Metiria Turei
What we’re wishing for this Christmas

On the first day of Christmas… let’s guarantee our kids the essentials.

Today, we’re launching a ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ campaign urging New Zealanders to guarantee the essentials for every kiwi kid this Christmas.

Our Christmas wishlist for every child includes a warm, dry, secure home, safe food to grow healthy and strong, a quality public education, and a safe environment. Simple things, yes, but too many of our kids don’t have them, when they should be non-negotiable.

The way we see it, when we guarantee these things, we guarantee our kids the best possible opportunity for a great start in life.

Each working day between now and Christmas (“the 12 days of Christmas”), we’ll be highlighting an issue related to inequality, and presenting Green solutions to those issues – solutions like building 6,000 new state houses, extending Working for Families tax credits to the children of beneficiaries, making the first $10,000 of income tax-free, and introducing a progressive pricing system for electricity, all of which are outlined in our ‘Mind the Gap‘ package to reduce inequality.

It’s a good time to reflect on inequality, and its impact on children. Not only is Christmas a great time to look around and reach out to each other, but today, December 6, is St Nicholas’ day, the traditional day for gift-giving to children in many parts of the world. What better day to reflect on how well we’re providing for all our kids?

It’s also timely because an important report was released last week by Unicef examining the impact of inequality on children in so-called wealthy countries.

The report by the Innocenti research centre entitled The Children Left Behind looks at “bottom end inequality” – the gap between children at the median, and those with the worst outcomes – in 24 OECD countries, to test how well wealthy countries are doing at having “no child left behind”. The answer is not very well. The countries with the worse outcomes are the United States, Greece, and Italy.

New Zealand wasn’t included in the study, but Unicef New Zealand has looked at other studies and concludes that we rank poorly for child material wellbeing and health, and about average for education. Clearly we could be doing a whole lot better for our kids.

As this report points our, children are not in control of their circumstances, but these circumstances have a profound impact on their health, wellbeing, and future prospects. Starting life in poverty, without secure housing, healthy food, quality education and a safe environment puts kids at a significant risk of poor health, underachievement, low skills, and intergenerational disadvantage.

Kids can’t choose these things, but our Government can choose to help guarantee them.

That’s what we’re asking for on the first day of Christmas.

17 thoughts on “What we’re wishing for this Christmas

  1. Perhaps one could add calling for it to be mandatory for private landlords to upgrade the insulation/energy efficiency of any property being rented out.

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  2. I mention that because it was not specified in “Mind the Gap” and it is essential to fulfill the equity desired goal for health homes for all New Zealand children.

    As for the beneficiary families – rather than them receiving the WFF In Work tax credit (the whole point of its existence is to distingusih it from support to families on welfare benefits), why not look at proposing to index the child tax credits beneficiaries get (and highlight the level of child tax credit there would be if they had been indexed the way mainline benefits are).

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  3. Perhaps one could add calling for it to be mandatory for private landlords to upgrade the insulation/energy efficiency of any property being rented out.

    My concern there is that such a policy could drive a lot of landlords out of business. To insulate a house, you need to gut it at a cost of potentially tens of thousands of dollars. Add to that the cost of not having people occupying the house, and you can see where problems would emerge.

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  4. I don’t have any problem with landlords unable to afford meeting healthy homes standards leaving the “industry” – the idea of an increase in sales by landlords resulting in housing values falling to more affordable home ownership levels is appealing.

    However it’s ridiculous to suggest this would actually happen – you do not need to gut a house to insulate it. The government subsidised voluntary programme does not cover this cost. So mandatory uptake would not require this either.

    Many houses do not even have the basics – lacking roof insulation and energy efficient heating investment.

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  5. john-ston – the Green Party plan that Gareth promoted on tv gave landlords something like 8 years to conform to new standards.

    We recently insulated our ceiling for $1300 (after the govt subsidy).

    It took less than two hours.

    So your pricing and timing are way out.

    I think it’s a great idea to have regulations stating that if you want to rent out a house, it has to have at least basic insulation.

    It’s the sort of thing that has enormous benefits – power and money saving (for those who can often least afford large power bills), better health for everyone, including children, less money on doctors, less presure on doctors, healthier kids equals better performance at school.

