One in Three Children Living in Poverty in New Zealand


Next time you see one of those surveys that tells you what a great place New Zealand is to raise kids, and how you should move there because its ‘so good for families’ and ‘work life balance’ you may like to look at the truth behind the myth. Things for families aren’t so great in New Zealand, almost a third of its children are living in poverty and that figure includes migrants just like you.

One in three children in New Zealand (305,000) is living in poverty and the figure is growing, as are the number of poverty related diseases says the outgoing Children’s Commissioner, Dr Russel Wills*. He just released the latest Child Poverty Monitor and it says

Children living in households earning below 60 per cent of the median household income after housing costs, have almost doubled from 15 per cent of all children in 1984 to 29 per cent last year. Children hospitalised with poverty-related illnesses more than doubled in the 1990s and have increased further in the recent recession.

“Everything points to things being far tougher than they were 30 years ago. That’s not right in a country like ours and it’s not fair,” said Dr Wills, whose five-year term as Children’s Commissioner ends in June. “Today I’m asking New Zealanders to show they share our concern by spreading the message #itsnotchoice.

The report predicts most children who are in poverty now would remain so for the rest of their childhood. It also says children in New Zealand are more than twice as likely to be in poverty than those aged 65+.

No doubt emboldened  by his departure the Commissioner is taking this message to social media using the hashtag to challenge Government policy. One has to ask why he waited until the end of his 5 year tenure to hold the government to account? Dr Wills says

“The public of New Zealand needs to understand the impact of poverty on children. The better our collective understanding and the more support there is to invest in these kids, the more support governments will have to invest in these children. So that’s the change we want to see.” source

Child deaths

New Zealand had an infant mortality rate of just over 4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012, this is higher than the average of all OECD countries. The rate at which Pasifika children are dying from medical conditions associated with poverty has doubled since 2000, from 5.2 deaths per 100,000 to 10.3 deaths in 2012.  Children in the poorest fifth of families are six times more likely to die from medical conditions associated with low income, like respiratory illness, than children in the wealthiest fifth. source

You may also be interested in

Data shows where bleak future beckons for youth (December 2015) – New data shows where young adults (15-24) are most likely to fail at school, stay on long term benefit, use mental health services , go to prison or be considered at high risk – Far North, Kawerau, Opotiki, Wairoa, Manakau, Waitkere, Hamilton, Christchurch. Read the full government report HERE.

NZ poverty not a lifestyle choice, poorest families can’t afford the basics for life (March 2011)

*After training at the University of Otago Medical School, Russell studied paediatrics overseas and gained a Master of Public Health degree in Brisbane. He then returned to New Zealand and worked as national paediatrician for Plunket, a senior lecturer at the Wellington School of Medicine and community paediatrician at Wellington Hospital before moving to Hawke’s Bay in 2001. At the HBDHB he led the Family Violence Intervention Programme, Before-School Check Programme and Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee. He has also been involved in the Ministry of Education Positive Behaviour for Learning Programme implementation, Incredible Years strategic group and the Youth to Men governance group in Hawke’s Bay


26 thoughts on “One in Three Children Living in Poverty in New Zealand

  1. New Zealand used to be a great country, no question about that. We had just about the best of everything. State education, public health, state housing and clean environment.
    After 1984 it all began to change. A Labour government was elected with a large majority and it proceeded to change New Zealand irrevocably and for the worst. It was not a centre-left government, it became more right-wing than the centre-right National Party opposition. Under neo-liberal freemarket finance minister Roger Douglas, New Zealand began the move from being the caring society to the greedy society.
    In 1990 the National government picked up where Douglas left off and completed the change. Social welfare benefit cuts, high inflation, sale of state assets, charging for treatment at public hospitals, plundering the National Parks for minerals, restricting the rights of workers to organize themselves, new sales taxes, the list goes on.
    These things together slowly turned New Zealanders from reasonably happy, sympathetic and caring people into selfish, money-obsessed, xenophobic ostriches. What is worse is that the mainstream media in New Zealand are nearly all aligned with the political right so the present National government rarely gets challenged about what it is doing. The media has become so dumbed down that most New Zealanders are either oblivious or indifferent to the high levels of child poverty that are prevalent here.
    It is a repressed, unambitious, sad country now – racked with crime, ravaged by alcohol and drugs and unrestricted pornography. Wages are low, rents and prices high and the rivers are full of cow effluent, a by-product of our exponentially increasing dairy production.
    One of the worst things about it is that hardly anyone cares anymore.
    For foreigners hoping this may be a land of milk and honey – forget it, you are about 30 years too late. If you want to risk it then you might find your presence welcome, as long as you keep quiet and don’t stick your neck out as employers will expect you to fill the lowest paid and dirtiest jobs.
    Why would you bother?
    I am a New Zealander living in New Zealand, by the way.

