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The Bulletin: What do child poverty stats show?

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: New child poverty statistics show little change yet, Greenpeace call for fishing policy review over donations, and a focus on Covid-19 effects on forestry.

New figures were released yesterday on one of the most important issues facing the country – how many children grow up in material poverty. In the Stats NZ release, there was a pretty clear top line: “There was no significant change to material hardship rates.” A full set of the nine measurements can be found in that release. The NZ Herald reports that high housing costs are a major reason why so many are in poverty.

The reporting from Stats NZ is one of the conditions of the Child Poverty Reduction Act, which was passed early in the government’s term, with the measurements forming the basis of reduction targets, reports Radio NZ. Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft described the figures as “underwhelming”, in that they didn’t show any downward trend of note.

Within the figures, there was stark evidence of disparities between Māori and Pasifika people and Pākehā. One News reports the numbers show severe inequalities have persisted, with around a quarter of Māori and Pasifika children living in households that experienced material hardship (further stats drilled into the more serious severe material hardship category) compared to around a tenth of Pākehā children.

The political meaning of these numbers has been fiercely contested. The Spinoff’s Leonie Hayden and Toby Manhire dug into the numbers and tested the competing claims from Labour and National. Beyond the obvious partisan points made around whether things are getting better or worse, it’s worth looking at the Families Package and other various measures such as cheaper GP visits, which because of when the survey began haven’t been fully taken into account in these stats. Newshub quoted PM Ardern as saying that the government was on track to meet their targets, and that would become clearer when all of those measures were able to be included in the stats. They’ll have to for the government to maintain their credibility on this issue, particularly after adopting so few of the measures recommended by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group. A small change was announced to benefit levels earlier in the week, which will index them to wage rises rather than inflation, or in practice about $10 a week more for sole parents.


Just quickly, a message from me about The Bulletin’s last few editions: I had an absolute blast reading Toby and Duncan’s versions of it (and Catherine’s Bulletin World Weekly for members) and I thank them all hugely for stepping in. They all did a magnificent job. Honestly, it’s really quite good waking up at a normal time and getting the news delivered to your inbox, I can see why you all like it. And yes, while starting early again today was a return to reality, I’m very glad to be back with you all.


Greenpeace have called for a review into fishing policy decisions made by the government, with NZ First Foundation donations from the industry coming to light. Radio NZ reports almost $27,000 was donated by Talley’s to the foundation, which passed money on to the party itself to pay expenses. Previous donations to the party itself and individual MPs had been declared. There have been a few eyebrow-raising policy decisions around fishing made over this term, but (Labour) minister Stuart Nash insists donations have not influenced them.


Speaking of donations, the four people charged in relation to donations made to the National Party have pleaded not guilty, reports One News. Very little comment was made by any of them, including former National MP Jami-Lee Ross, and they’ll all have to surrender their passports. The case has been remanded until June.


We had a fair bit yesterday on the economic impacts of Covid-19, but this one I reckon deserves some particular focus. Farmers Weekly reports more than a thousand logging contractors have been laid off because of the economic impact, and that number is likely to get much higher. The reason I want to highlight this particular consequence is because of the intensely provincial nature of forestry jobs, and the lifeline those jobs give smaller towns. Earlier in the week finance minister Grant Robertson told Checkpoint that the government was looking into getting some of the affected workers into conservation work instead.


This is an important one to watch for the science community. The NZ Herald’s Jamie Morton reports Massey University researchers have vowed to fight a shake up around the Albany campus, which could see up to 50 jobs go. It’s part of a drive from the university to slash spending, but both staff and students are confused and concerned.


Some minor party drama to catch you up on: Vision NZ (led by Hannah Tamaki of Destiny Church) have cut ties with campaign manager Jevan Goulter, after he made some disgraceful comments about host of The Project Kanoa Lloyd. Goulter went on Checkpoint and apologised for those comments, admitting they were inexcusable, and saying that he wasn’t going to try and defend them. The subplot to this all is whether or not Tamaki should be on Dancing with the Stars – in the wake of that our culture editor Sam Brooks has put together a thoughtful and insightful take on the limits of using controversy to generate publicity.

