Over the last eight years debt in New Zealand has grown substantially with little thought given by the Government to how it might contain this growing problem. With rent, house prices and other living costs on the way up New Zealanders are being squeezed at the till, by the tax man and to a lesser extent by local councils.
When I was on social welfare in 2000-2007, my benefit gave me $180 in the hand each week. After paying board to my parents I was left with $100 in the hand. With a part time job at a supermarket working 12 hours a week, I was able to (just!)afford to go to University with university fees costing an average of N.Z.$4,300 per year from July 2000 to December 2006.
I could not do that today. A semester doing geography papers at the University of Canterbury would swallow $4,300 in the first semester. I am guessing $200-250 a week rent now – which would have given access to a pretty decent flat in 2000 – would now be fairly cheap.
I find it ironic that the party that says the market knows best is enabling so-called market economics to push prices of basic commodities out of the reach of ordinary New Zealanders. The sentiment that we work harder than ever, for less return than ever has some statistical backing to it. The Consumer Price Index from one year to the next increased roughly 2% every year between December 2007 and December 2014.
The average house price in New Zealand has increased in the twelve months starting October 2015, by 12% from $552,000 to $622,000. In Auckland the average house price is $1,209,000 compared with $1,079,000 a year ago. In Christchurch the increase was somewhat slower, but still reached nearly 5% going from $476,000 to $498,000 in the same period.
Incomes for those on or near the minimum wage have not increased substantially in the last few years. Although I get a bonus from one month to the next if I meet criteria, my pay per hour from 2014-2016 has gone up N.Z.$0.63. Despite continuing my education with a hope of getting a local council job (where starting pay for most clerical roles is no less than $44,000 per annum), I am like many who train and retrain at the suggestion of those further up the ladder; work harder and try to work smarter but see no appreciable gain and wonder why.
Who I vote for in 2017 will be partially governed by which party does the most to improve the lot of low income earners.