Waatea News Column: Letting beneficiaries suffer during a pandemic is no solution


We have much to be grateful about regarding Jacinda’s calm and graceful leadership during this latest crisis.

Her sense of decency saw us through the Christchurch massacre, a volcanic eruption and now a pandemic. Her immediate instinct was to assure New Zealander’s that she will do everything to look after us during this unprecedented event.

She has looked after business, workers and even put $25 extra per week into the benefit, but valid criticism can still be made at the manner in which WINZ, & MSD are still treating beneficiaries.

This Government are too frightened to take on the toxic culture in WINZ and force real change so that the welfare of beneficiaries is more important than the welfare of MSD.

Labour have failed to implement 40 of the 42 recommendations the recent Welfare Expert Advisory Group put in front of them and the toxic culture legacy has seen beneficiaries waiting all day on the poorly staffed 0800 numbers often finding more pointless red tape for them to wade through to gain access to help.

WINZ is purposely built to be difficult and obtrusive to use so as to put off desperate and vulnerable people from accessing benefits. When there is a stampede of need for access, the way we are seeing with this pandemic, that purposely built difficulty of access creates vast log jams and gridlock within a system that isn’t designed to say yes in a way that alleviates stress.

If anything, WINZ is there to manufacture a sense of unease and fear.

The draconian measures put in place to sate angry National Party voters who see only bludgers and shameful solo mothers are making a stressful time even more worrying.

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If Labour don’t find the courage to challenge the toxic culture of WINZ and wipe all draconian policy, desperate and vulnerable people will start hurting themselves and others as the pandemic’s economic effects start to impact lives.

The politics of kindness mean nothing if the poorest amongst us aren’t protected from the fallout of this pandemic.

First published on Waatea News.


  1. News today that some hyperventilating lobby doctors are pressuring the government into making facemasks compulsory out in public. I think the public is getting a bit sick of doctors’ demands. Firstly why should a facemask be worn when someone is exercising alone or just going outdoors in the middle of nowhere? It’s ridiculous, a capitalist scheme taking advantage of the situation. The virus has been around for weeks if not months now and the country has been in lockdown for more than a week, so am I missing something? Is this another pandemic afterthought/add-on? And just how are beneficiaries or anyone for that matter going to afford this waste of money and environment when the masks are going for a premium online? They are needed by medical staff in high risk areas such as operations rather than as streetwear. And once facemasks are made compulsory outside will they be required indoors, even when you are showering and sleeping? How long will we be required to wear a mask in public? Forever, or whenever disease is eradicated from the Earth, whichever comes first? Were already seeing mission creeps take advantage of this lockdown (I wouldn’t be surprised if shops continue to militarize stores and restrict access to food, products and services long after this sickness has abated). I’m just trying to picture Jacinda doing her press conferences in a mask like some dystopian play. If the predictions are correct and a third of the workforce becomes unemployed then facemasks will be the least of people’s problems.

  2. @ Bomber, Your Jacinda crush might be laid on too thick. Yes she is better than Natz, but all the solutions so far seem to be just throwing money around.

    I’d like to see genuine change for power to the people and having more control over their lives (aka UBI for creative people for example like The Netherlands) than just the usual giving Fletchers and Downer, Fulton Hogan more taxes money to pay for roads and unnecessary buildings upgrades using migrant workforce that they bought in as they can’t be bothered working out why locals don’t want to work for them. Likewise handouts to Rio Tinto that drive up the cost of power for others, Air NZ that got $900 million loan but apparently is laying everyone off?????)

    (Fun fact, had a friend who worked for one of the above firms, they were on NZ$40k and it was hard to live on that, so they went overseas and were offered a A$120k package for the same job. Low wages means that the brightest leave NZ and contribute to overseas firms instead).

    NZ corporate firms survive using their approach of low wages and poor skills, while relying on NZ taxes propping up their business model with WFF and free health, education and residency for new low paid workers and current workers. It is not a skills shortage happening in NZ, it is a genuine wage and poor conditions shortage that crate our dysfunctional society here.)

    Have seen little sign that Jacinda has any understanding of that.

  3. To make benefits work, wages need to be higher so that they are actually considered work, not slave labour.

    There needs to be more protection from redundancy and being laid off that is simple to understand for all. At present there is a bad situation for both workers and employers where people can be laid off with little compensation on a whim of management only for the management to rehire and then complain they can’t get workers. Doh! Government fails to notice the link between local redundancies and the same sectors braying for migrant workers to come here because they can’t get anybody!

    When companies treat workers badly they often don’t want to work in that industry. This has been highlighted in many areas like bus driving https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/115060711/driving-a-bus-used-to-be-a-career-now-its-a-last-resort-job, telecom workers https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/368213/chorus-subcontractors-exploiting-immigrant-workers (directly related to the government allowing Chorus to force their local workers to be subcontractors and then using the new underpaid workforce to undercut other business for government contracts, thus driving the poorer standards across the industry).

    The result is exactly what you could predict in NZ. Our transport, telecom services and construction and pollution and lifestyles here are dysfunctional, more people are in poverty and on benefits.

