NZ Poverty A ‘Lifestyle Choice’: Let Them Drink Coke

John Key is beginning to look like a man out of touch with his country.

People living in New Zealand are burdened with spiralling food and petrol costs, both which have been exacerbated by the recent increase in sales tax (GST) and the country is a hair’s breath from officially re-entering recession.

As more and more people fight to make ends meet the nation’s charitable organisations have struggled to keep up with demand for assistance. The pressure on food banks is one manifestation of this which started with the first recession in 2008 and shows no sign of abating.

Stories about low stocks at food banks have been around for some-while. Porirua (pop. 50,914) has five food banks and they were running out of food towards the end of last year

In the year to December 2009, there was a 40 per cent increase in food parcels given out nationwide by the Salvation Army.

People are really struggling out there,” says Elizabeth Iona, team leader of the Salvation Army Porirua food bank.

“They come in and say, ‘I had to pay bills this week, there’s no food‘, and this is people who have five or six children at home.”

With the tough economic times and the approaching festive season, Ms Iona’s shelves are nearly empty.

While there are baked beans and rice aplenty, they are down to single tins in other items; one packet of pasta, almost no tea bags and extremely low in toiletries, meat, fruit and vegetables…

“We’re at very low levels in general. We’ve actually been asking other food banks to top us up.

“It’s getting to the point where we might have to turn people away.

We need milk powder, nappies, baby food, toothpaste and soap.

“It would be great to get a few luxury things like biscuits but that’s not often the case.”

Kerry Atkinson, store manager of the St Vincent de Paul Society in Mungavin Ave, said if their food bank stocks get worse they will consider shutting the doors…” read more

How insulting it is that people in poverty due to the global recession, poor wages, poor job prospects and successive governments’ mis-management should now be told that if they need food donations it is because of the lifestyle choices they’re making?

When reading the following remember that migrants in NZ (read the comments section) are also caught in this poverty trap:

From the Herald

Prime Minister John Key says beneficiaries who resort to food banks do so out of their own “poor choices” rather than because they cannot afford food.

Mr Key made the comment when asked in Parliament yesterday about poverty levels.

When Labour’s social development spokeswoman Annette King asked about Salvation Army reports of high demand for food parcels, Mr Key responded by saying it was true that the global recession meant more people were on benefits.

“But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills.

“And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.”… read the full report here

Meanwhile more and more people are calling on The Salvation Army for help because of rising food, electricity and petrol prices. Its fortunate that charitable organisations like the ‘Salvos’ exist:

“Many of our clients are facing tremendous hardship and struggle even to put food on the table. And it’s often the children who suffer the most when household budgets don’t stretch far enough.

When you donate money or food to a Salvation Army food bank you’re helping to provide one of life’s most basic necessities to those who need it most.”

The “basic necessities” doesn’t include milk in New Zealand, this is now a luxury item. It is cheaper to buy coke.

The government of NZ would do well consider the hardship its population is suffering this next time it hosts film studio executives at the tax payers expense and gives them millions of dollars in added incentives to make films like The Hobbit in New Zealand. Some of them can’t even afford to buy milk now:

Milk on the luxury list

“The country’s biggest supplier is warning milk prices are about to go higher, and medical experts fear the cost of a daily glass is already out of reach for some.

Dairy giant Fonterra today warned supermarket prices could surge further following the sixth consecutive rise in prices on its online global DairyTrade auction this morning…”

Milk in neighbouring Australia retails at around $1 a litre and  British supermarkets are charging 44 pence (93 NZ cents) a litre. Stuff reported that prices in NZ are more than twice that amount:

“Today at Countdown, Anchor-branded milk cost $4.80 for a 2-litre bottle. In June 2009 in was $3.94 for the same amount.

By comparison, the same supermarket has a 2-litre bottle of Coca-Cola for $3.99 and a 2.25-litre bottle of Coca-Cola for $3.57 (currently $2.79 on special).