    And if a landlord can’t afford to spend $1000-$2000 on insulation (less than 1% of the property value), then SPC is right – they should get out and make way for someone who can bring rentals up to a basic livable standard.

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  6. You don’t need to (gut the house), but it is probably a good idea.

    First to replace all that plasterboard with 13 layers of wallpaper, not sized but glued directly to the wall so it can’t actually BE removed. What in hell is it with New Zealanders and cover-ups?

    Second to ensure the integrity of the structure, the moisture barriers and the rest. Moisture in the walls needs to be detected and corrected, not covered up further.

    Third to apply the insulation

    …and that doesn’t happen in any 2 hours. Not if it is done correctly.

    Depending on what needs doing it is unlikely to be as cheap as $2k The ceiling insulation is the largest gain for the least price… but after you’ve got about 20 cm of it… Needs doubling in this house to get to 12 CM.

    My experience is that the majority of houses have no wall insulation and single glazed aluminium joinery.

    GOD DAMNED single glazed aluminium joinery.

    Beer cans are made of aluminium to help ensure that the beer gets cold faster when it is packed in the cooler, or the refrigerator.

    My teeth grind together when I think about it. So many houses of so little value with such high prices…

    BJ

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  7. As for aluminium joinery – windows can at least be retrofitted to double glaze them. That should be subsidised as well.

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  8. BJ,

    Not sure what you are refering to when you mention 13 layers of paper covered plasterboard (rockwall you would call it?).

    Problem with that is what exactly? Surely the extra layers of paper are insulation? (ask any motorbike rider what the best insulation is and it is the newspaper stuffed down the front of the jacket). No need to remove excess wallpaper from walls. Simply hard sand with 80 grit, seal with a pigmented sealer, skim with plaster and paint.

    Double glazing is not required north of the Bombays (even Waikato is marginal). The two weeks of cold weather are easily coped with using curtains to contain the heat (we dont even have heating in our house, we simply plug in a oil filled electric radiator heater when required).

    We like our airflow through the house by having ranch sliders and doors open 90% of the time (security and insect screens keep the nasties out).

    Weather north of the Bombays is more sub tropical rather then the temperate experienced in places south.

    People here like to spend their money on shade cloth to experience more pleasantly the outdoor living we do on the mainly sunny days.

    We spend more money on keeping cool (ceiling fans, large opening windows and bi fold doors, have houses designed to maximise air flow, paint our roofs in light coloured paint, install smoked or reflective glass, etc.) then trying to keep warm.

    Problem I see for all the locked up houses with no airflow is condensation. How do you get clean fresh air into your fully insulated, closed windowed house? Heat pumps?

    I prefer (and so do many others here in the sub tropical north) to have fresh air flowing through the house.

    Something about the Tasman sea air flowing through the house. Air that picks up the fragrance of the Waitakeries as it passes through the Manukau Heads, the taste of saltyness from the ocean, the aroma of the tidal estuary that is the Manukau.

    Heaven is fresh air.

    ————————–

    Housing built over the last 15 years (at least) have ALL walls and ceilings plus the concrete pad insulated.

    What percentage of houses are in need of insulation? 10, 20, 30%? Not the majority thats for sure.

    I doubt the figure is even that high bearing in mind that retrofitting insulation has been happenening for 30 or so years.

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  9. Gerrit

    It is UGLY!
    One layer or another is always peeling off.
    It can’t be properly fixed without removing the plasterboard.

    … and most of this would have been easily avoided if the wall had been sized before wallpapering.

    http://www.askthebuilder.com/377_Wallpaper_on_Drywall_-_The_Right_Way.shtml

    Something that even I (and I hate wallpaper!) know enough to do.

    … and the damned stuff is folded and wrinkled in the corners.

    If it were my house the walls would have been coming off one at a time until it was ALL gone…

    BJ

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  10. Insect screens would be nice.. too bad that the most joinery design is the never to be sufficiently cursed awning style which precludes putting a simple flyscreen into the opened window except by hand.

    …and being on the south side of the hill, the backyard of the place never, ever, ever dries out.

    … being Wellington, a fan is generally a redundant measure. Needed for almost a whole week some years :-)


    Problem I see for all the locked up houses with no airflow is condensation. How do you get clean fresh air into your fully insulated, closed windowed house? Heat pumps?

