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Poverty Watch 23

Written By: - Date published: 7:55 am, March 16th, 2013 - 31 comments
Categories: national, poverty - Tags:

Just a brief Poverty Watch today, before we start on the report from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner next week.

It’s very (very!) encouraging to see the number of perceptive, committed, compassionate young people that we have in NZ. The Net and other technology have given them tools to organise, and get their voices heard, that previous generations never had. And they’re making use of the opportunities! One inspiring organisation is Generation Zero, which has an environmental focus. Another is the P3 Foundation, which addresses poverty:

P3 Foundation is a youth-led, New Zealand based charity that inspires and empowers young people to eradicate extreme poverty in the Asia-Pacific.

Our organisation is made up of 130 young, passionate and committed volunteers who are driven by a collective desire to see the end of poverty within this generation. …

Why Are We Doing This?

1.4 billion people throughout the world are currently living in extreme poverty.

This means that they have less than NZD 2.25 per day to cover all essential living costs.

Those who live in these conditions do not have access to the most basic of needs: health care, clean water, food, peace, education – and the opportunity to pursue their dreams. At P3 we believe that this is unacceptable and that as a society, we are morally obligated to take a stand and do something to change this.

We also believe that it is in the best interests of each and every one of us to promote economic and social developments so that together, we can create a better world for everyone who is a part of it. After all, every person deserves the chance the follow their dreams.

P3 are thinking outside NZ, and thinking big! If only we had governments that were up to challenge. Check out the P3 web site for a list of projects, and information about volunteering. Thank you P3.


Here’s the standard footnote. Poverty (and inequality) were falling (albeit too slowly) under the last Labour government.   Now they are on the rise again, in fact a Waikato University professor says that poverty is our biggest growth industry.

Before the last election Labour called for a cross party working group on poverty. Key turned the offer down.  Report after report after report has condemned the rate of poverty in this country, and called on the government to act. Meanwhile 40,000 kids are fed by charities and up to 80,000 are going to school hungry. National has responded with complete denial of the issues, saying that the government is already doing enough to help families feed their kids. Organisations working with the poor say that Key is in poverty ‘la la land’.

The Nats refuse to even measure the problem (though they certainly believe in measurement and goals when it suits them to bash beneficiaries). In a 2012 summary of the government’s targets and goals John Armstrong wrote: “Glaringly absent is a target for reducing child poverty”…

The costs of child poverty are in the range of $6-8 Billion per year, but the Nats refuse to spend the $2 Billion that would be needed to really make a difference. Even in purely economic terms National’s attitude makes no sense.

31 comments on “Poverty Watch 23”

  1. rosy 1

    Interesting about the international focus of P3 (albeit a focus on our neighbours). Their focus doesn’t fit with the stereotypical preferences for individual concerns of the atomised young adults of today.

    Research in the UK shows this individual, disconnected outlook is exemplified in a lack of regard for the welfare state (despite high unemployment among this group), the NHS and social cohesion generally.

    Another view was put forward that young people have a “new cosmopolitanism”. A spokesperson for the Adam Smith Organisation argued that the lack of respect for national institutions and social cohesion was an effect of a more cosmopolitan outlook, rather than individualistic behaviour:

    One man who might be said to epitomise Britain’s individualistic new generation is Sam Bowman, the 24-year-old research director of the free-market Adam Smith Institute, who sees the shift as one caused by a new cosmopolitanism, brought on by the internet. “People our age are much more cosmopolitan,” he says. “A 23- or 24-year-old Londoner is more likely to be concerned about Mumbai than Newcastle – we’re much less interested in national boundaries: the internet lets you speak to people who you share interests with, wherever they live. Geographical unity is fine, but I think most people prefer the unity and friendship that comes from shared interests. We get to do that now.”

    Bowman theorises this “cosmopolitan outreach” could serve as a replacement for an emotional connection to the state. Borrowing a phrase from the economist Daniel Klein, he says: “The NHS has been described as ‘the People’s Romance’: virtuous not because it’s the best, but because we’re all involved – it’s unifying. In another generation, that role might have belonged to the army. It makes sense in this modern world that people are becoming less interested in these national institutions.”

