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:
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:
“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…”
“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:
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 stuff.co.nz. “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)
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:
“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….”
“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…”
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.
“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 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…”
“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 …”