Medical Officer of Health for the Waikato District Health Board, Felicity Dumble, said it was a concern when milk was dearer than soft drinks.

“One of the great things about milk is it considered to be a `complete’ food, with a wide range of nutrients essential for growth,” she said. “If the price makes milk prohibitive for families then not only are they missing out on benefits of milk itself, but they may turn to cheaper but less healthy options.”

Ms Dumble said when healthy basics became too expensive it exacerbated problems that led to malnutrition or even obesity…” read more here

We’ll not get sidetracked into NZ’s obesity epidemic (third highest in the OECD) now and will save that issue for another day.

The present government is presenting itself as one that is increasingly out of touch with the people it was elected to represent, perhaps voters will bear that in mind when they head to the ballot in November this year (Key has already said he will step down if he loses) What is the government doing right now to reduce the cost of living for the average Kiwi family?

Certainly stories like this one are doing nothing to endear Key’s government at a time when the economy of  NZ is probably in recession:

34 units of the 7 Series BMW will head to New Zealand

Many believe the recession has passed, but most are still tightening their belts, regardless if we’re talking about the automotive sector or any other segment of the industry. So what the New Zealand’s government did caused more than indignation, it led to an avalanche of criticism, not only from the other parties but also from the country’s residents.

The short story so far: the government ordered a total of 34 new BMW 7-Series, each with an estimated price of $200,000, a thing that makes people in the country blame all those involved.

But Prime Minister John Key says he didn’t know about the acquisition, explaining in a statement that the whole deal was actually based on a six-year contract by the former Labour Government.

“I can’t take responsibility for a contract that was entered into by the previous Labour Government, that wasn’t bought to my attention or to my ministers’ attention,” Key said according to “I am surprised, I would’ve thought they (Internal Affairs) would have referenced it to us… politically we should have known about it, we didn’t.”

Internal Affairs representatives on the other hand explain that they were not required to talk to the government on the matter because the previously-signed contract belonged to them.

“It’s our contract, we administer it. Our assessment was it was the best value for money to replace the vehicles now and we got a good deal in the first place and we got a good deal now,” a spokesman said.

The deal will definitely go through, as the Prime Minister said it would be quite pricey to stop the whole acquisition right know…”

So what exactly  does the government accept responsibility for and if it doesn’t even know what its own department of Internal Affairs is doing what does that say for its understanding of the impacts of poverty in low income households in New Zealand?

Perhaps Key’s government is making the wrong lifestyle choices and should send back those cars?

How has it improved the life of the ordinary man and woman on the street?

Why are there still a quarter million children still living in poverty in New Zealand whilst government ministers get to drive around in $200,000 beamers?

There’s no Fair Go for all in NZ. Is it any wonder that 7,000 people overwhelmed the Oz Jobs expo in Auckland last weekend?

You may also find interesting:

1. Our other blogs:

“NZ: 100% Pure Rip-Off” (July 2010)

NZ’s Poverty Gap – Fat Cats Feast Whilst Queues Form For Bread And Jam (July 2010)

Immigrants Caught In Cold Poverty Trap (July 2010)

Ministerial Credit Card Rort (June 2010)

Family Gets $200,000 Bill For House Fire (July 2010)

2. And these external sites:

Wealth gap divides nation

“ACCUSATIONS THAT New Zealand is one of the worst performers in the developed world when it comes to the income gap between rich and poor have been validated by a Sunday Star-Times survey.

Conducted by Horizon Research, it shows the burgeoning gap between the haves and have-nots is frothing over into resentment, anger and disillusionment….”

