The reality of inequality and poverty in NZ



See no Poverty. Hear no Poverty. Speak no Poverty.

The idea has been sold to us all for many a year now.  The one where if you get a job, work hard for 40 hours or more a week that you should be able to provide a home, food, pay all your bills , provide for your family and if you save up then eventually you should all be able to get ahead.  Lots of us are still dreaming that dream.  Working towards being able to save anything, ever.

There is most definitely a visual drop in the standard of living many now find themselves in, even though either one or two parents in the family are working.  The working poor.  Where you work all the hours you possibly can, are as skilled in your industry as you can be and still struggle from pay to pay to provide all your family may need.  It’s a place where it’s all work and worry, where the juggling of bills has you robbing Peter to pay Paul so to speak. Never quite having enough to stretch all the way around and certainly nothing left to save.  There are no lunches out, no haircuts, no trips to the movies, no holidays.  Not much to look forward to, nothing to get terribly excited about.  It’s a grind, the worry is immense and it’s exhausting.

Being working poor is about being stuck, it’s about doing everything you can and are told you should and you still aren’t getting ahead financially.

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If you didn’t catch Nigel Latta’s documentary this week about inequality, you should. It was very telling.  To see a two parent working family pawning family heirlooms to warrant their car, struck a real chord with me.  It made me uncomfortable.  It’s a sight I can not believe that our current Government thinks is acceptable in any way.  That was two fulltime working parents having to use foodbanks to feed their family.   Is this the dream, the one this Government still thinks we can all achieve?  Is this what our kids are striving for?  A life of struggle and fight to try and achieve the unachievable dream.

If you both work hard, fulltime, then you should be able to feed your kids and yourselves, pay the rent, warrant the car and go to the dentist.  Surely?  Is tells me that something is wrong, it’s not working the way it should.  What it is, is a sad reflection of New Zealand and what big business and greed has done to many, when all the many want is a fair days pay for a fair days work.  A decent liveable wage for all, so all can benefit from it, because as we all know, the more you have the more you spend.  It’s a win win.


  1. Again! Sam! Well said! Fantastic reinforcement for the messages we’ve heard from the likes of Nigel Latta, Max Rashbrook, and Bryan Bruce. Looks like the media have finally caught on. How long did that take now? Not long now, and things will be warming up in the daylight

      • National’s policies will do nothing for people in this category because they are not designed for them. National speaks for the wealthy, those who regard themselves as culturally or socially above the masses and the greedy.

    • we hear about all these people who have been put into employment, however nobody has said where those jobs have come for poverty it has existed in this country for some time in fact I would go so far as to say that when Paula Bennett was bringing up her family on the work and income benefit it existed then.
      how dare she boast that there is assistance for people when they need help. most benefices that I know cant afford to dress like she does most struggle just to survive they don’t live they survive. they spend 200,000 on oil executives and Yankee spies to , to spy and exploit our countries resources how many families could that money have fed

  2. I agree with all you have said and the biggest problem is the cost of housing, rent or mortgage, its way too dear. Will a further 3 years of Key and his mates change tjis? Fat chance!

  3. As an economic model, this is a failure.

    In the race to the bottom for companies where workers are paid badly with poor working conditions, those same workers have virtually next to no money to put back into the economy except for petrol, rent, power and the most basic items. Everyone loses including employers!

    Were it not for corporate welfare where the state tops up their incomes (in limited circumstances only) rent, etc would be too much and of course it is the reality too often.

    Why park so many people outside of New Zealand’s economy where all they give is their labour for nothing in return and how is this the “Brighter Future”?

  4. Add in Ann Tolley there, and there is potentially excellent material for an aspiring producer to create a sitcom. A series based on four 30…40… well late 30 to 50 something women, and their adventures within the Wellington political scene. They could call it Mean in the City. OK, it wouldn’t be so much a sitcom, as it is difficult to imagine too many laughs from this lot, however, it would suit those more into black humor.

  5. There is no poverty in NZ, only poorly spent support by leeches that are only good for breeding. Time this country awoke to the foul left whinging. Everyone here has a equal slice of the cake, some work and succeed, others leech and breed!

    • IGM, totally agree with what you said about “poorly spent support BY leeches that are only good for breeding”. If it were up to me the sanctimonious, smug, greedy, self serving, privileged, parasites that you apparently represent would be sterilized at birth.

    • “Everyone has an equal slice of the cake”. What delusional world do you live in?

      And if you lived in the real New Zealand you would know plenty of people put in big hours for piss poor wages and as a result still cant succeed.

