Child looking out window with hand on glass

Our children deserve better

Yesterday the Office of the Commissioner for Children (OCC) appeared in front of the Social Service’s Select Committee to discuss their performance. The OCC has statutory responsibility for advocating for children and oversight of the Child Youth and Family Act. Understandably most of our discussion was about child poverty and the safety of children in NZ. The Commissioner raised very large red flags over the Government’s approach on both points.

The Government has repeatedly said, against expert opinion and all the evidence, that reducing the number of children in families on a benefit will reduce child poverty. The Commissioner said reducing children in benefit dependent households was not reducing child poverty and that this was the wrong measure.

We have seen the number of children living in income poverty increase to 305 000 while the Salvation Army report points out there were 56 000 fewer children in benefit dependent households since 2010. The government says income poverty is irrelevant because it is based on a median – yet this is a standard OECD measure and sits alongside other measures that are also stuck.

The Government says it disagrees with the Salvation Army. They say they disagree with the Children’s Commissioner. They agree with their own perspective. And children keep dying of income related diseases such as bronchiectasis.

The Commissioner said we need a target to reduce child poverty and then we should be aiming for – reductions in income poverty, material deprivation, violence and improvements in housing quality. That’s what’s required to reduce child poverty. We can do that if we focus our attention and resources on it.

The National Party chair of the Select Committee asked the Children’s Commissioner if their work on poverty was out of scope of their duties and whether they should be more focussed on their other roles. The Commissioner said they had actually put more of their resources proportionally into monitoring CYF Act.

The Commissioner also raised huge red flags over their inability to properly monitor CYF residences. He said that funding constraints had forced them to limit their formal audits of residences to once every 18 months. Last year he thought that would be okay – it would be safe. The team has since discovered it is not. They found that with changes in leadership, things in residences could change very quickly and they could not verify if their recommendations were being applied. They have been reduced to talking with the CYF leadership. The Commissioner has had this discussion with the Minister but so far they have not been given any additional resource. So they are left with safety concerns for some of our most vulnerable children and no ability to assure themselves that things have improved. They have no ability to conduct investigations following complaints either. This is now all done in-house in CYF.

Further as pointed out by the Salvation Army, CYF refers out roughly 1/3 of the notifications to the community, mostly where domestic violence or addiction issues are present. The commissioner was open to this being a good idea as the community may have a better skill base for responding to these specialist issues. BUT Living in a house with domestic violence can have very significant life-long impacts for children. Children are not safe when there is violence in a home. The community agencies responding to domestic violence are all completely stretched and underfunded. Care of children in these situations is covered by the Act but again the Children’s Commissioner is unable to fulfil its statutory responsibility. No-one has oversight of the wellbeing of these children.

We need to put the welfare of our children before short–term and misdirected government targets.

10 Comments Posted

  1. As this post is about the welfare of children I would still think intensification doesn’t help their long term plight. I was told by a demographer many moons ago that a research project established that for families that left their rural roots , their lineage was nearly always ended in urban terms within 3 generations. This was a general indicator to me that urbanisation was too far away from our evolutionary map. Families that reconnected to the rural kept the thread. If this research was valid then it is food for thought.
    7 generations of wellbeing in directions taken is not a foolish yardstick?

  2. I should apologize to Jan, and to the children, for a lot of this is far enough away from the issues of child poverty and the punishment of children for the sins of parents. I had thought to relate the impact of the problems of housing to their unmet needs, but the conversation went in another direction.

  3. indicating NZ First are better connecting with the feeling about overseas encroachment

    I think you’re right about this, they tend to be more singularly focused on that issue.

    …and the unique way that we are underpopulated while blessed with a massive amount of renewable energy resource, gives us what should be the best shot at surviving and maintaining some semblance of civilization and human knowledge if things get as bad as I expect.

    But I was born in Queens and raised on Long Island and I spent plenty of time in the great outdoors a long long way from the city. The allergies I had were unusual then, and my sneezes are legend 🙂

    The problem isn’t that Coromandel can’t stop something from happening, it is that the National government won’t. This is a small country. You can know your own MP. The communications and access we have makes (SHOULD make) the need for Coromandel to have a veto a moot issue. The government doesn’t properly have the right to sell ANY of the things it has been selling…

    Is it the urban dweller or the media saturated New Zealander, who is being unrealistic?

    I think you have a point that there are unrealistic expectations, but the consumption led economics of the neo-liberal, not urbanization, are the culprit. Remember that the issue of our CURRENT money is based on debt, and that the debt carries interest and the money to pay that interest does not exist… so we get the requirement for growth built into the economics of the country.