    I’ve thought for a long time that there were a lot of intelligent, committed young people out there. It seems P3 might be an example of a trend for a wider outlook than the traditional leftist concerns about poverty and the need and social institutions. At a guess this lack of concern for disadvantaged social groups at home, with whom the educated middle classes have virtually no connection, is transferred to the more exotic poverty and injustices elsewhere. How these concerns can be harnessed in terms of national, as well as international concerns might be more important for the left than hand-wringing about a so-called selfish generation.

    It’s clear that the business and middle classes have more in common with similar groups across borders than with the working classes in their own countries, but maybe this sort of initiative shows that young people are concerned about the problems of inequality. They just might not see it in their own backyard.

    • Rogue Trooper 1.1

      Generation Zero. Yes! represented in our local Environment Center portfolio
      this international focus on poverty by the young? diversion and distraction based in self-interested feel-good idealism. (p*ssing in the wind comes to mind; what real effect does middle-class disadvantage tourism really have on global trends).

      THINK GLOBAL, yet, ACT LOCAL

      • locus 1.1.1

        I think labelling an age group allows us and them thinking. Having said that, if young people in wealthy nations are not sympathetic to the plight of poor at home because they compare with the disadvantages of poor in less developed places, what can we do to get them to realise that judging one lot as more deserving ignores the fundamental cause of poverty everywhere.

    • xtasy 1.2

      rosy – I share your concerns, and I read the same article in the Guardian, about the “self generation”. Yes, it is scary what is happening, and it is happening all over the western, developed world, where the younger generations have fallen for the divide and rule, the individualistic approach, for self fulfilment before collective thinking, rather wanting to live out narcissistic dreams or aspirations than seriously see the bigger picture that they and we all belong to.

      I have observed this for years now, and it is very evident here in NZ, same as in other countries. There is a lack of interest in matters affecting society as a whole, there is too much selective thinking, division, me first thinking and the likes. Indeed, there is a lack of social skills and understanding.

      This I believe is the result of the neo liberal, capitalist approach that so many governments adopted since the mid to late 1980s, the privatisation agenda, the marginalisation of social groups not coping with competitive lifestyles and thinking. It is the divide and rule that has also taken a hold in the media, which under private enterprise took over a large share of the whole media since the late 1980s.

      Most young people know nothing else, they have sucked it up like with their mother’s milk.

      So capitalism has penetrated their brains, rules their world views, and libertarian ideas, ultimately to promote self promotion, self aggrandisement, self fulfilment, before anything else, that is what is now the mindset of the “normal” or majority young generation.

      So this P3 foundation agenda seems a bit out of the ordinary and odd to me. If that is what the supporters do, then it is good of course, but I ask, how many of the young people are behind this? Are they not rather on the margin of society? I would hope not, but I fear they are.

      It smells too much of this exoticism that also some older lefties adhered to, believing it would be easy to change the world by starting overseas, in poor, under developed countries. But to be genuine, one should never forget home for a start, yes perhaps start to learn and apply ideas AT HOME. That though is not happening, and we get heaps of “blame games” instead.

      • rosy 1.2.1

        “Most young people know nothing else, they have sucked it up like with their mother’s milk.”

        Yes xtasy, Thatcher’s/Roger’s children for sure. I think some cannot understand how life can grind people down in a country like Britain or New Zealand – an attitude of ‘the disadvantaged have heaps of help and it’s their fault if they can’t use it.’ It’s partly, I think the very fact that the young and privileged haven’t yet seen what the school of hard knocks can do to a person, especially if that school starts before the disadvantaged kids are even born.

        Maybe with overseas disadvantage they can see the lack of government and charitable intervention in the lives of the poor and disadvantaged so it makes more sense to the privileged young. It’s not that they are unconcerned, it’s that we need to know how that concern can be harnessed for the good of the disadvantaged locally. I think the Greens get a lot of kids because that concern can be harnessed for environmental causes rather than people causes.

        “what real effect does middle-class disadvantage tourism really have on global trends”

        Agree with this too, RT – I have huge problems with mass tourism in the 3rd world where the backpackers want an ‘authentic’ experience of gritty poverty – how colourful – when really they’re just exploiting the poor for the profit of others before going back to their own privileged lives. Of course I realise there are some genuine people out there that go and do their best to improve the lot of others, but they’re a tiny proportion of these tourists, imo.

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    And now more poor people become homeless due to greed.

    In December, he and business partner Ryan Weir set up the business which advertises properties with a price indication, then invites tenants to make a tender for the rent amount.

    The property goes to the highest bidder who is also considered the best-quality tenant.