    • Hi Martin.

      Don’t you find it infuriating that no one in NZ starts a protest, or goes on strike? The only time I ever saw that happen here was when those Indian guys at Super Cheap Auto protested about being used as slaves and working long hours and no overtime. But those weren’t even Kiwis. Why do you think Kiwis just sit there like lemons and never form a rebellion/militia against their utterly shit government?

      I’d love to see John Key get egged in public. Right in the face.

      • ah yeah that would be great Nebula ! I heard there is an law against freedom of speech in NZ ?! If you speak against authorities you get an $50000 fine ?! Is this really true ? Could be a good reason why everybody stay’s so empathic right.

        • It’s not true at all.
          There are protests here and there but nothing huge. I find kiwis do all their whining online, safely behind their computer screens where they can be more abusive and get away with it.

          • glad to hear that anyway New Zealand just sounds like an joke to me ! These people sound like monsters ..
            have met only 1% to be ” normal ” in the couple of years I lived here and they were actually living on the north island.. Just think of it what living in a cold damp house and being isolated can do to people ! The question is what are they afraid of then ? Why are they so afraid to speak out ? Why would they bother what other people think ? I have questioned this and try to figure out these people what i don’t think I can ever understand them really…

          • Well, there’s definitely much more than 1%. Many might not know it but I’m an NZer and just as pissed off and disgusted with stuff that goes on here as anyone else in this site. But there are lots of decent people here that love other cultures. I do volunteer English teaching with an organization that has thousands of members and thousands, and I and other members of my family are married to non-NZers, as are many friends on our network. Sadly there are just not enough like-minded kiwis to make a visible difference.

            NZers like me are despised by other NZers.
            They do all their whining online in the safety of their homes, blaming anyone and everyone for this, while not willing to anything other than whinge and abuse others.

          • I really hope that is true! I guess we ‘ be ended up really at the wrong site then.. It would be great to meet some of those kiwi’s !

            One would expect people to be more friendly in church but sadly the opposite is true.
            People like you make the difference shan. New Zealand still has a future unless you ‘all leave and never return..

          • “It’s not true at all.
            There are protests here and there but nothing huge. I find kiwis do all their whining online, safely behind their computer screens where they can be more abusive and get away with it.”

            This you will find extremely prevalent on TRADE ME. I despise that bullshit website with a passion. Absolutely loathe the people that use it.

            Some retard recently won an auction for a $100 note for almost $300. If you need anything to demonstrate the trite, contrived, pathetic design of the Kiwi, then look no further. It wasn’t even funny or comical, just pathetic. This is what passes as ‘funny’ in retard land.

          • I use trademe for buying and selling, but one day I made the mistake of reading and posting in the forums. Won’t be doing that again. The users there are completely psycho. I’m also and NZer, yet I was abused for wanting to homeschool my child, having a Filipino wife, and for not being a racist basically.

            Yeah I saw that $100 thing. We were discussing how dumb it was last night. We’re sure some moron will frame it and put it up on their wall with some silly caption about it being the $100 worth $300 or something lol.

            There’s been a few similar auctions in the past for equally worthless items that people actually paid big bucks for. I vaguely recall a jar of Marmite and a sandwich with a bite out of it. There has probably been more over the years.

            While I’m posting, I saw I can’t reply to another user here. There’s no option for it for some posts. Do you know why?

          • You usually have to go to the top (the first comment) and you will see the reply button beneath it. Thats just how it is haha. It then posts your comment directly under the last comment before you.