    National plays to the desires of the masses with its blessing of the over-consumption and its efforts to sell everything that isn’t nailed down to pay for it… but it doesn’t have a lot to do with urbanization. Russia had the Bolshoi, museums, mass transit and large livable cities, but consumption did not rule their economics. People stood in line and had few of the consumer goodies that appeared like magic in the west. Russia grew too slowly… to compete with the West. The West consumes everything it can reach. There are aspects of the environmental legacy that Communism left that are brutal, but there isn’t any doubt that the business of civilization and cities is not really related to the business of consumption.

  4. While I appreciate your assumptions about density of humans, I think that population will stop dropping soon, as ageing boomers kick in. Aotearoa is in a unique position as we are less dense in humans than many, take away the sheep and cows. If not so much here the northern hemisphere has already reached that tipping point. We are lucky we have natural barriers to some of the change, if we appreciate and work with the changes needed. When I talk of our model of arrangement I am not advocating for the rest of the world. I think the latest poll showing Winston gaining and Greens sliding, though well near the margins of error, is indicating NZ First are better connecting with the feeling about overseas encroachment, and I believe the Greens need to sort out their policy on 1080 poison. We are putting the feel good look of the shortterm gains to bird population, ahead of the long term ecological possibility that microorganisms are being tipped. We don’t know and there is enough pressure on this part of our system from the atmospherics already. Conservation as it is being dealt with is failing to see the damage is done and only by cutting back our neoliberal economic excess will things find a new balance.
    As for the need to slow intensification and the goods and bads of urbanisation, I tried to explain the fact that a new norm is being set in a major part of the population that is detached from the day to day balances. The more intensification the more this will happen. Already evidence is emerging that kids brains are resetting growth priorities from the electronics they now use to play. My assumption here is these kids are being set up to fail if we fall back on active processes to survive.
    The question of all living on farms is not I believe necessary or what I want, and I think the assumption of no art or culture out country is a little imperialistic, as many a night I have sat in the bush with mates, singing and playing music on acoustic instruments, we wrote songs, one not played on NZ radio as too political as Muldoon tried to rule. I write poetry and I have built beautiful landscaped areas, friends are painters.
    I agree my generalisations about technology are over the top but in the present economic inequality the corporate power is pushing out technology that is making more dependent, and whole systems are being foisted on unknowing citizens with no real discussion of dangers or consequences. Take the process of Tablets in schools becoming more of a necessity when they are designed to only be safe to use 20cm from the body or brain. Will kids be allowed to put them on their knees?
    The power to councils I talk about, including veto should be wide spread in my view, given fundamental citizens rights also. Why should a community such as Coromandel have to again fight off mining companies as central government ignores their wishes. Central government is trying to appease the wishes of the intense urban dwelller for their unrealistic view of life. The RMA is a good thing needing more power to the people, and I believe it is the reason foreign big business helped John Key get where he is as we were starting to show the world what could be done.
    If the world has to get back into balance because of too many humans, intensification is setting the wrong signals for the type of immigrants we might need, and I believe has a wrong assumption about what makes an ecosystem. Biodiversity and merging in with our fellow earth species is the focus.
    I am sorry you have a lot of allergies but I suggest the research here shows that this is a consequence of growing up without contact with the natural ecosystem around, or that certain nutrients and minerals are not their to balance the reactions needed to handle the immune process. These are all a symptom of not living close enough to our natural balanc
    e. I have spent a bit of time learning about this and I suggest you check out as a place to explore this.

  5. There are a couple of assumptions I am making which need to be considered.

    The planet is easily overpopulated to the tune of double its actual carrying capacity. On a good day I’ll give it that. Most times I reckon it is 3x. There is no means of supporting that population as hunter-gathering aborigines, native-americans or simple farmers. For better or worse it is what we have, and it isn’t going to go away quickly unless it goes awry catastrophically. Which it may still do.

    The urban lifestyle is neither good nor bad in terms of resource usage. It only becomes so depending on how the city is connected, interconnected, plumbed and lit. I do not accept the premise that The more intensification the shorter term or bigger impact of that society. though there is a limit to everything, including intensification.

    The point here is that to get to what you seem to want to have, we’d have to all live on farms. That puts a lot of obstacles in the way of research, medicine and the performing arts… to name a few, and it isn’t possible with the population we have.

    Working with the Australian Aboriginals as a model may be a nice idea (I prefer the Iroquois as they had a functional government)… but it is a recipe’ for never, ever, having another MP. Not one New Zealander in 100 (or more) would vote for that sort of lifestyle change. The fact that they are willing to inflict it on their children through inaction should not fool us.

    Technology in this electronic age is making us more dependent on the miners, the transporters, the monopolisers of finance.