    “Especially younger professionals in a flatting situation, they’re quite happy in most cases to pay an extra $50 each a week – it adds up to an extra $200 for a property.”

    Comes back to the government having to build more state houses and residences I suppose. Enough to bring rentals prices back to realistic levels.

    • locus 2.1

      Vienna’s has a long-standing system of state rent control, which still allows private investors to earn a 5% return – not bad considering the bank interest rate is around 2%. In fact 60% of rental properties are privately owned.

      The rental control rules enable more than 80% of Viennese to live in affordable well-mintained well-insulated rental properties. Moreover children are entitled to inherit rental leases from their parents.

      • locus 2.1.1

        Vienna…. not Vienna’s

        why do you spot typos only after posting….

        • Anne 2.1.1.1

          Because once you’ve typed up the comment you want it out of the way so you hit submit forgetting there is currently no edit function. Then you discover the typos, spelling mistakes and think of much better ways to put something but you can’t do a damm thing about it. Life is so hard. 🙁

      • karol 2.1.2

        That sounds like a great policy and outcome.

        • xtasy 2.1.2.1

          This is NORMAL in Austria and Germany by the way!

          I still cannot get it, why there are no caps applied in NZ on rental increases per year. OK, they have the 60 day notice period for rent increases and the 3 month period for not allowing another rent increase after one earlier one, but there is NO cap on how much rents can be increased.

          The same applies to property developments, and we have “land bankers” here, that intentionally sit on sections and will not sell them, until “the market” gives them prime gains to be made, tax free that is.

          How disgusting the situation is in NZ, but does any damned ordinary tenant, resident and voter ever bother to bloody care and change this? We even have Phil Twyford wanting to force another million of residents into the Auckland city area, to justify some policies that Len Brown wants to implement. This is totally insane, and in Europe they would have a REVOLT at hands with such agendas.

      • prism 2.1.3

        locus
        Vienna’s sedate housing system wouldn’t do us impatient aggressive NZs. See prospect and milk it is our slogan. Sell it, make a pile, buy a BMW or a garden shed on wheels. Have ostentatious capital expenditures. Complain at having to pay higher tax on over $100,000. All de rigueur for at least some of us.

        I heard a great little item on the Italian Swiss family that makes violins from old spruce trees in some mountains there. Some trees in the area are 1000 years old. We would be wanting to clearfell them. They grow slowly so the wood is strong and the grain fine.

    • millsy 2.2

      I have always maintained that it is rents we should be up in arms about, not the cost of milk.

      All this tender system is doing is crowding those on low incomes out of the rental market, and into campgrounds and boarding houses. Hardly safe places to be for single people, let alone those with children.

      We are crying out for a state housing building program. Seems to me to be the cleanest way to allievate the housing shortage and make housing affordable.

      Speaking of housing afforablilty, I am waiting for the government to explain how it is going to force land owners to build houses for sale on the bountiful rural land that surrounds our urban areas (or force them to sell to someone who will).

      • Rogue Trooper 2.2.1

        according to Dick Quax on the Auckland Unitary Plan-“going to run out of consented land to build on by May or June and the NIMBYs are gonna resist densification (being dense themselves i ‘spose)

      • locus 2.2.2

        depends how many influential nat voters will make a killing if the rural land is rezoned versus how many people care about the unplanned sprawl of cities. Much wiser but much harder to come up with careful and detailed planning for doubling density within existing city boundaries.

    • AsleepWhileWalking 2.3

      You bet me to it. Just spotted this in the Nerald and found it pretty horrifying.

      Housing is no longer a right (probably hasn’t been since 1994 here in NZ), it’s something to reward the highest bidder.

      What else isn’t a right? Water? Decent food?

      • karol 2.3.1

        It’s pretty appalling. How is it some people are so attached to the “market will decide” dogma, that they fail to see the callous inhumanity of such practices as renting accommodation to the highest bidders – especially at a time of a shortage of affordable accommodation?

        • locus 2.3.1.1

          a short walk down the road to barbarism. Let access to scarce essential resources be contested and the richest or most powerful people will be the winners and the weakest and poorest will be hungry and living in shanties or ghettos. The mythical Market won’t come to the rescue because the poor haven’t the resources to fund housing projects and the rich will actively seek to prevent housing for poor being built at state expense either on selfish ideological grounds or because it might depress profits from their rental properties.