    If a house is properly insulated, no part of the inside gets so cold that anything condenses on it. Fresh air is something you get when you open a window… and heat is not wasted. The heat-pump moves heat, not air.

    I’m used to spring being when “you open all the windows and air the linen” as we used to do up in NY, and the fact that it was sealed up most of the winter (on nice days one might open a window for a while), was never at all remarkable.

    Nor, even 50 years ago, was the notion of secondary glazing. Which is cheaper and easier than double glazing, but pretty effective for all that. The climate here matches that one in all but the dead of winter. The houses match the lean-to I slept in at scout camp. There are half-million dollar houses being put into the development down the road that are single-glazed aluminium joinery. I laughed in the real-estate agent’s face when I saw it. The insulation minimums are… minimal.

    BJ

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  11. BJ,

    I would suggest that the largest sources of condensation (and subsequent mould growth) are the bathroom and the free standing gas heaters.

    All bathrooms should have extractor fans fitted (mine are hardwired into the lighting system so are on when the bathroom is in use).

    Use of gas fired heating without proper flues should be discouraged.

    Most (I would say 80%) of older housing will not have proper bathroom ventilation or airflow (for moisture laden air to be extracted it needs an entry air duct in the door as well if you shower with the bathroom door closed).

    As freestanding gas heating is the cheapest (?) form of heating (especially in rental properties) they contribute enourmously to condensation in a fully closed house.

    So airflow through a house is doubly required to stop mould growth if you have no bathroom ventilation and are using a freestanding gas heater.

    No amount of insulation or double glazing will prevent mould related illnesses without fresh air circulation and condensation reducing systems.

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  12. Bathroom… goes without saying. Never saw one without a fan – until I came to NZ… (well, there was that scout camp, but outhouses don’t count).

    It all goes together. We can’t insulate properly because the ventilation isn’t right. The excuses for not building the house properly in the first place are so pervasive and self-reinforcing as to make me only marginally sane on the subject.

    I wouldn’t trust a New Zealand home builder, or designer, any further than I could throw their designer ute.

    BJ

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  13. If we add the fact ?) that 90% of clothes dryers are not ventilated to the outside we have more condensatioon adding fictures.

    Would not be suprised if 90% of the cooking ranges are not ventilated to the outside either.

    Any calls for insulation and double glazing must, absolutely must, included a proper ventilation plan as well.

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  14. I don’t have any problem with landlords unable to afford meeting healthy homes standards leaving the “industry” – the idea of an increase in sales by landlords resulting in housing values falling to more affordable home ownership levels is appealing.

    The converse of that is that rents go up, so those who could not afford those slightly cheaper houses would face higher living costs.

    However it’s ridiculous to suggest this would actually happen – you do not need to gut a house to insulate it. The government subsidised voluntary programme does not cover this cost. So mandatory uptake would not require this either.

    To insulate the walls, you need to gut the house, because that is the only way you could get the insulation inside the wall cavities.

    We recently insulated our ceiling for $1300 (after the govt subsidy).
    It took less than two hours.
    So your pricing and timing are way out.

    Remember, I referred to insulation, not roof insulation. Insulating the walls requires access to wall cavities and that requires gutting the house.

    It’s the sort of thing that has enormous benefits – power and money saving (for those who can often least afford large power bills), better health for everyone, including children, less money on doctors, less presure on doctors, healthier kids equals better performance at school.

    Again, like I said above, this comes at the cost of higher rents because of those landlords driven out of the industry by the huge cost. Insulation isn’t just about ceilings, it is about wall cavities also and wall cavity insulation is very very expensive.

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  15. One can foam the cavities… but it isn’t as reliable as I’d like it to be.

    BJ

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  16. john-ston says “Insulation isn’t just about ceilings, it is about wall cavities also and wall cavity insulation is very very expensive”

    Ceiling insulation gives the biggest bang for your buck. And you can do wall insulation by drilling holes and pumping in expandable foam – at a fraction of the cost of ripping your wall linings off.

    As for the higher rents – ceiling insulation is under $2000, so for ceiling and walls you are talking something like 1% or 2% of the value of the house, so a repective hike of just 1% or 2% increase in rent, which will be more than outweighed by a saving in power, doctors fees, medicines, time off work, etc.

    In other words – doing nothing is by far the most expensive option.

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