Policy Watch October 2019

Captain Cook has only ever been 25% of this story. The other 75% is the story of discovery and exploration that our ancestors made 500-700 years before Cook turned up.

Master waka navigator Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr (Tainui) and co-chair of Tuia 250 Committee

Welcome to the latest Policy Watch e-letter highlighting the latest news, research and policy developments relevant to NZCCSS’ core mission to work for a just and compassionate society in Aotearoa New Zealand.

We begin this edition with recognition of Tuia ki Whangaparāoa and the series of events running around the country to celebrate 1000 years of voyaging heritage among Māori, Pacific and European, from October to December 2019.

Tuia ki Whangaparāoa seeks to rebalance history and celebrate the navigating skills and maritime technology of Māori and Pacific peoples, alongside those of European navigators.  A key event is the Tuia 250 Voyage flotilla sailing around Aotearoa New Zealand for three months, which began in Gisborne (8th October). Vessels include:

Tuia ki Whangaparāoa is also a commemoration of the first onshore encounters between Māori and Pākehā in 1769–70. This part of the event has understandably raised strong emotions for Māori, including those direct descendants of the nine Māori men killed by sailors on the Endeavour.

We cannot change history, the colonisation that began with this first encounter, or the impact on Māori communities that has been beyond measure. But as a nation we can stand together, move beyond one-sided narratives and hear the full story of events that occurred. As Dame Anne Salmond puts it, “When you are faced with something that has caused a lot of hurt and harm, if you just ignore it you are allowing that wound to fester. But looking at history is not just about looking at the past, it is about thinking what sort of country we are and what kind of country we’d like to be”.

There are 50 projects in total and an impressive range of educational resources to support this unique event. Log onto the events page and find out what’s happening in your region, read the stories, and let’s start a new conversation on the future of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Food insecurity, distress and wellbeing: New report

On World Food Day (16th October 2019), the Auckland City Mission released new research that identified links between food insecurity and wellbeing. The research was based on a survey of 650 people who used the Mission’s foodbank and was led by Helen Robinson, the Mission’s General Manager of Social Services, who completed the research as part of her Master’s studies. The research found that overwhelmingly single mothers’ were most likely to experience food insecurity, with Māori and Pacific over-represented in this group. The demographic of food insecurity is not new but the association with distress and poor wellbeing strengthens calls to urgently address this inequity.

NZCCSS Executive Officer, Trevor McGlinchey, attended the launch of the report, and said food poverty was not just affecting Aucklanders. Groups around the country are telling him that demand for food is growing. “when money was tight, food always came last”.

The Auckland City Mission is partnering with other agencies in other centers to repeat the survey at a national level, with the results available November.

The City Mission has called for action in four areas:

  • Hold an annual survey to gather information about how adults and children are affected by food insecurity
  • Develop a national food strategy giving vision and direction, cohesion and coordination to ensure everyone has enough appropriate food
  • Consider women-oriented interventions, such as raising the level of the sole parent support payment, and providing further financial assistance to women raising children
  • Raise income levels.
Review on fraud investigations

The Ministry of Social development (MSD) has released its ‘internal assessment in response to the Privacy Commissioners scathing report on MSD’s systematic misuse of its powers while pursuing people it suspected of benefit fraud.

MSD’s assessment identified a lack of ongoing training for experienced investigators, weak oversight, as a well as a failure to regularly review and update policies and procedures. However, serious concerns remain about whether the beneficiaries who were the targets of potentially unlawful investigations will receive any redress given few of them knew their personal information was been scrutinised by MSD.

Government surplus: show us the money!

The Treasury has published the latest financial statement for 2018/19 – and given the Coalition Government and the ‘economy’ a clean bill of health, with a $7.5 billion surplus (although some commentator say this is around $3.9 billion in real terms), and a reduction in Crown debt. The question now on everyone’s lips is how will the surplus be spent? Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr has given the green light for Government to stimulate the economy. And there is no end of social deficits to address as we can see in our earlier items. The government has a vision to improve the wellbeing of all New Zealanders. Public money is available, so will this government be bold and target those children and families who need it the most?

The poorest rank up $550 million debt to government

A staggering $550 million is owed to the Ministry for Social Development for recoverable hardship assistance and grants – up more than $100 million on what it was four years ago.What does this tell us? Little has changed. The poorest among us continue to struggle to afford life’s basics (i.e. housing, food, car repairs, school uniforms) and are trapped into a cycle of debt. Incomes levels of our poorest families, including benefits rates, must go up if debt to MSD is to go down.  An increase to benefit rates was one of the key recommendations made by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group in their report::Whakamana Tāngata. Meanwhile, calls are growing for government to cancel this debt but it doesn’t look like this will happen any time soon, despite a surplus of 7.5 billion. Minister Sepuloni has been very clear government will not change hardship rules to make debt grounds for hardship write offs.

Electricity Price Review

The government has released its response to the final Electricity Price Review Report . The independent review of the electricity system was set up in April 2018 to investigate whether the electricity market was delivering a fair and affordable electricity to customers.  A key part of the review is to address energy hardship and the government has a raft of recommendations to address this. Phasing out of the fixed low user charge has raised some contention but government argues the low fixed daily charge should go because it is poorly targeted and while it helps some customers, it disadvantages many low-income consumers. This is a key report that has potential to drive down electricity prices and go some way to alleviate electricity hardship.

What’s on

CPAG Summit (10 November 2019) – Whakamana Tāngata: Where to from here?

This year’s CPAG social welfare summit, being held in Wellington on 18 November, offers Government and stakeholders some answers to the question: when it comes to reducing child poverty, where to from here? Join CPAG and friends, and hear from the experts speaking at our Summit about how we can make Aotearoa a better place for children and families – and how this Government can be convinced to make the bold steps to achieve the transformational impact it promised.

Making Children’s Rights Real in Aotearoa New Zealand: CRC reporting workshop, Wellington

Hosted by the Children’s Rights Alliance Aotearoa (formerly Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa (ACYA))

  • Where: St John’s Centre Conference Venue, 129 Dixon Street,Wellington, CBD
  • When: Wednesday 30 October, 10:00am – 12:30pm, registration, tea and coffee, and a light morning tea starts at 9:30am

This workshop is a chance to be part of the children’s rights reporting process. It is for civil society: all individuals, community groups, and NGOs who are interested in working together to protect and promote children’s rights in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Register here via eventbriteFor more information please contact Jacqui Southey, Secretary, jacqui.southey@scnz.org.nz 

 

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