  3. redbaiterbaiter 3

    Here’s a relevant piece of news:

    http://www.otago.ac.nz/wellington/news/otago043362.html

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/130590/food-cutbacks-to-pay-for-power-appal-greens

    A study by the University of Otago, Wellington just published in the New Zealand Medical Journal finds that households with children that use prepayment meters to pay for electricity experience greater levels of economic hardship.

  4. Mary 4

    “Those who live in these conditions do not have access to the most basic of needs:”

    Access to needs? I thought it was more about meeting needs, not having access to them. Who wants access to needs?

  5. xtasy 5

    Poverty is bad, but it does never mean poverty in spirit, strenght and intelligence and more, so we must wake up and acknowledge that others in other countries are also doing all to improve and succeed, but the competitive idiocy must be contained not to be market driven (only):

    Much is happening world wide, and Key went to one of the most exciting and interesting parts on the planet, but he never go the message. Others do. Enjoy just this one clip.

  6. Really happy to see P3 get mentioned on the Standard – I’ve been a regular reader for years, and it’s great to see P3’s name come up. I was a founding member and am now a trustee.

    In reply to some of the comments, I would like to stress that we are very concerned not to fall into poverty tourism or ego stroking. It’s not about us. While we do tell our volunteers’ stories in some marketing, we do our best to ensure that our overseas development partners benefit from our fundraising and/or volunteers’ presence. I learned a huge amount through the youth organisations that I volunteered for in my teens and early 20s, and still learn much through P3 – but that’s only a side benefit. In interviewing potential volunteers, I want to see genuine passion and compassion, not self interest.

    I couldn’t possibly summarise our development policies here, but when we select overseas development partners one of the key factors for us is the level of ownership that the people on the ground have over the project. We aren’t interested in imposing external solutions. In short, we constantly test and revise our development philosophy and policy.

    On international versus New Zealand poverty: When we founded P3, we wanted to explore the linkages between poverty here and poverty overseas. We hoped to show that both were symptoms of underlying economic problems, and help mobilise young New Zealanders to face both. However, we were (in sum) a small group of University of Auckland graduates from privileged upper middle class backgrounds, with very little experience or expertise in New Zealand poverty. We became very concerned that we just didn’t have the knowledge or skills to target poverty here, and were concerned to avoid being privileged upper middle class saviours, sweeping in with naive, arrogant solutions – especially when there are a lot of extremely good organisations with the expertise, experience and standing that we lack.

    We remain, however, keen to explore how we can help to break down the disconnection between poverty here and poverty overseas that many people have.

    We currently have 135 volunteers nationwide. I understand that Generation Zero has similar numbers. The UN Youth has somewhere over 1,000 members, and other groups like JustSpeak, the Global Poverty Project, Enactus and others are also pulling in large numbers of young New Zealanders. I definitely don’t believe the story that young people are ethically or politically disengaged.

    I hope this helps address a few of the concerns some of you have about what we do.

    • lprent 6.1

      Don’t have to convince me. My partner Lyn Collie shot a promo documentary about P3 in India late last year. Looks like an interesting organisation.

      It did rather amuse me seeing Anthony pick up on P3 independently.

    • r0b 6.2

      Thanks for stopping by David. Kudos to you, the founders, and all members. If you ever have anything that you want to “advertise” let us know…

    • rosy 6.3

      Thanks for commenting David. I’m blown away by some of the young talent in NZ… how to harness it in NZ is a problem and your explanation for focusing on absolute poverty overseas is understandable and pretty much what I expected. Seeing the economic deprivation is easy enough and incredibly important – knowing how social exclusion and family deprivation works in countries with so-called relative poverty maybe requires more immersion in the lives of people. Getting alongside the people who are actively working with this stuff could be a possibility for engaging in local poverty issues?

      It probably takes a little longer to come to terms with social exclusion and family deprivation as the things that keep the poor and dispossessed from the services that have been set up to improve health and well-being. It’s not simply a lack of will or ‘choice’ – the narrative of the successful – that keeps people poor in developed countries.

      In the meantime, I reckon P3 is a brilliant initiative. Best of luck with it all.

  7. David 7

    Thanks Rob, Rosy – really appreciate the support!

    Rosy – We are definitely exploring partnerships as you suggest, though realistically probably won’t be able to show anything public until early 2014.

    Thanks again.

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