Image: PM Jacinda Ardern speaking at Starship hospital (Greg Bowker, Getty Images)
Image: PM Jacinda Ardern speaking at Starship hospital (Greg Bowker, Getty Images)

The BulletinJuly 27, 2021

The Bulletin: ‘Government neglect’ blamed for poverty increase

Image: PM Jacinda Ardern speaking at Starship hospital (Greg Bowker, Getty Images)
Image: PM Jacinda Ardern speaking at Starship hospital (Greg Bowker, Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: ‘Government neglect’ blamed for poverty increase, suspected ISIS supporter to be repatriated, and Sāmoa’s former PM formally concedes.

The country’s leading anti-poverty lobby group has put the blame squarely on the government for an increase in hardship. In a report out this morning, the Child Poverty Action Group said 18,000 additional children have been pushed into poverty over the last year, and that calculation did not include those affected by rising housing costs. “This increase in child poverty of around 10% comes at a time when property owners have seen their wealth rise at an accelerated rate,” said report co-author Janet McAllister. “Loss of income related to job loss was probably inevitable for many families; but loss of income to the point of inadequacy – or further inadequacy – was due to political decision-making.

The report makes it clear that problems were already festering before Covid. You might recall the Welfare Expert Advisory Group report right around the start of this government’s tenure – while recommendations from that are slowly being implemented, many have seen no progress. Benefit rises were included in the 2021 budget, but it was noted at the time those benefit rises reflected a situation that had existed several years earlier, not the exacerbated situation of today.

There are severe ethnic inequalities within the data. In their report, the NZ Herald noted worse outcomes for Māori and Pasifika people since lockdown started, which again comes on top of existing inequality. “We already knew Māori, Pasifika and disabled children were disproportionately affected by poverty. We were concerned and suspected it would be worse for Māori, Pasifika and disabled children during Covid. This report appears to confirm those suspicions,” said Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft.

Meanwhile, one of the outcomes of poverty is food insecurity. And because we live in a country that produces plenty of food, that is an issue of political will, argues Katharine Cresswell Riol in this op-ed on The Spinoff. It is something of a microcosm issue for the wider societal problem – there is enough for everyone, but far too many are missing out, while others take far more than their share.

A New Zealand citizen captured in Turkey on suspicion of being a terrorist with Islamic State will be repatriated back to NZ, reports Radio NZ. The woman, who has two children, is also a dual Australian citizen – on paper, she is far more an Australian than a New Zealander. However that country cancelled her citizenship, and for New Zealand to do the same would render the woman stateless, which PM Ardern said we have an obligation not to do. It is understood that the woman will be free to live in the community in New Zealand, but she may be monitored by authorities.

Sāmoa’s former PM Tuila’epa has finally conceded defeat. The Samoa Observer reports he made a speech recognising that FAST is the new governing party, and has called upon the public service to support the new government in carrying out their work. Tuila’epa continued to criticise the court decision that upheld FAST’s election victory, but said that his HRPP party is now ready to sit on the opposition benches.

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The health ministry is currently discussing the transfer of a Covid patient to New Zealand from Fiji, reports the NZ Herald. The country’s health resources are under immense strain from their outbreak, and the patient requires hospital-level care. Protocols would be followed to prevent danger to the community. Fiji has had a horror few months, with 184 Covid deaths this year.

Meanwhile, Fiji is in a tense and uncertain situation over a controversial land law change. RNZ Pacific reports several MPs have been arrested, including former PM Mahendra Chaudhry. There have also been reports of violence, particularly aimed at the country’s Muslim community.

The court of appeal is currently hearing a case that could have major implications for how businesses treat holiday pay. Business Desk’s (paywalled) Dan Brunskill reports Business NZ has lined up alongside Metro Glass, over the labour inspectorate accusation the firm was “under-paying holiday pay by not appropriately recognising its short-term incentive scheme as part of employees’ gross income.”

A banner year for real estate agents: Stuff reports commissions to the industry are up by about a billion dollars on the year before. In that same time period, about 1000 new licensed agents have entered the market. And meanwhile, Radio NZ reports a study from the Property Council has declared property is now New Zealand’s largest industry.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Anna Sophia writes about her experience of menopause and a trial of hormone therapy. Sam Brooks meets an interpreter who helps those in the Deaf community experience stage shows. Megan Alatini of TrueBliss reviews a new show about a manufactured 90s girl group reforming in their 40s. Chris Schulz talks to reporters in Tokyo about the weird experiences they’re having covering the Olympics. And I explain the backstory to why the Russian Olympic Committee is competing at this games, rather than simply Russia.

For a feature today, a damning look at the most dangerous industry in the country. More people die doing forestry than any other occupation, and writing for Newsroom, Rebecca Macfie has told the story of an inquest into one of those deaths: 24 year old Ngāti Porou man Niko Brooking-Hodgson. Here’s an excerpt, covering testimony from Niko’s father:

“The focus is on doing work quickly and cheaply,” Brooking told the inquest. There was not enough regulation and what does exist isn’t adequately enforced. Many forestry workers are from rural Māori communities and have few other employment options. “People are under pressure to keep their jobs and keep their employers happy.”

He told the inquest something must come of his son’s needless death so that other whānau are spared his family’s pain. “So that our children do not lose their parents, that their parents do not lose their sons, and so that we begin to feel that society values the lives of the predominantly rural and Māori communities of forestry workers as much as the lives of all other communities in Aotearoa.”

Imagine being eighth best in the world at anything, literally anything at all. I’m personally probably not in the top 8000 people in the world at any particular skill, and that’s fine. I’m saying this to put into context the achievements of 17 year old Erika Fairweather, who goes to Kavanagh College in Dunedin, and yesterday came dead last in the final of the 400m freestyle swim at the Olympics. Coming last can’t have been fun, but good grief that’s an achievement just to get into the race. Stuff’s Paul Cully went along to watch the race with her schoolmates, who agreed that it was something to be immensely proud of.

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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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