GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – 10 years since the Child Poverty documentary, what’s changed?


Almost 10 years ago I made a documentary called Inside Child Poverty.

Some people (largely members of John Key’s government) got very angry with me. I was a left wing pinko journo making this stuff up in an election year. There was no such thing as “Child Poverty” and “even if there was,” said then MP and Minister Paula Bennett you couldn’t measure it.

Well a group of academics at the invitation of the then Commissioner for Children proved you COULD measure it. And in the last Labour Government we saw the establishment of what I called for at the end of my programme – a Ministry for Children.

While I’m pleased to see that some things have changed for the better – eg free medical care for children under 14 a lot of things haven’t.

Housing is still a huge issue.

TDB Recommends

235,400 children (21 children in every 100) are living in households with disposable income below 50% of the median income after housing costs.

In the 2018 census there were 282,228 children in Aotearoa who lived in damp housing and 237,543 in housing with mould.

3 in every 10 of our lowest income families still spend over half their income on rent .
Over half (53%) of low-income one-adult households with dependent children spent more than $40 per $100 income on housing costs, and nearly 4 in 10 (37%) experienced very high housing stress in spending more than $50 per $100 income on housing.

77,976 under-18 year olds without access to one or more basic household amenities such as safe tap water, cooking and washing up facilities, a bath or shower, a toilet, a refrigerator or a supply of electricity.

An estimated 4,212 under-18 year olds missed out on most of the seven basic amenities (4 per 1,000 with 1-3 amenities available) and an estimated 4,833 children lived in dwellings with no amenities (5 per 1,000).

Prime Minister Ardern once said we should keep her government accountable if it did not make significant progress in this all important area of Child Poverty.

Well, let me give this government some feed back.

Progress on Child Poverty is not good enough by a long way.

Calling for reports on taxation and welfare and then ignoring their recommendations fools no one .

This Labour government has been given a clear mandate for progressive change. It needs to deliver if it wants to stay in power because right now on the issue of Child Poverty their report card reads…

“Could do much better. If really tried”.

PS . If you want a reliable source of information on the issue of Child Poverty in our country please read the 2020 Child Poverty Monitor which you can find here:

Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.


  1. ” This Labour government has been given a clear mandate for progressive change ”
    No Bryan sadly it hasn’t.
    There was no campaign for change at the election because Labour never campaigned promising a progressive mix of policies that would be needed to remedy the many poverty related problems New Zealand has.
    Most Kiwis supported two things ( referendums aside ) safe management of the pandemic and the free market status quo.
    The policies needed to seriously tackle our systemic problems Adern her colleagues and the establishment will not allow it.
    Its all about the people above the $50,000 a year mark and that’s a conservative figure and there are many out there who thanks to inflated salaries are living very comfortably and their only awareness of poverty related issues is what they hear and read on the news.
    While our country is controlled by neo liberalism there will never be any meaningful change with regards to the deprivation that is tolerated in this country.
    The media and politicians who luxuriate with their huge salaries pay only lip service to the human misery you and many of us at the TDB talk about.
    Ten years !! and nothing has really changed and it won’t.
    We have come to expect that poverty and its problems are here to stay that is a reality of our free market hands off economy.
    If New Zealanders wanted to act to address the real cause’s of poverty they would be demanding and pressuring the government to act.
    I see no evidence that they will.

    • Spot on, mosa.

      I should add that with the world ‘falling apart’ we must expect the stampede of reasonably well-off people entering NZ to increase, putting even more pressure on crumbling infrastructure and overstretched social services.

      Obviously Jacinda is ‘very comfortable’ with what’s going on. As you say, if she wasn’t, she would do something about it.

      It’ s the same with respect to all the fundamental issues, like the Ponzi financial system, the fake economic indexes, the critical state of the energy sector, the collapsing environment: Jacinda is very comfortable with all of them. Why would she be, with her salary, perks and blissful ignorance?

      I can hardly wait for the shit to really hit the fan (which it will very soon) -and watch her flounder, or resign ‘for family reasons, coward that she is.

  2. Neoliberalism is in it’s full throttle.

    After overloading public services with demand, employing idiots to do policy and not plan for any risks from disease, biodiversity risks and economic, time to sell NZ’s assets cheap by the loyal neoliberals who love and run the schemes.

    ‘Pretty rugged times’: Auckland local boards to decide fate of assets

    Government farmer Landcorp puts 11,650 hectares of NZ land on the market

    NZ policy working as planned. Many lefties seem to be helping them by advocating increasing demand on the public systems of NZ and thinking that tax changes will solve everything. Look around, Covid and Droughts don’t worry about taxes! UK has huge taxes on everything but is a basket case. Time to plan now about what will happen in 10 years, 20 years, 100 years.. what will NZ look like for it’s people and how much of NZ will be owned by overseas corporations who set the rules run internationally by others for their interests …

  3. Yes, and as others have said, its not an issue of child poverty, its one of parent poverty.

    The 1990’s to present.

    From the Employment Contracts Act 1991 when those that could,… left NZ for Australia,- to visa scams and immigrants and employers blatantly breaking our labour laws with impunity. From foreign speculation on our housing markets,- to uncontrolled cheap immigrant labour to fill the void of those that left in their prime working years to Australia creating more pressure on housing. From asset stripping and making large numbers redundant and forcing the remaining skeleton crews to work longer for less, – to the steady undermining of trade unions and the award rates under the maggot John Key and his bullying of the actors union. And many other unions he could target.

    Maggots. Such a great and apt descriptor for this 36 year long and steady parade of neo liberal wretches who some would call our ‘Prime Ministers and MP’s’.


    They are NZ’s very own Oliver Cromwell’s who invaded us in 1984.

    Young Ned Of The Hill – The Pogues

  4. Many of us believed Ardern when she said that climate change was her generation’s nuclear moment. We now know that that was pr hype. But when she said that eradicating child poverty was her number one goal, even I knew that it was a major systemic problem, easier said than done, and not just a matter of dishing out money to the poor. Whether Ardern knew that, and has since changed focus, she has not clarified, but saying that they are “on top of it,” or sumsuch, does nothing to alleviate the grim reality of too many kids’ lives, and the despair of those who do care, and who see no good reason for children being damaged.

  5. Climate change , poverty and neo liberal fix it solutions to the housing crisis and other serious problems will not work.

    If Adern and the rest of the cabinet had a conscience or a thread of decency they would resign.

    But they won’t of course as part of the privileged class with the super and other perks they are insulated from the extreme causes of deprivation.

  6. How worthwhile to die for the neediest. Grantandjacinda (Labour), whatsup?

    Mebbe you put Helen Clarkian scared-of-your-own-shadow politics before what’s needed. There’s nothing there anymore.

    Sure your fiends read this.

    I don’t know who you two are. Just know you’ll go on with glowing CVs like Helen Clark. My CV I’m proud to say is pounding shit.


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