to share, just a wee bit more.

Help for renters

My view is that it begins with adopting regulations to ensure tenure of tenancy for the 62% of us who rent rather than own a house.  Tenure and rent control – these policies would transform housing in NZ and we would begin to alleviate the terrible effects of our present housing catastrophe. Then all children would have a chance of having their basic needs met.  Other countries do it – Germany, Canada, Japan, France, Scotland, even the USA – and of course we can too.  The old where there’s a will there’s a way.

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