And Sustainable NZ leader Vernon Tava had a tough interview of his own on a major radio show last night. He spoke to Newstalk ZB’s Heather du Plessis-Allen, and was put through the wringer over allegations around doctoring party membership records. He admitted to floating ideas around such doctoring, but insisted that all such ideas were immediately discounted. It’s a particularly damaging story for this party, because they took so long to gather the required 500 members needed to register with the Electoral Commission last year.


I’ve been camping recently around Tōtaranui, which means that I’ve been lucky enough to read a few issues of the Golden Bay Weekly newspaper. Great paper, and their big issue recently has been freedom campers, with the local board calling on the Tasman District Council to institute a ban. I’d encourage you to read the February 14 issue in their archives in particular to get a sense of the community vitriol against that type of tourist. For another view on it all, here’s a story from Stuff’s Nina Hindmarsh, who reports that some businesses are actually really concerned about a loss of business that could result from a ban. As for the freedom campers themselves, those spoken to say they’re trying to be respectful, but can’t necessarily afford to go to actual campsites. All in all, it’s a fascinating microcosm of a whole lot of issues playing out right now around community control of tourism, and who gets to holiday in spots that many New Zealanders consider to be precious.


Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz

Right now on The Spinoff: Felix Walton writes about the unique strengths of student radio, and what that could teach a new RNZ youth network. Sam Brooks reports on a New Zealand director derailing the publicity for their new Daniel Radcliffe film with a series of bad tweets. Jihee Junn explores the rise of renters who don’t actually want to try and buy a house. Duncan Greive writes about the immense strides made by the local gaming industry over the last decade. Scott Hamilton explores the history of religion-based racism and mysticism in New Zealand.

And six months ago, Emily Writes put out a brave and beautiful piece about her son’s hospitalisation and diagnosis. Here, she updates how life has been for her family since then, and how they have coped.


For a feature today, a funny and somewhat alarming story about excessive money being thrown around in politics. The LA Times has looked into the Michael Bloomberg presidential campaign hiring hundreds of ordinary people to text or tweet their support for the billionaire candidate. Alas for him, it sounds like he’s basically just setting the money on fire. Here’s an excerpt:

“A President Is Born: Barbra Streisand sings Mike’s praises. Check out her tweet,” Romir Kapur, a deputy field organizer for the Bloomberg campaign, tweeted to his zero followers, drawing on stock text provided by the campaign. At least half a dozen other users posted identical tweets; all were suspended Friday.

“WHO’S EXCITED FOR THE DEBATE TONIGHT!?” another organizer posted on Instagram, asking her followers to sign up for debate updates from Bloomberg’s campaign. The post received one like and a comment: “I hope you’re at least getting paid for this lol.”

Four out of the five organizers interviewed said the promise of money was the primary factor in their decision to work for the Bloomberg campaign.


Is All Black Ardie Savea really actually considering a switch to rugby league? It doesn’t appear to have been a throwaway comment from the injured flanker, given that he’s subsequently doubled down on what it would allow him to do. Newshub have republished an AAP story in which Savea talks about a dream of representing Sāmoa in international sport, which he’s currently unable to do because of World Rugby regulations. I’d imagine he’d make an outstanding league player as well, so there will likely be plenty of NRL clubs looking to secure his services – and it’ll probably drive up the price to keep him in the 15 man game when his NZ Rugby contract expires next year.

Finally, a nice piece about one of the buzzier traditions enjoyed by New Zealand’s top cricketers. Whenever the Black Caps win a test at the Basin Reserve, the bowlers and keeper all go and celebrate up Mt Victoria. Sportsfreak has collected photos of every example he can going back to when it was first organised by Simon Doull in 98, up until the most recent example this week.


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