Key: Poverty is your fault

“John Key says if you’re having trouble getting by on your income it’s due to your ‘lifestyle choices‘. Key has given himself at least $23,000 in tax cuts and had a $7,500 rise on our borrowed money. He has the worst economic record of any PM in 80 years: 86,000 more jobless Kiwis and falling incomes. And this bastard blames Kiwi families for their poverty…”

Families feel the pinch

Palmerston North families, many of them in paid work, are reaching out to food banks and budgeting advisers in growing numbers as new year bills and price rises tip them into crisis… Salvation Army community ministries manager Kevin Richards said there was no doubt more people were finding it harder to feed their families. In January, it faced a 25 per cent increase in customers compared to January a year ago, with 40 to 50 new clients each month. “Most are people who have never used us before. It’s a huge growth in demand, and it continues to grow.”

As well as about 180 people needing food parcels each month, the number of people looking for assistance with clothing, bedding and household goods had doubled to about 200 in six months.

Some were in work, but 99 per cent were beneficiaries.

Banks face downgrade

“The big banks look set to lose their prized Aa2 credit ratings after ratings agency Moody’s Investment Services said it was considering a downgrade of them.

The big four banks ANZ National, Bank of New Zealand, ASB Bank and Westpac all hold Aa2 rating for their long-term senior unsecured debt and deposits…”

Petrol prices highest since 2008

“Petrol prices are on the rise again, hitting their highest level for more than two years.

Overnight the price of a litre of 91 octane petrol rose 3c to $2.02 and 95 octane rose to $2.11…”

New Zealand: Unite takes on minimum wage

“In New Zealand, 100,000 workers live on the minimum wage of NZ$12.50 per hour, which is just 51% of the average wage.

Unite’s “campaign for a living wage” calls for the minimum wage to be immediately raised to $15 per hour. Then, it would be further increased in stages and set at two thirds of the average wage. The union is organising a petition drive, aiming for 300,000 signatures calling for a citizen’s initiated referendum by May 2010. If this is achieved, the government would be required to call a referendum on the demands within a year…”

Kiwis discuss Key’s comments online
“I know of two people on the sickness benefit due to recent circumstances completely out of their control. One receives $180 a week. She pays $150 a week rent, which includes power in a tiny granny flat. $10 a week is allowed for her cell phone because she has medical emergencies, so she is left with 20 a week for food. The other of those people also receives temporary assistance which takes her total up to $300 a week…in order to cover the mortgage payment. In her case, the mortgage, rates and house insurance is…you guessed it, $298 a week. She has $2 a week to cover her food, power, phone. Budget that, if you can.”

“WE are fortunate to be sort of middle income and I have to say that over the last 18 months despite tax breaks and pay increases we are about $80 – $100 a week WORSE off than we were with all the increases. We pare things down to the bone. Rarely have special treats or outings.I am a good experienced cook and we cook from scratch. I can’t imagine how a beneficiary would cope these days. Edit to add also a lot of beneficiaries are not on unemployment benefit.. they may be on sickness etc and have extra costs for medical care …”

15 thoughts on “NZ Poverty A ‘Lifestyle Choice’: Let Them Drink Coke

  1. NZ Herald Nov 1 2011

    Almost half of Kiwis just scraping by
    By Matthew Backhouse

    Nearly half of all New Zealanders say they have not enough or just enough to live on, according to a Statistics New Zealand survey released today.

  2. We live in a fruit growing area, and the fruit pickers have just been trucked into town. Local landlords are rubbing their hands with glee. Finally, large numbers of employed tenants to stick into their cardboard boxes and overcharge. They act like they have never been here before, and have the look of disoriented refugees. Somalia? They have been walking all around town, trying to figure things out. So I was standing in the grocery store, and one of them started twitching and shaking, rolling his eyes up into his sockets as he walked away from a refrigerated display case. I thought he might have some illness, or was about to have an epileptic fit, and watched him with some alarm. I started to make a movement to follow him, in case he fell to the ground. A woman from his group, however, stopped me and told me in limited English that it was the meat prices he was reacting to!


    “Our families aren’t eating”
    Posted by Darien Fenton on April 18th, 2011

    “That’s what I’ve been hearing today – not in the parts of Auckland where I know families have been struggling under this government for some time, but in the relatively affluent and true blue areas of Warkworth and Orewa.

