Inequality, answer to housing crisis and Pacific islanders sense of Kiwiness
As the housing crisis and homeless debate rage in the corridors of parliament, newspaper columns and airwaves, low income New Zealanders are doing it tough.
Pasifika is copping the majority of the political apathy from National over the housing crisis, while the lack of power to do much about it is glaringly evident from multiple announcements issued by the newly formed Labour and Green partnership.
One thing that can be agreed upon though is that Pacific islanders are virtually worth less – and that has come about due to policies cutting a wide swathe across New Zealand’s social spectrum.
At the end of June 2016, Statistics New Zealand released new data regarding the distribution of net wealth across different groups in the country. European household have a median net worth of NZ$114,000, while Asian households at NZ$33,000 and Maori at NZ$23,000, are better off than Pacific islanders who are at the bottom with a median net worth of only NZ$12,000.
Labour’s Pacific spokesperson Su’a William Sio pinned one of the causal factors for this low net worth to the fall in the rate of home ownership which for Pasifika is the greatest for any of the main ethnic groups – from 34.8 per cent to 18.5 per cent.
Su’a also pointed to a related statistic confirming 10 per cent of New Zealanders holding nearly 60 per cent of the country’s wealth as another reason why Pasifika households are struggling to cope. Many with increased rents and “why we see more and more families living in garages, emergency housing, or in overcrowded boarding houses.
“Those places were not designed for families. They were designed to house seasonal workers, couples without children, released offenders and those with mental illnesses.”
Su’a’s point is this, “If we don’t put a stop to these falling home ownership rates and increasing homelessness for Pacific people, inequality will widen as the poor get poorer and the rich get richer.”
It is clear that this government does not prioritise social housing or the homeless which is why they have not been able to fix the problem said Su’a. But it is only one of the many such social problems that together are collectively suffocating Pacific islanders and other vulnerable New Zealanders into a life of misery.
“The reality dawning on Kiwis is they are stuck in these situations purely as a direct consequence of the National government’s policies.
“But the good news is those policies can be changed, and the only way that will happen is when there is a change in government,” says Su’a William Sio.
That may be good news to Su’a but those living in the reality are doing it rough. But if the next elections are just over a year away and people need some good news to hold onto then Labour’s priority to come up with a cross cutting solution to the many related problems faced by vulnerable Kiwis – to reduce inequality – could be worth the wait.
“Reducing inequality should be the number one priority of this Government. It is taking away opportunity and undermining the economic and social security of our country,” according to Labour’s finance spokesman Grant Robertson who told media that inequality was getting worse under National.
“The ramifications of inequality have become clear in recent days in the Brexit vote and also in the way the US presidential primaries have played out. One of the consequences of inequality is that it creates a large group of disenfranchised people who feel forgotten and alienated. They then become easy targets for peddlers of fear and hate.”
The Labour MPs comments have merit. On April 20 this year, a collaborative paper, published online in The Lancet, examined indices of health of Indigenous and tribal people globally.
What the report concluded was that “it makes no difference where you live if you are Indigenous—you will be worse off health-wise, regardless of the economic status of that country.”
The reason it stated for why that happens “is related to poverty, poor education levels, employment status, and access to health services, and whether Indigenous people are actually counted, which they are not in some countries.”
It highlighted the fact that “even in well resourced countries such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, Indigenous peoples still experience substantial gaps of more than 5 years in life expectancy points to the detrimental effects of persistent social disadvantage.5
“The sources of these inequities are:
- in the (1) social structural and (2) political arrangements that are part of the enduring legacies of colonisation, and
- the creation of the nation states that profoundly reshaped the conditions of Indigenous peoples’ lives and communities.
“Understanding the consequences of this history and the current dynamics of marginalisation is essential for the development of effective social policy and public health interventions.”
The report concluded: “If the ill health of Indigenous populations stems not just from exposure to … continuing deprivation due to unfair distribution of resources, but also the absence of recognition of their cultural identity and political autonomy, then solutions need to be sought not only in redistribution, but also in social, cultural, and political recognition.”
It is these components that Labour’s Pacific spokesperson says the Party is willing to take on board in order to address inequality and provide a common New Zealand platform for all its citizens to have a chance at a quality way of life; as well as access to opportunities to explore their potentials.