You can’t eat kindness


Back in 2017, before Jacinda Ardern was sworn in as prime minister, she said she wanted the new government to be “empathetic and kind”.

We’re all familiar with the “be kind” mantra, but I question its ability to achieve… well, anything.

Ardern asked landlords to chill with raising their rent when the kind thing to do would be to introduce rent controls.

Work and Income staff were asked to have more compassion when dealing with people when the kind thing to do would be to provide livable incomes for all.

What’s happening on the ground in our communities is the opposite of “being kind” and we’re over it.

People receiving benefits can’t eat kindness.

They can’t pay their overpriced rent and power bills with it.

They can’t buy food with it or take their babies out to the movies, or have a nice family meal out during the school holidays with it.

“Be kind” means nothing to the families Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) serve in our communities.

It means nothing when you fail to uphold the principles and values of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. It means nothing without meaningful action and practices behind it.

Work and Income must have missed the “be kind” memo because people are still being declined basic assistance and care.

The winter energy payment is running out in October.

Those in emergency housing will be charged 25% of their entire income.

Supposedly 30,000 more people are going to have more money in their pockets because they will be allowed to work a whole eight hours at minimum wage before their benefits are affected.

Implementing initiatives that only affect tens of thousands of people isn’t enough when hundreds of thousands of people live below the poverty line here.

The government is choosing to stay on the same status quo track its been on for generations.

Many of us are familiar with how Metiria Turei was run out of parliament before the 2017 election, simply because she shared her truth about what she had to do in order to survive as a young single mother.

Our incredible volunteers, many of whom are receiving benefits, have been harassed online for sharing the truth about their own lives. AAAP – alongside other organisations like Child Poverty Action Group, KidsCan, Action Station, the Welfare Expert Advisory Group, unions, the Human Rights Commission, and the Children’s Commission – have been demanding the government transform our welfare system and still not enough is being done.

We have seen the government respond to gun laws and Covid-19 with swift decision making.

It can no longer say it has not heard us or that it is unaware of the extreme levels of poverty that exist in Aotearoa.

It’s so much deeper than having enough money to thrive. Continue reading

  • Brooke Stanley Pao is the incoming co-ordinator for Auckland Action Against Poverty,
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