    I heard a lot of despair from people today. Steep increases in the prices of necessities, such as food and fuel, are taking their toll, and people say it’s been all downhill since the GST increases. Then today’s news of a 4.5% increase in inflation mean things are going to continue get worse, not better.

    It’s no wonder. Vegetable prices have risen by 12.1 percent in the past year, milk, cheese and eggs by 8.8 percent, petrol by 17.1 percent, and electricity by 6.0 percent. Wages, for those who have jobs, have stood still”

    • “Wages, for those who have jobs, have stood still”
      Doesn’t that mean you are effectively being paid less… and therefore being given an effective cut in wages, unlawfully, by your employer, without warning or notification?

  4. all the papers calling for Labour to be voted back in because food prices have risen under National the argument being that National is selling NZ off yadda

    but all these conditions existed before National took over. somem research on the net will show you that the cost of living and exporting their best grade of food and so on, all that has been going on for ages. It is not the fault of the current government. those are the standard living conditions in new zealand. the international economy situation goin belly up and all the needy kiwis having their benefits cut and the media crying about it being National’s fault, it is not. The place was crap before and now they are crying about tightening their belts cos their ribs were already sticking out, th morons!

  5. K9 – the Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag website could drive you to fling yourself off a cliff if you hang out there too often.

    They take ferocious delight in beating the birds to found and foraged windfall fruits. Warning to move-ins. You do not have to truck your family down here to live like that. You can live “better” like that at home, with feet propped up in a warm room reading The Noble Savage.

    From the latest one (the “Mean and proud of it” woman should receive the Kiwi Pinchers Medal, fashioned from a recycled fish tin of course!)

    Teabags as firelighters. Baked bean “challenges”. Newspaper origami. Steam-clean your clothes with a used steam cleaner off of Trademe. Cod liver oil squeezed onto those cracked heels. You can tell from this that homes are cold, fuel expensive and anything cosmetic is beyond the budget. Walking around the grocery store with a calculator analysing dried vs canned chickpeas per kg. Homemade cat food. No need to foam at the mouth with excess toothpaste! Scoop of sand as a dishwash scrub! It’s free!

    Did you know that an entire weekend Herald will almost fit in an empty 1-litre milk carton and burn in a low combustion fire for two hours? Toasty-as.

    “I have started to use the plastic bread bag tags, too. I freeze left overs, etc. in the bags and write the date and contents of the bag on the plastic tag. Only when I’ve written on both sides of the tag, I throw it in the rubbish!”

    “I reuse the plastic bag the TV Guide comes in for a lunch bag for sandwiches!”

    “I collect dead possums and rabbits from the roadside and place them on a wire rack (a fair distance away from my house!). I put a large bucket underneath to collect the maggots as they drop off the carcass. I then feed them to my chickens. They love them! After the maggots have had their fill, and my chickens theirs, the remains go into my compost”.

    This obsessed make-do life is how lower income people in New Zealand get by. However, the darned socks, newspaper heat and old mutton bits dining, life on a microeconomic scale, is not the lifestyle advertised abroad by New Zealand. Go to Google Image Search and type New Zealand Lifestyle. Hope the scenery does it for you, because the “living” does not!

  6. In their Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag in New Zealand series, the Newmans brang us sinners the good news, “There is no reason why even thrifty eaters can’t enjoy meat!”

    We thought sourly of the lucky citizens in the lowest socioeconomic rungs of our own country of origin, enjoying meat meals without a care in the world.

    These Prophets of Frugal mention sausages as the cheapest meat you can eat. But in New Zealand, the sausages have so much filler in them that many newcomers have observed that they actually taste like dog food, that is, they taste like dog food smells. An IT acquaintance from the Isles with a broad range of superior skills that would net him a 70K salary CAD is currently experimenting with organ meats in his bedsit on the South Island.

