Parliament was preoccupied by two major pieces of news last week, the unemployment figures and concerns about Housing. It also passed the Climate Change legislation (as previously discussed in this blog post series) and failed to pass Labour MP Darien Fenton’s Bill to stop libraries from charging for borrowing and internet use.
During Question Time we debated the announcement of the latest Household Labourforce Survey results that showed unemployment has risen to 7.3%. It won’t be any surprise to anyone reading this that the rate for Pacific people is much higher at 15.6%.
Half of all unemployed in NZ are under 25 and as the Pacific population is younger than the general population and Pacific peoples face significant discrimination, this is likely be very big problem for Pacific communities.
The result of this is more families leaving for Australia, and more young people feeling disillusioned right from the start of their working lives, not to mention the stress on families and communities trying to cope without work or a decent income.
I wrote a blog post on why unemployment is a human rights issue. The Green Party believes that in times of high unemployment the Government needs to actively create jobs, and to support employers to employ those most likely to experience discrimination. Left alone, the market does discriminate.
This week groups from Glenn Innes, Pomare, and Marenui came to Parliament. All three communities are affected by Housing New Zealand pulling down state houses to free up land for private developers.
They presented a petition to MP’s asking for a major state house building and renovation programme, as well as a reversal of new Housing New Zealand criteria that means only families with the most complex needs can qualify for assistance, and a hold on the evictions and demolishing of houses in long established communities.
We also heard that the issues raised by these communities are starting to spread into Titahi Bay and Cannons Creek in Porirua, and Waiwhetu in the Hutt Valley. It is also happening in other state house areas around the country.
Sadly, most of these areas are Māori and Pacifica communities.
These places are often described as poor, but this misses the community and connections, that have been built up over generations in some cases, that provide significant protection for people. Knowing your neighbours means that there’s someone to watch your children if you need, someone to run to in an emergency or even someone to swap vegies with if you’re lucky. I know, I live in one of these communities and it is a wonderful, warm and friendly place with some great things going on, despite the poverty and a very bad landlord – Housing NZ.
Community is a particularly important bridge for overseas born Pacific people. While this community may be provided by the Church, local geographical community makes the transition much easier too. Stable community is especially important for Pacific children because, due to structural discrimination, many are living in poverty and all the evidence shows that that harms educational development. Continuity and good teacher/family/child relationships are essential if schools are to try to make up for this disadvantage. Uprooting families and putting them into the private rental market with insecure tenure is a recipe for disaster for Pacific communities.
Labour MP Darien Fenton’s Bill that would have prevented libraries from charging for borrowing books and for internet use was narrowly defeated in Parliament. Labour, the Greens, Mana, New Zealand First and the Maori Party were in favour of the bill, with National, ACT and United Future opposed.
This means that libraries that are under financial pressure from Councils are able to introduce charges for book borrowing and internet use. Currently the law only prevents Councils from charging residents to join their local library.
Again another protection for children whose families are experiencing poverty has been passed over by this Government.
This is particularly worrying for Christchurch as the Minister of Education is planning for some of the new schools there to be forced to use public libraries instead of having one in their school. Again, these schools are in the predominantly Māori and Pacific communities.