Issue 381 November 15, 2017
A year ago, Britain’s Guardian newspaper published a Report highlighted the extent of poverty in New Zealand. It said that UNICEF and other children’s charities were urging the New Zealand government to do more to help the most vulnerable in society.
More than 300,000 children live in poverty in New Zealand – an increase of 45,000 since a year ago and double the number since 1984, the Guardian said.
UNICEF Country Executive Director Vivien Maidaborn was quoted as saying that New Zealanders’ empathy had hardened towards its most vulnerable citizens, and that child poverty was becoming “normalised” in a country of 4.5 million people.
But the then National government hit back, saying that criticism in Guardian was not justified. Responding to questions in Parliament, the then Social Development Minister Anne Tolley, dismissed the Report.
At that time, Jacinda Ardern (who is now Prime Minister), Labour’s Spokesperson for children had asked the Minister: “What recent publicity does she think led to the Guardian writing an article titled ‘New Zealand’s most shameful secret: we have normalised child poverty’?”
Ms Tolley replied: “I have no responsibility for articles published in the Guardian, a leftwing English newspaper that supports (the Leader of the Opposition in the British Parliament) Jeremy Corbyn.
“To say that a third of New Zealand children can only dream of education and employment is sensationalist rubbish, and I do not think that the measure used in the article is an accurate reflection of poverty in New Zealand at all,” Ms Tolley had said.
The figures used to derive the statistic that one-third of New Zealand children live below the poverty line is the definition used by UNICEF Child Poverty Action Group New Zealand and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.
Child advocates and politicians called on the government to investigate and accurately measure the extent of child poverty around the country.
Ms Maidaborn said that since the article was published, visits to the charity’s website and donations had increased by 30%.
“We have had emails and phone calls from colleagues around the world expressing shock at this level of child poverty in New Zealand. They had no idea that the myth New Zealand told about itself as the ideal place for children to live and grow up is only true for some of our children,” she said.
Damning new Report
Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft has released a report with stark facts. We have analysed parts of the Report in our Homelink story.
The new government led by Ms Ardern has committed to removing, or at least minimising child poverty in New Zealand.
As Judge Becroft said, there is now an opportunity to put fundamental principles of children’s rights into practice.