Being poor in New Zealand

A friend recently posted on Facebook “Sleeping in the lounge with the children to stay warm….Brrrr”. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or feel sad about this. I can relate to the fact that it is a cold winter and my old 1950’s cottage is a challenge to heat up even with several heaters on (our power bill certainly reflects the season). As I write this piece, my nearly 3-year-old daughter is dressed in her flannel pyjamas, asleep with her water bottle, winter duvet and her heater on low to ensure she is warm throughout the cold winter night.

For many parents and caregivers around the country, keeping their children adequately warm, fed and healthy is a daily struggle. You don’t have to be a beneficiary to know that times are really testing; we are in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. I cannot comprehend what the Great Depression was like, but I will admit that my spouse and I find it quite difficult to cover all the bills and we will always think twice about visiting the doctor, simply because we too are feeling the financial crunch. There is no doubt that people around the country are working harder for longer and making tough choices. Some of you might remember Finance Minister Bill English’s closing statement as he delivered the 2012 budget “New Zealanders have shown great resilience through challenging times, budget 2012 supports their aspirations for a brighter future.” I certainly do not see much hope in that budget; in fact many of us, particularly families, are in despair.

So, where does that leave our most vulnerable? My heart breaks at the thought that so many children go without a meal most days or that their parents cannot afford the winter uniform because it costs a considerable amount.  What makes me really angry is that we all know this; there have been countless reports and documentaries emphasising this issue. I personally am tired of governments talking about what they are going to do to tackle this issue. The reality is that an increasing number of children are going hungry, living in cold housing and suffering from preventable diseases. Unfortunately, a significant number of these children will grow up into dysfunctional adults, unless we do something about it. This is a serious issue, an ethical and moral issue that needs a government and you and I to be urgently proactive about change. It’s time to turn the tables. Our children need us to do the little things that bring hope and a momentum for change.

We are, after all, raising the next generation of New Zealanders.

  • Jennifer Angela Marie Navarro Martinez, is a New Zealand born Philipino who was raised in central Auckland in a typical working class family of the late 80’s and early 90’s. For the last 8 years she has worked in youth development for The Logos Project. She lives with her partner Ben, and 3-year-old daughter Micah Marcella, and family member Samantha.
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