    Meanwhile the most exploitative companies and worst industries are profiting from that by undercutting other business, while needing to bring more workers into NZ to prop up their exploitative business practise.

    Note the exploitation STARTED with the local workers of these industries and companies but we never hear anything about that from unions who seem to have a brain fade of history! The original workers are now on benefits or under employed but disenfranchised from the dysfunctional industries. Those were the original victims which is not widely understood how many people got on un/underemployment or are now part of the working poor that need benefits and government top ups to survive in an industry that should be paying a hell of a lot more to their workers!

  4. The obsequious, fawning, flattery of Cindy is stomach churning.

    Most of our attention and support should be going to small and medium business and the self employed. These are the people watching the fruits of their hard work evaporating. Mentally and financially these are the people we need to be in a state to pick themselves up off the floor and get the economy moving again.

  5. I go to National Party meetings and see people who belong to Lions or Rotary volenteering to raise money to help those without .Of course there are comments made about those who are taking the piss and playing the system but these were no different from the comments made by the warehouse staff where i worked who were generally Labour voters.
    At one stage of my life I had a very sick wife and needed to go on a benefit as I was here care and looking after 2 children.This was in 85 and it seems WINZ staff are just as unpleasent and unhelpful as they were then. I am an educated white person and I saw how different I was treated to the Maori and Islanders. After months of struggle I found a staff member who cared and told me all the benefits I should have had right from the start. It must be a hard job and they are giving away tax payers money but the system needs to be fair for all

  6. Hmm? 80% is $585/week and been paid to the soon to be unemployed, a pre-benefit applicants payment? Why are beneficiaries receiving 30%?

    • Because Denny, you being out of work due to permanent Govt policies is all your own fault – but being out of work due to temporary Govt policy isn’t your fault.

      • Who’s out of work Dick? Its a point of ‘fact’ I was making and that it creates poverty, about 240,000 kids and $1 billion of debt.
        Think about that for a while and if you can solve that equation. Its not a difficult one.

        You’ll be eating those very words when there are no jobs for the majority of people.
        Your little misguided theory will be blown apart in no time.

        A “D” minus for effort and IQ Dick. Must try harder.

  7. As at December 2019, 314,508 – or about 10.5 per cent of working-age people – received a main benefit, according to the Ministry of Social Development.

    Key word there “working age”
    So many..quite content to live off the hardworking backs of others, and then have the audacity to demand more so the alarm clock never needs setting for life!

    As they say: “socialism is great, until you run out of other people’s money”

    And before the slaughter of my opinion begins. Let me just say…I fully support full socialized healthcare for the simple reasoning that a healthy citizen should make for fully productive working citizen. Need that operation? Sure no worries!

  8. When … $4.8b paid out in the last 2 weeks, more than is usually paid out in unemployment and sole-parent benefits in an entire year!

    This makes up bugger all of the $26b Welfare budget of which the balance of the WB is; Superannuation ($13b), Accommodation Supplement($1.2b). The rest is made up of employer subsidies and Student Loans which should be on the MOE books.
    Cleanout the employer subsides who are usually ‘bottom-feeder’ employers will enable beneficiaries more than the 30% of a living wage in their pocket to support themselves into work if there are any jobs after this recession/depression ahead of us.

    • April 1: The adult minimum wage will increase $1.20 from $17.70 to $18.90/hr, 1 April 2020.

      The average hourly rate for a beneficiary is about $5.50/hr. It ‘could’ be increased to $7.00 if the Gestapo employed by MSD/WINZ dont withhold any of your entitlements arbitrarily or just decide to discriminate against you?

      Working in this sector for years, you kinda know that the system is fuck’d and people, beneficiaries are treated as second class citizens or worse.

      With about 100,000 people about to get a taste …. thats about 3.5 electorate seats. Will these wankers, the Labour government do anything?

      Cancel the $1b of debt, increase the benefit to within 95% of the minimum wage.
      Eliminate poverty and bottom feeder employers. There will always be another coffee shop that can afford to pay a living wage when you remove the worst employers from society.

      • 100% Agree
        Remove the relationship rule
        Remove the 2nd opinion crap and allow people whose doctors request they get the supported living payment who have long term illnesses get it with out having to go through mental and physical torture to get it.
        To many people are being driven to consider suicide or actually commit suicide because of winz’s mental torture.

  9. Good News!

    HNZ/Kainga Ora tenants rent will not be increased because of the benefit increase of $25/wk as of 1 April.

  10. “She has looked after business, workers and even put $25 extra per week into the benefit, but valid criticism can still be made at the manner in which WINZ, & MSD are still treating beneficiaries.”

    FFS, the government knows full well that many beneficiaries will never see those 25 dollars talked about in their propaganda, as many need temporary additional support or the old special benefit. Those additional benefit components are CUT once the main benefit goes up by 25 dollars.

    This is business as usual, and that is NOT the fault of WINZ. The system is rotten, the government and Sepuloni know this, but they do little about it.

    Kind words do not put the bread and butter on the table, I am afraid, hence the ever increasing demand for food parcels.

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