            So in reality, these morons who bid on these worthless, joke of an auctions are paying to get some attention on themselves by getting into the media as being the dunce who paid big bucks for a piece of junk. I am still perplexed as to how this is a good thing, a smart thing, and worth anyones time at all apart from Trademe milking the idiots for the winning and listing fees…

            I was banned from the Trademe forums years ago (a recurring trait of mine for being too blunt, using colourful language that offended stiffs and prudes and being brutally honest lol) after firstly being attacked with ad homs by a group of nasty retards that monopolise and nazi the boards and get away with everything I was banned for doing.(The good ole kiwi way, double standards and hypocrisy.) You know the type, the proxy wannabe forum moderator who displays their conceited arrogant attitude at every given opportunity. My language may have been alot stronger than theirs but obviously bullying and degrading people on their forums is perfectly acceptable. I even received a pompous, arrogant email from Trademe saying something along the lines of ‘you have been banned and we do not tolerate anyone who retaliates to our treasured, valued, long serving forum SS nazi bullies’.

            It was one of those emails where you couldn’t reply, and I wasn’t even given a chance to defend myself. Just instant condemnation.

            I’d advise against anyone posting in the forums there. It is infested with snakes and weasels.

            The amount of job ads on there by ‘professional’ long standing ‘reputable’ companies that are plagued with massive spelling and grammatical errors. Often advertising an incorrect contact number because the spastic that wrote the ad has the IQ of a fencepost. Long winded job adverts stating everything they demand from you and never state basic helpful info like what area the job is (WHERE in Christchurch are you? What branch is it?), or even the days and hours. Truly pathetic. I looked at the property section and there was a well known real estate company advertising an absolute shit hole for $400 a week with something like “this property is proudly owned and looked after by insert company name here“. And you look at the photos, and theres wall paper disintegrating off the walls, a vacuum cleaner in an empty room, grease all up the kitchen walls, hasn’t had a paint job since 1978, and just looks like a smack heads drug den. These cretins really haven’t a clue. At all. Absolute clowns.

            My own experiences with Trademe auctions involved sellers who took a lifetime to reply to my questions or never answered at all, or anyones questions for that matter. Taking weeks to reply to my email after i won an auction. Buyers who always tried it on with offering me a paltry sum and wanted shipping costs included. Cheeky twats. Fake shell bidding. How does an auction thats had its reserve met and is at something like $20 jump to $200 in the space of two bids? Who in their sane mind does this? Answer-it’s their mates upping up the price. Or a reserve met and at a decent price of about $40 or whatever, the auction doesn’t end for another 2 weeks but yet in the space of a few days the auction has suddenly had a massive bidding war between two people. This is complete bullshit and happens so often. (Ironic statement there but you get my point.)

            Even though the cost of buying brand new here is astronomical, I’d rather buy the item brand new and have it straight away in my possession without defects, than ever deal with the majority of super wankers on Trade Me ever again. Then again, you can also buy something brand new like an electronic item and have it die on you the next day. Didn’t have a warranty? Ohhh, too bad bro, better luck next time. Thanks for your $200 though, chuuuurrrrr.

          • Yep, just everything you just said lol. Couldn’t have put it better. There just aren’t words insulting enough for the users on that forum. Screw them though. They are bitter, no life, keyboard warriors who would never voice a word of that bullshit in public, and most of the time are busy tearing each other apart like starving, wild beasts. Quite sad really.

            I usually have an alright time in the buying/selling department, BUT, this is more due to my interests rather than it being a good place in any way. I’m a gamer and almost exclusively buy from outside NZ, US and Japan versions of games. Now, there is a reason for this that would involve a big explanation so I’ll skip that. The thing is, anyone selling stuff from those regions, or buying it, is 100% not going to be an asshole, because they be thinking along the same lines as me.

            It’s just a fact. People interested in other cultures and have the sense to realize how we get censored or butchered versions of games a lot of the time, just aren’t horrible people lol.

            But take my little sister, who sells clothes and make-up now and then, gets NO END to some of the worst traders I’ve ever seen. No contact, asking already explained questions, non-payment, lies.