    • Oh my god your ignorance is unbearable! You need a lesson in compassion, in putting yourself in other peoples shoes, in empathy for those less fortunate than you,a selfish selfish ignorant mean person you are!

  6. Aaaargh that photo! I was just about to have lunch!

    Seriously, how can the likes of the three musketeers here ignore the numbers? 20% of the people don’t have enough to eat! let alone pay the soaring power bills (when power use is down??) and all the rest.

    It takes a special sort of anti-social psycho to ignore the reality and say “Poverty does not exist” and then claim that, ergo – there is nothing to fix. Those three have it in spades, along with the rest of NAct. Roll on September.

  7. FIIK why Labour won’t address this problem. I suspect it’s because the caucus all come from the middle classes and owe their elevation to the ranks of the rich to appeasing the “business community”, or something like that out. I think the doctrinal term for Labour’s decision to abandon its base (and its source of legitimacy to fly a “Labour” label) is “sell out” but I stand to be corrected by the theoreticians.

  8. Often we hear the argument that if we raise the minimum wage it will result on job losses.

    I used to believe this, I thought it would be just “common sense”. So I looked to see if it was so.

    Using data from NZ Statistics website for unemployment numbers and information from ACE on dates and amounts of minimum wage rises I charted unemployment rates and noted each wage rise.

    From 2000 to 2009 there were 10 increases in minimum wage rates. 6 of those 10 increases coincided with decreasing unemployment rates. 3 of 10 increases coincided with flat unemployment rates. Only 2 increases coincided with increases in unemployment.

    I concluded that the unemployment rate is more a function of the overall health of the economy and has no correlation to minimum pay rises.

    But then the right wing wouldn’t let a small matter of facts get in the way of a good argument.

    • Well said. We were also told that anti-smoking legislation will cause the demise of pubs and cafés. Never happened.

      We were told the “anti-smacking” (how I hate that term) legislation would result in an escalation of anti-social behaviour. Never happened.

      When people talk about the “trickle-down” effect, I liken it to giving someone a drink of beautiful fresh cool water. That has trickled down through thousands of people.

      I may not be an economist, but it strikes me that if we give more money to the rich, they won’t spend it because they don’t have to. Give more money to the poor, they’ll spend because they have to. That’s how you get more movement in the economy.

  9. While the old rhetoric remains unchallenge – “raising minimum wage leads to job losses”, “you can’t get good people without paying them $xxxxxx – they won’t work for less” , etc – the old ‘winners vs losers’ in the pay stakes will occur. Perhaps it will take an incoming government dealing with this with a cap for public servise salaries or tagging them to the lowest wage – or even looking at ALL wages in a public organisation and FAIRLY distributing them to all workers (may mean paycuts for those at the top, who can afford it). Fairer public wages COULD lead to fairer private wages.

  10. How far have we come? Once upon a time, not so very long ago, in New Zealand it only needed one income to house, feed and clothe a family. Now for many, two incomes is not enough. funny how the bar has shifted, and we have hardly even noticed.

  11. Kingi – I’ve noticed.
    I still find it hard to believe how New Zealand has fertile land and surrounded by sea, and only 4 something million people, yet most living here can’t afford what we produce.
    We should be the best fed people in the world!

  12. 30 years of neoliberalism, (which was slowed down, but not reversed, for nine years by the Clark-Cullen govt), but then greatly accelerated under this present regime, have destroyed the “egalitarian” society that we used to have.

    If we have three more years of the present policies, the egalitarian society will be irrepairably broken.

  13. Good article. Reinforcing what everyone already knows.
    There are so many poor people now that poverty is a common topic of conversation in NZ.

    It used to be, that you could only get a mortgage if your repayments were no more than 25% of your income.
    So working with this %:
    Rent for a fairly shabby 3 bedroom house (with landlord enforced restrictions on whether or not you can have pets, and how many children you can have staying overnight, or how many boarders you can have, and how often you must maintain the lawns and gardens blahblah, whether you have to pay the water rates etc)
    $360-380 a week – that’s approx 25% of $1450 weekly income.

    Who earns that much a week (Nett) while renting some capitalists revenue generator?

    Minimum wage is approx $510? a week (nett). So if you live in one of these landlord ‘almost a slum’ type dwelling and pay rent at $360-380 a week, then there isn’t much left over to have a life, and raise your children is there, and yet you are out there working 40 hours a week.

    So $510 nett weekly income, minus your ‘almost a slum’ rental, leaves you with $150 to $130 in your hand a week. And that means that your rent for your ‘almost slum’ is costing you approx 70% of your wages.
    I suppose that is fairly foremost in your mind while you’re out there working the first 70% of your working week just to pay your capitalist landlord.

