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
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
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
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.'
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
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.
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.