    Tech is a tool. It doesn’t put the financiers in charge. It doesn’t put the miners in charge. The “who is in charge” issue is a political one, and one where we won’t get much traction with the electorate to get more of us in charge as long as we allow ourselves to be painted as luddites. Which is unfortunate, because there really is a lot of abuse in the economy. No price on the commons means it gets used up first. Blaming tech, which is neutral, for the economic abuse that is built into both the money and the standard models of the neo-liberal economists, is going to get us nowhere fast.

    Again the giving of power to decide and veto to community groups such as councils that are not too large

    Veto what? Technology? Cities? Urban density?

    I think it is important to recognize that people actually like to live together, they move TO cities, and the cities are already present. We are NOT going to unmake them without a lot of people dying in the process, but making them denser will reduce their total impact and make them more tractable and livable.

    The joy of being one-with-nature is not for everyone ( I for one, am allergic to most trees, grasses, flowers and insect bites 🙂 ).

    The whole concept of hiding technical knowledge behind commercial interest is an antisocial, anti progressive scam.

    If you mean the rent collecting behaviour of patent and copyright holders I’d be agreeing with this, but then I’m pretty hostile to rent-collecting of all sorts, remember? “Real money represents work done”

  6. Housing or even climate change are not the our biggest hurdles ahead for our children.

    The finite nature of the planet is an invalid assumption in the business world from whom economists they gain employment. There will always be more because the market demands it. Banks require “growth” of money because that is what they feed on as banks create an economy of diluting the values of everything we have as they are allowed to engorge themselves, and as well banks promote a raft of fantasy the business world floats on. But that cannot last much longer no matter what they say, what lies they spin. what wars they promote for asset acquisition, no matter who they put into power and eventually how the lies and raft of delusion the public is fed through the main stream media.

    The cliché of the world being finite is much a hackneyed phrase used willy nilly but the underlying concept is solid and will always be so.

    NNR stands for Nonrenewable Natural Resources.

    NNR – get used to it as is every bit as important as climate change.

    The population of 7 billion can only be sustained if we had ongoing access to the present rate of harvesting, exploiting and consuming the NNR of planet Earth.

    Business based Economists and other business pundits completely ignore this reality or deny its existence. Some argue that technology will find us a way though to continuing as we are. The question of “Using what” is shrugged off with various suggestions all relying on things that are not yet known but fabled enough for a belief system to have formed around the culture of denial.

    2030 or there abouts seems to herald a pit where denial will no longer be possible and there is not place to go. NNRs will be in short supply and availability will be shrinking so rapidly that the die off of humans will become out main growth statistic.

    How our local spokespeople for future prospects, Rod Oram et al business pimps can ignore the figures and projections that have been around for at least 43 years, is a figment of how successful business has been in suppressing the information.

    In the early 1970s when the first major study of man’s progress, and the mapping of trends was published, there was a lot of discussion, news articles and educational material produces to inform the public.
    New Zealand has a Futures Commission set up. our DSIR undertook the mantle of ongoing research to further understanding of managing our future.

    Then the lies started mainly from the business / finance world picking fictional holes in the research and running a campaign of discrediting what the findings were.

    Those lies still proliferate today although the data and predictions backed by a mass of evidence still hold true.

    The DSIR has been killed off and so has the Futures Commission.

    Where we could have understood better what changes were imperative, modified and redesigned how we live and consume had we heeded the warnings – the business world has made certain that we did not. Now it is too late to turn things around and we see symptoms of our folly in climate changes.

    But it is NNR depletion that will get us first. But it is still not talked about.

    The profit takers have no responsibility.

    We are on peak food and the beginning of peak industrialisation. Peak population is very near and following that will be an progressively increasing fall in life expectancy.

    Rod Oram ignores all that. He also ignores the causes. When I questioned him one to one he admitted that he had a vague awareness of such things but was really in denial.

    The business / finance world is in denial at one level but at a deeper level the obesely rich are preparing for their survival and the situation crumbles. That is partly what their amassing community wealth and assets is about. We die off – they live.

    NNRs are crucial for food supply, transport, medicine, manufacture and supporting a human population beyond a global half a billion. { estimates vary depending on how much destruction continues ) With climate adverse to human survival it may be much less.

    Prepare for a rough ride coming to grips with the future.