          • Hey Shan. I’m a gamer as well, but PC master race haha. I’m not a hardcore geeky type gamer but I like playing games often mostly FPS horror games, like Metro 2033, Amnesia The Dark Descent, Half Life 2, Soma, Doom, etc. I’m also a massive retro gaming fan. I love the old point and lick adventure games like Monkey Island and Indiana jones. The 1992 Alone in the Dark and Prince of Persia. I also love all the old console games like Mario, Streets of Rage, Street Fighter etc. Even though its actually been a while since I’ve played any of them due to me moving house and other stuff taking up my head space. My son is always on the PC anyway playing Minecraft, he loves it haha. So I’m stuck on my imac which isn’t built for gaming.

            Speaking of imacs…gee whizz. Before I had any proper knowledge of them I spent $2500 getting one, thinking it was gunna be a video editing nasa super computer to edit my videos on. I was disappointed. It does the job well enough, but no where near as good as i was imagining. But I learned alot of things about macs. You can’t upgrade them. Major fail. You can upgrade the RAM and thats it. Whatever you buy, you’re stuck with. And for the $2500 I could have got a brilliant PC that would have been ten times better than the imac and i could have used it for multiple purposes. (Gaming, video editing, etc.) Ah well. Live and learn. The only plus side to having a mac is that I can use my native pro rez video files from my camera, but the Avid DNXHD codec for the PC is just as good.

            Good thing about being a PC gamer is buying my games from the Steam platform. I would never buy from the likes of rip off EB Games or any retail outlet that charge $130 for a brand new game. It’s disgusting.

            I enjoy mindless multiplayer death matches on Call of Duty to pass the time when I have nothing better to do, and I bought Black Ops 2 few years back from the UK which cost me $60 in NZ dollars. If I had bought from a retail shop here i would have paid double the price!!!!

          • I am indeed what they call a Console Peasant hahahahaha.
            My little bro is the PC gamer and uses Steam.

            Yeah EB is insane, like to the point of being criminal. They sell old, used games for the most insane prices and have been doing so since the PS2 days which is around the time I first went to that store,

            I’ve seen used games going for as much as a new one and there’s never any consistency in their prices. Just random games with random prices. I really can’t understand them.

          • I know, its ridiculous how their second hand prices fluctuate, depending, I guess, on how much they want to rip the customers off at that time.

            I gotta laugh at their ‘buy one get one free’ offer the other day for 2nd hand ps3 games (I still go in there now and again with my son as he likes playing the demos and looking at the toys.). The game prices ranged from $30-80. Buy one get one free my arse. You are paying for TWO GAMES end of story.

            I was just joking about the PC master race thing haha. I just cant stand playing game using a gamepad. I tried playing a shoot em up with a gamepad and I am useless at it. I need my mouse and keyboard lol.

          • It ($100 auction) was the LOL moment of the year. I remember reading about how TradeMe founder put his website on ebay so it only looks like the same recycled entertainment aka funny quotient.

      • Have a look at what happened to the likes of Nicky Hager, who openly criticised the government for “attack politics,” and you have a good idea of why many New Zealanders stay quiet. Hager’s home was the target of a ten hour raid by police shortly after publishing his book, in which the police seized both paper and electronic files connected with his research. This took place when HE WASN’T HOME, when his 22 year old daughter was woken by police at 7:45 am. Detectives then went through his family’s personal effects, made copies of USB devices, and seized computers, personal documents, a camera, a dictaphone, CDs, and his daughter’s laptop, cellphone and iPod (This in itself is a MASSIVE violation.) This lead to a GLOBAL campaign to raise funds for his legal defence, based on the threat to freedom of the press, and has raised serious concerns about the freedom the press has in New Zealand. When the police were questioned about this, and the breaking of laws designed to protect reporters rights to keep their sources secret, they stated that it depends on whether Hager “meets the legal definition of a journalist.”

        Clearly something is going on here. Hager speaks out, and he is made an example of. Given this kind of treatment, where the government themselves are willing to use police and other departments to openly attack those who speak out, even a public and well supported figure as Hager, many New Zealanders are running scared.

