The New Zealand social emergency created by National

As we move further into the first term of the new Government, it is starting to become clear that there is a significant crisis in New Zealand society. The issues fuelling this crisis are numerous and varied, and none started on the watch of the recently ousted National-led Government. But in nine years in office these symptoms advanced far enough that combined they now pose an immediate and direct threat to New Zealand society.

National has in effect created a social emergency. The failure to address despite repeated warnings that there were problem emerging with housing, health, social welfare and justice have combined to create conditions where the so called market has left behind sections of New Zealand society whose deprivation is feeding social decay.

The conditions created consist of a combination of contributing factors. They include but are not limited to:

  • Drug addled neighbourhoods with police struggling to contain the epidemic of methamphetamine, synthetic cannabis and other harmful substances
  • Absentee parents/caregivers and a break down of parental/caregiver responsibility
  • Rampant truancy and young people leaving school with no qualifications, and no jobs or training to go to
  • School children living in inadequate housing, constantly having to move and living in conditions that are not compliant with basic human rights or housing law
  • Housing rents eating up money for food, clothes, medical expense – children go to school hungry and/or distracted

The problems start in the home or at school, but often end in a police cell. The following is a brief synopsis of how a person might go downhill. I am not suggesting that all people in such circumstances will experience this – indeed there are many fantastic parents who care very much, who go without themselves and try to be a positive influence in their child’s life, but in socio-economically deprived neighbourhoods, this is a real issue.

In the first instance at home or school, they have no food and often start the day on an empty stomach, are irritable or distracted. A failure to be settled in one spot for any length of time will mean the child has trouble settling in at school, distracted by problems at home. Over time this may fuel other problems, because the student will start getting into trouble, picking fights, associating with the wrong crowd. At home the parent/caregiver might be working long hours to make sure there is enough money to pay rent and will not be at home at critical times such as when they have homework or need underage supervision, so the children start misbehaving. At school the teachers realize that the person or people in question have a discipline problem. Homework is not being done, and the student is disruptive, argumentative. It begins to escalate with children missing school and truancy officers picking them up. At this point, the child is at an intersection in their life. At this stage the choice is stark. The child unless there is substantial intervention by the parent, the school and potentially social social workers will either leave or wind up being expelled from school with poor prospects for the future.

It never needed to be like this. And the long term cost to society, the economy and the people who know the child are substantial. If s/he devolves into drugs, then a life of crime and prison awaits. If s/he tries to turn themselves around their past – especially if a criminal history is involved – may catch up with them and hinder their future development.

This is why there is a significant and dangerous poverty issue in New Zealand. It has the potential to fuel illegal substances, crime, violence and gangs, none of which are welcome or wanted. All of which are horrendously destructive and all of which we need to shut down.

2 thoughts on “The New Zealand social emergency created by National

  1. You are quite right Robert in your essay, but you have described the ideal situation for children as a wealthy Pakeha one.
    Everyone wants the best for their Children and yes, you have described the failings.
    Commentators say that we should pay better wages, the living wage. Now that does not mean that that extra money will be spent responsibly, on food, clothing and school materials, nor might it cover more than the rent.
    You say that parents should help with homwork. Now many immigrant parents are unable to do that because of migrant language difficulties, and many parents simply do not have enough education themselves to be able to help.

    You say the the families move their accomodation often.
    How should we fix this?
    I contend that we should have a Pacific solution.
    Provide state housing accomodation for whanau rather than nuclear family. Older generations present for guidance and supervision. More adults to contribute to rent. More flexibility for wage earners to be away from home.
    Provide FREE before and after school sessions, with quality FOOD for All children in need. Kids start school with a meal, homework is seen to after school. Kids are supervised while parents are still at work. Added benefit of jobs for young people helping here as the job does not need university trained educational qualifications.
    Yes, I know the operational grant for schools would have to be increased, but that is a pragmatic solution.


  2. Now, I cannot see why the premises af all schools, which are already paid for, by the taxpayer, should not be used before 8.30 or 9am and after 2.30, 3, or 3.30 pm etc.
    And schools in the UK provide a meal for their school children, why not us?


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