When people think of New Zealand they picture the remote and magnificent mountains, the clean unique environment, the green rolling hills… But little do they know that inside those green rolling hills New Zealand holds a dark secret, child poverty. The growing issue of child poverty. This may come as a shock to you because let’s face it, everybody in this room is somewhat privileged. According to the Amnesty 2016/17 study, over 295,000 kiwi kids are living in poverty, and 90,000 severe poverty. That’s 22 percent. Growing up in poverty-stricken situations means that there is no sufficient income for health care, nutritious food every day, education, and even the basics clothing and bedding. This is a big deal. This is directly affecting our future generations well-being. This is being swept aside by our government. So Johny boy you’re off the hook now, but you promised to approach the issue of poverty and hardship in your first term- and we’ve seen little changes. It’s about time that this matter is brought to the surface, I believe that everybody needs to be made aware of this.
New Zealand is pretty good at being top at things. We win at rugby and sailing, we have world-leading innovations and education systems, and as of 2017, we’re getting up there with our child poverty rates as well! New Zealand’s persistent high rate of child poverty has been highlighted in Amnesty International’s latest look at the state of human rights around the world. Not the kind of trumping achievement you’re used to hearing about, right? So let me give you a little run down on how things came to be this way. In 1984 child poverty started to show. In June 2011, while $9 billion was spent on the New Zealand superannuation fund (for the oldies), $1.7 billion was spent on the Domestic Purposes Benefit, which supports most of 237,000 children in poverty, as well as their parents and caregivers. Kids are more than twice as likely to be in poverty than the elderly, obviously, the government missed that. In 2013, the budget left minimal amounts of social policy spending. Leaving the helpless with even less help. The government is doing as little as they can get away with … The most significant action they’ve taken is increasing the benefit by about $25 a week for beneficiaries with kids. That’s it – that’s the biggest thing they’ve done. $25. Do these parliament ringleaders not shop for fresh produce? Do they not pay doctors bills? $25 is simply not enough. A third of Kiwis worth more than $50 million didn’t even pay the top tax rate. So don’t tell me that $25 is pushing it, as you push tomorrow leaders into a black hole and swipe away their childhood.
If a child does not have access to a substantial amount of nutritious foods, they will be a problem. Ask any teacher or health expert out there. A lack of nutrition is a lack of concentration. Too often teachers are left thinking ‘does this child have behavioural issues or just a growling stomach.’ Back when we were in primary school we really hacked the system. The bins would be stacked with vegemite sandwiches, we’d be excused from eating and left to play. I’d never eat my banana, mum would keep it in my lunch box for a whole week until it turned totally brown. Brown. Brown like the skin colour of the kid from south Auckland who drank a coke for breakfast and is eating potato chips for lunch, if he even shows up for school his attendance is patchy like the holes in his shoes. Now before you call me racist, let me feed you some facts. Alarming figures report that just over half of the New Zealand children living below the poverty line are Maori and have hardship rates two or three times higher than other groups. They are more likely to live in overcrowded households and are more likely to be admitted to hospital as a result of assault, neglect or maltreatment (Salmond, 2012). Speaking of Maori, they just fell out of parliament loosing the right to participate in elections… So who is going to be the voice of our young indigenous culture who are too often falling into unfortunate circumstances? Don’t shoot me for I am only the messenger. And before you go pointing fingers at parents lets step inside our local New World. When you’re financially struggling, you push your trolley straight past the fresh produce sections. It’s on to the meat pies, the 99 cent white bread, the sugary drinks, the cheap fixes. These may fill up small tummies for a few hours but. Today more than 95% of all chronic disease is caused by poor food choice, toxic ingredients in processed foods and nutritional deficiencies. We have, every year in New Zealand, about 40,000 children (that’s more than 44 times our school)… admitted to hospital for diseases that are potentially preventable by solving poverty, housing and access to basic healthcare.
It’s time that us teenagers stepped out of our Wanaka bubble and made some educated choices. In order to solve this crucial issue, we need to change our mentality. First and foremost let’s stop sending money overseas. Sure, there are other countries who are in poverty crisis, but our own youth should be closer to our hearts as they are closer to home. There is a band of organisations such as Kids can, munch my lunch and unicef that have built many forms of support for these children and they desperately need your help. Secondly, use your voice. The only way to find your voice is to use it. Put people in their place are raise awareness of what is happening in our nation, maybe even just around the corner from you. Thirdly, when you come of the age to vote, read up on their proposed benefits and opinions surrounding child poverty. It should be seen as a frontline issue. Every kiwi kid should have the right to a healthy, safe childhood. Let’s ensure that they