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    Hope For The New Millennium
    Dorothy - 22/12/99

    Christmas, Post-Election and Millennium Hopes
    What are New Zealanders hoping for at Christmas and in the new millennium? Many New Zealanders are at present living with serious problems and are hoping that the new Labour-Alliance Coalition Government elected in November, 1999, will be able to live up to its pledges.

    For most people accommodation represents the biggest expense in the budget. It was so serious a problem during the depression of the thirties that the Labour Government elected in 1935 began building state houses and letting them to people on limited incomes at a cost they could afford.

    In 1992 the Government changed state housing rentals to market rates and introduced an accommodation supplement to help those on very low incomes. Even with this supplement a study of 400 low-income households showed that a quarter of these spent half or more of their incomes on housing. ('The Monetary Constraints and Consumer Behaviour in New Zealand low-income Households'. Waldegrave C, King P and Stuart S, September 1999)

    People dealing with foodbank clients report that rent is the single most frequently mentioned reason for seeking help.

    One way in which people cope with the high costs is to have two or three families living in the one house. Such overcrowded living leads to health problems, especially for the children, and stress in relationships. These factors in turn lead to children's difficulties in learning which prejudice their opportunities for a better way of life when they become adults.

    50.000 children live in overcrowded conditions. (Child Policy Briefing Paper, Children's Agenda, 1999)

    Pledge on housing from the Labour Party before the election
    'Restore income related rents for state housing so that low income tenants pay no more than 25% of their income in rent.'

    The Health Funding Authority report for the March quarter stated that over 58,000 people on waiting do not know if or when they will get an operation under the public health system. Around 110,000 are still waiting to see specialists to learn if they are eligible for surgery.

    Many people are suffering serious health problems because they could not afford to go to a doctor in the early stages of their sickness when treatment could have been simpler and more effective.

    Dr Don Matheson of the Public Health Association stated in the New Zealand Herald, 27/7/99, 'One thing New Zealand has done better than other OECD countries is the "mal-distribution" of wealth, making the rich richer and the poor poorer. The distribution of things like income, jobs, housing and education is the key element in determining the health of the population'.

    The inadequate funding for mental health has led to problems and tragedies which could have been avoided if proper care had been provided.

    Pledge on health from the Labour Party before the election
    'Focus on patients not profit and cut waiting times for surgery.'

    Low-income families can seldom the cost of early childhood education, struggle to make the expected contribution to the funds in state schools, and cannot face the high fees for tertiary education, and the exorbitant interest costs on student loans. University and Polytechnic Student Associations estimate that repayments will take an average of seventeen years for men and fifty one years for women. For women repayment is an greater problem because most of them do not work while their children are preschoolers and afterwards they often have only part-time work, because of choice or lack of opportunity after an interrupted career.

    Pledge on education from the Labour Party before the election
    'Cut the cost to students of tertiary education, starting with a fairer loans scheme.'

    Many superannuitants are struggling to pay for essentials. An article in the Waikato Times, 11.8.99, stated that 150,000 elderly New Zealanders will move below the poverty line (set by the New Zealand Poverty Measurement Project) because of recent changes to national superannuation.

    Pledge on superannuation from the Labour Party before the election
    'Reverse the 1999 cuts to superannuation rates. Guarantee superannuation in the future by putting a proportion of all income tax into a separate fund which cannot be used for any other purpose.'

    There were 131,000 officially unemployed in June 1999. The total number without significant employment was 211,000. Young people, Maori and Pacific Island New Zealanders feature disproportionately in these statistics. Many people who have jobs are paid at such a low rate that they still cannot meet essential living costs and have to seek help from foodbanks.

    Pledge on jobs from the Labour Party before the election
    'Create jobs through promoting New Zealand industries and better support for exporters and small business.'

    Action taken by the new Government
    The new Government has already acted to assist those on minimum wages raising the minimum for adults from $7.00 to $7.55 an hour, and the minimum youth rate from $4.20 to $4.55 an hour.

    The overwhelming support for the referendum calling for more support for victims and a review of the justice system shows the concern of New Zealanders about this issue.

    Pledge on crime from the Labour Party before the election
    'Crack down on burglary and youth crime.'

    Income tax
    To provide funding for the policies to assist those presently disadvantaged there is to be an increase in taxation for those earning over $60,000 per annum.

    Pledge on crime from the Labour Party before the election
    No rise in income tax for the 95 per cent of taxpayers earning under $60,000 a year. No increases in GST or company tax.

    Environmental issues
    Although these issues were not included in the Labour Party's pledges they feature largely in New Zealanders' hopes for the Millennium and with a significant representation in Parliament from the Green Party they will be well to the forefront in the issues discussed in 2000. Genetic engineering and protection of natural resources nationally and worldwide are high on the Greens' agenda.

    Hope for the new millennium
    There is widespread hope among New Zealanders that the changes announced by the new Government will result in a better life for us all and especially the less fortunate in our country.

    Published with permission from NZine