    We have happily turned to the cuisines of Asia, such as curried lentils, bean soups and the like, rather than the meats we can “afford”. Were there some Asian culture and grace around us to accompany the experience, it would be even more tolerable.

    Caveat to incoming – The tree ferns are not edible, and the blue of the water will not keep you warm.

  7. From an article in

    “why is milk nearly half the price in Esperance than in New Zealand?

    from this article
    It was cheaper to buy milk and most staple food products in New Zealand then than it was in Australia but the double income here, cheaper cars, electrical, goods, home contents etc made it well worth the while to be here.

    Now I see that the dairy industry in New Zealand is not only raping the land and polluting the creeks and rivers, but also putting dairy products out of reach of most families.

    I buy milk here in Esperance for $2.00 for 2 litres, and we are 800 kilometeres from Perth, the last town on the coast before the Australian bight, a town of 15,000 people

    We have no dairy farms within 600 kms of here, only crops, trees, and animals, all dairy has to be transported in.

    Fonterra owns many of the dairy companies here in WA and other parts of Australia.

    Why is milk so expensive in New Zealand when the product, is a staple food and so plentiful, when in Australia it is not?

  8. 250 percent is right. And with benefit cuts on top of that.

    Food prices are up 5.5% over the same time last year in total, and the worst part is fruit and vegetables which rose 10.4 per cent over this time last year. A capsicum or green pepper as the Canadians and Yanks say is at least 2.50 NZD for one here, while over there in the US and CA it is 50 cents. Do not even look at the meats. Even the bloody *offal and soup bones* are a budget buster! I wish people could know these things before they moved here. How the costs add up and suck every drop of blood out of you.


    “A Whangarei mother – struggling to feed her family because of rising food costs – is surviving on a diet of two-minute noodles and bread so she can afford to feed her children proper meals. She has spoken out about her plight in a bid to raise awareness of how rising food costs are hurting struggling families. Figures released by Statistics New Zealand show food prices have risen 5.5 per cent nationwide in the past year, and 35 per cent in Whangarei over the past decade.”

    This is so common you wouldn’t believe it. After I am paid for the month, about 1500, deduct rent and utilities, I am left with 200 for the month for food for three people. It does not go far if you want to buy meat, fruit, milk and vegetables for the children. Bills are piling up. I do not know where we would be if it were not for foreign relatives helping us with care packages and a wee bit of cash once in awhile, and the kindness of the odd stranger here and there. We are migrants from an affluent country. This is NOT a “Lifestyle”. This is not what we moved here to have.

    “The article revealed 49 per cent of Northland children live in poverty.
    Previous Advocate articles reported living costs in Northland had risen 250 per cent in the past decade, and social support services were having difficulty dealing with the number of people seeking help as a result”.

    • I see no mention of a father in that report, that says quite a lot. Seeing a child of 13 on a bus with a toddler of their own is certainly a flavour of weird that is very sobering indeed.

  10. New Zealand is better off becoming a colony of China. I’m telling you. The only sane people in New Zealand are Chinese.

  11. There’s always the old standby, grow dope –
    “A South Dunedin pensioner was growing cannabis with a potential sale value of $240,000 because his pension was not enough and he “needed the money to survive”, the Dunedin District Court heard yesterday. Maurice David Didham (72) had 200 four-week-old cannabis plants growing in soil in his bathroom last August.”

  12. This clown Key should change his name to Antoinette and dress like a drag queen, it would suit her perfectly.
    “Madmoiselle, the people are claiming for bread.”
    “Let them eat cake!”

    Yeah, right!

  13. At the University I attended, one of the upcoming Young Nats and her starry-eyed native supporters made it very difficult for international students to ask any questions of John Key and his policies. The students, me included, were ignored when they raised their hands to ask questions. This was in 2008.
    Well… the people on the ground representing the party are a good indication of the things to come, and I sure hope they like the hope and change that they fought so hard to make sure others could not question.

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