    There is a huge damaging difference between the 25% (that the banks say to you is acceptable when applying for and turning you down for a mortgage) and the 70% (that the banks secretly say is acceptable for the landlord to charge for rent).

    This is the damage that the banks, the government, the insurance companies, and the real estate agents, and all the other greedy capitalists have done to NZ in their quest for profit.

    How do you actually go to work day after day knowing this. How do you get through your day? And why? How do you fed your family and pay your basic bills? Well of course you can’t.

    The beneficiary numbers decreased when they were axed for leaving the country, not because 21,000 NZ citizens suddenly found jobs, as indeed there are not 21,000 jobs available in NZ.
    I expect some of these people are now on sickness and invalids benefits because they lost the plot in their battle for survival in NZ.

    I expect some of them are also hiding in shame while living on the streets somewhere.

    The cycle of perpetual abuse by this government is disgusting. So disgusting.

    Ask anyone living on the street.
    Ask anyone on minimum wage slogging their guts out for their landlord.
    Ask anyone on sickness or invalids benefit how they manage to survive while being picked on and bullied by the very people who rip off IRD to the collective tune of billions of dollars a year.
    Ask these victims of this government if they have been humiliated enough yet.
    And ask them why they are on the sickness or invalids benefit. Odds are, they are dying from a terminal illness, or are a victim of violent and/or sexual crime, or have simply just lost the plot because they couldn’t survive no matter how hard they tried, or they were rehabilitated (bullied and bludgeoned) off their legitimate ACC income onto the sickness or invalids benefit.
    Ask them why they are always sick.
    Ask them what it was that made them lose all hope for their future.
    Just ask them all; all the hundreds of thousands of victims of this absolutely disgusting nest feathering capitalist Nazi styled dictatorship government. I was going to say ..government of ‘ours’, but it’s not actually a government of ‘ours’ any more – it’s a government of ‘me’s’ now.

    There is not much worse you can do in your life than to take on a position of responsibility in government to look out for, and protect all the citizens, and then turn it into a killing machine as has happened (by design) with this government – a ‘hope killing machine’.

    It is all far too disgusting.
    My heart goes out to all the victims of this government. I feel so sorry for them all.
    This ‘hope killing machine’ that is led and designed by this government would be the fastest growing industry in NZ.
    It makes me so sad.

    All this evil must go! It must go away. And it needs to go away now.
    NZ people need love, and hope for a future.

    Opinion and belief.

    • Just makes me fucking angry- not sad..and how my posts have longer have tolerance ..or mercy towards the perpetrators….

      These arswipes are on the butt end of 30 years of legalised theft of workers wages through embedded legislation , ……..starting with such Acts as the Employment Contracts then Employment Relations Act ,…and many other ‘legal’ rip off bullshit legislation contrived by Business Roundtable snakes.

      Thouroughly permeating and brainwashing the last few generations with their insidious bullshit…their cues taken by Mont Pelerin society dogma…

      Thier political agenda tantamount to treason through the very adherance to ‘globalism’….nations without borders with their fucking bullshit TTPA ….now , more than ever..we need to rid ourselves of these treasonous bastards.

      • Yes WK.
        Treason it is! And the TPPA also confirms this!

        I reckon there will be mass riots if National get back in. So they had better not!
        Although a riot or two might help the many poor and/or abused get rid of some of their well justified anger – at the people who deserve it!

        Opinion and belief.

  14. We need to end the housing market. It’s that simple.

    We need to create some system where people can route around rent/mortgage slavery. It needs to be something that happens in spite of government, not because of it (because the government is essentially our enemy – it’s an administration of occupation on behalf of rich corporations).

    I’d be guessing it’ll be something like new-tech ultra-cheap housing (eg: open-source-home project, hexayurts etc) on communally bought land… a bit like the quaker settlement in Wanganui – which is for the record, beautiful.

    Like legalising drugs gutting the profits of criminals, this will gut the profits of land-owners and banks, and save entire generations of people from being forced (like roman slaves) to work 3/4s of their lives to be “free”.

    In addition to this, a land value tax, which funds a UBI might help. We shouldn’t be taxing labour at all, we should be taxing unearned income – eg: rent, usury, licence-fees, natural resource exploitation… but mainly land.

    Nothing gets fixed without land reform.

  15. Great article; funnily enough it resonates with the politico article recently written by a top 1%er

    “It happened because we reminded the masses that they are the source of growth and prosperity, not us rich guys. We reminded them that when workers have more money, businesses have more customers—and need more employees. We reminded them that if businesses paid workers a living wage rather than poverty wages, taxpayers wouldn’t have to make up the difference.”

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