        • I heavily criticized the police and another government department for blatant corruption in New Zealand. Soon I was on two false criminal charges, and then wrongly arrested for alleged breach of bail. After obtaining some of my files I found appallingly fraudulent data on them. I decided that it was safer to get out of the country and I am now in the Middle East. Despite this country Egypt, having massive problems currently, I feel much safer here, and both the individuals and the communities are much healthier than in NZ. I still own property in NZ and I need to get back in order to attempt to sell up and move out permanently. NZ is a morally bankrupt country, and I am terrified to return there.

          “The New Zealand “state” is corrupt, top to bottom. The government is indistinguishable from organized crime. There is no integrity in “the system”. The “rule of law” is a fiction, a concept structure behind which the gang runs their turf. When they speak of the rule of law, it is their law they have in mind (see also Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc ). Don’t forget that a judge is just another lawyer, and his opinion is just another legal opinion, no magic involved.

          There is no incentive for the trough feeders to clean it up. There isn’t yet widespread discontent.

          The ruling gang continually lies to the inhabitants of these islands, claiming their Westminster styled unicameral “government” is legitimate. A government that openly ignores the people, refusing to be bound by referendums.”

        • That police raid was very concerning. Judith Collins has just been reinstated despite her close association to Cameron Slater. Slater is probably one of many “attack dogs” who shut down any dissent here. I have been happy living in NZ but now raising a family here I have been concerned by the disconnect between the official line and what seems to be really going on. Particularly the low crime rate when just about every day a dead body shows up somewhere and every day the newspaper is full of assaults. The so called egalitarian country when it seems to me that the rich live in mansions and a huge strata of society are poor. The poor are demonized as “lazy bludgers”. The errant behaviour of young men is continually passed of as youthful exuberance such as shooting a woman dead in a camping ground because he thought she was a deer, King hit fights, I have seen young men high fiving each other for being “caught DIC” (Drunk in Charge). Even last week there was a story of young men firing off rifles in a camping ground while children and families were sleeping in tents. There seems to be a particular lack of consequential thinking in young men here which maybe no worse than elsewhere but it seems like it is worse. It is nice to have a forum to pass on thoughts without getting a “What are yer” thrown back at you if you voice an opinion contrary to allowable opinions.

          • Thanks, I read last year that NZ The Government removed domestic abuse crimes from Crime Statistics which makes meaningful international comparisons difficult. If a person murders their wife does that appear in crime statistics or not? We also don’t what else has been removed. There are also a significant quantity of killings that would be murders in most other countries but seem to be downgraded to manslaughter or assault here. I have the odd chat with a Police Officer I know and I get the impression that there is a lot of political pressure to distort data or redefine this that and the other.

          • We must remember that the majority of Kiwis are a volatile, pond life, wild pack of savage animals (and thats insulting animals) who will never have any forward thinking process and act impulsively and primitively. They are mentally unstable and can never be trusted. Their heinous, backward crimes are pacified and treated with a pathetic soft touch by the bullshit ‘justice’ system here.

            The place is rapidly decaying. Stay well away.

    • Very true Martin. I have been thinking about al your experiences as it is exactly the same what we have experienced and what we are still experiencing. And I just had this crazy idea.. what if new Zealand would come under Australian government ? Would things still remain the same ? They have about the best country in the world !! I think NZ should consider this because lots of wealth could be poured in the country through them and they have an clever mind to fix things up around here..

      Anyway the above story of course doesn’t surprise us as we have amazed ourselves with the news papers here and suffering children everywhere in NZ which I have never ever seen anywhere else in the world not even in the middle east. Not to mention the bullying… no wonder kids are screaming and crying lots of the time.

  2. And whats being done about it?? I’ll tell you. Absolutely nothing. And this will continue to be the case in the future too. Inept government ignoring the real issues and concentrating on superfluous issues like a new flag. This would have sparked a massive public debate in developed countries. In NZ, a wimper of an article in some newspapers and that’s all. No debate, no plan, no hope.

    Welcome to NZ, where hope and social mobility die a slow and painful death.

  3. It’s plain to see unless you live on planet Key,beggars in the streets ,things you would have never imagined in this country,child prostitutes ,highest use of methamphetamine in the western world well done N.Z welcome migrants you to can be part of our rock star economy.

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