  7. I see this as a perspective of a city dweller. The reason the world is in an ecological mess is humans have got so successful at organising tools that they are powering with damaging fossil fuels, and mining pollution everywhere, and polluting with their waste when the resource is scarce. This all comes from an unprecedented lack of insight or connection to the biodiversity that is crucial to the planets health. Urbanisation is accelerating this. You speak of national standards but you are talking about standards required in this short term intensification. The more intensification the shorter term or bigger impact of that society. Let the old Australian Aboriginals be the illustration of the ecological permanence. The standards you mention have no relevance for the indigenous people as they have their systems based on the biodiversity surrounding them and not on some technical standard. The standard needed in the cold is different to the standard in the warm north. The difference in incomes needed in the city with little commons to feed from and those totally using their nature is phenominal. Standards can then be a burden that destroys a society and requires the trucking in of standard goods from the colonists, more greenhouse gas? As much as diverse decisions in this area scare us, we must give the benefit of the doubt to the local community. The process of standards and inspections will always skew towards the urbanised bureacrat and his lifestyle view. That is why teachers and other university professionals in Maos China were made to take a year or two out from studies to live in rural villages before they finished their education and began careers. It then leaves those seeing the benefit of the standard way of doing things the task of educating, not enforcing.
    The question of technology itself is another area where I think clarity is needed. Technology is sold as giving us more freedom of time and effort. It is true in a short term sense, but the more technological we get, to the point we need specialists, we become less free and more dependent. Technology in this electronic age is making us more dependent on the miners, the transporters, the monopolisers of finance. Thus society looses its freedom of time and independence of decision. This leaves the process of life to being far more corruptable as knowledge of the parts is harder. In this kind of society the accumulation of wealth or the unequal division of reward for effort has a larger and larger potential for corruption. This is potential for collapse in modern society, and may be some of the basis for the rise and fall in capitalist states.
    Again the giving of power to decide and veto to community groups such as councils that are not to large, maybe a thousand families as social scientists estimate, keeps a lid on this process unless education of the pros and cons of that technology is given to the users. The whole concept of hiding technical knowledge behind commercial interest is an antisocial, anti progressive scam. If the knowledge can’t be shared then the technology has huge potential to harm.

  8. Well.. the thing about the inspections and the permits is basically an observation that what we’re doing isn’t working well, and the thing I remember as actually working well in terms of having been privatized in the USA, was the banks and insurers dealing in the inspectors.

    Fundamentally, your local council has no actual interest in your time constraints, your building process, the resale value of the property or the quality of the work done. The bank, insurance company and owners all DO have that skin in the game, and will sue the shorts off any inspector who gundecks a report. The inspectors are more thorough and better equipped to poke around. More than one will be likely to look at the house when it goes on the market too. I’m not one to ignore that when the market can work for us, it is damned useful.

    That doesn’t say that the council should not take some interest, but I find it astonishing, not amusing, that the councils get sued for “leaky buildings”, and that the people actually responsible can skip, change corporate names and still be in business.

    Councils can set standards. That makes sense enough, but better that the nation itself does that so that there aren’t 50-100 different ones.

    Where councils are involved is in infrastructure, standards of appearance are OK but not demanded, but standards for what can be connected, where the driveway can connect, how the sidewalks are maintained and/or obstructed, whether there is a right-of-way, the building of roads and schools and other things to support the community, and how the house might interfere with a neighbour are all for councils to do.

    The quality of the work done is the business of the person paying for the work and the professional plumber or electrician who certifies that their job is done correctly, and the inspector hired by the person buying the property or getting the work done. Council isn’t really involved in that at all… if we WANT the council to have skin in the game then we have to work out how and why they are interested parties in the transaction. I really do not (particularly given my experiences with councils and inspectors and quality to date) have any faith in their processes at this point. I know what would have happened if I’d had some of the problems found here, when I was in the USA (I’d recover from the insurance (buyer’s warranty) and they’d take it out of the inspector’s insurer and he’d be paying more and being more careful or out of the business, and I’d not be fixing things on my own dime…. The council APPROVED the wall penetration that caused water problems… twenty years previous and I have no recourse with council. If my inspector hadn’t found it in the USA I’d have had recourse, here not. Nor did the seller have any idea why that wall was always “wet”.

    It is dry now.

    The intensification makes a CITY more livable, not less. That doesn’t hold true for a suburb. It makes it more possible to transit en-masse 🙂 We could indeed reduce the need, but the sprawl of Auckland is already too much.


  9. While I think this is an excellent summary of issues I disagree with:
    3. Get the councils out of the inspection loop implies no inspection or privatising the process. I think a lot of the issue is the investment in this process. We have pressure on Councils to minimize Rates so inspectorates suffer. What is happening throughout the public sector is an overload of work as budgets cut staffing etc. Maybe instead of Land Tax as such is higher Rates with low income rebates, and less Income Taxing.. I can’t see the private sector being more effective, more open to payoffs.

    4. Intensification is a shifting of the problems as higher health, and wellbeing costs usually ensue. If we look at a world declining in population ratios in most western areas and elsewhere, and the net effect of stopping foreign ownership, and spreading the development to other areas outside Auckland, the reality of the need could well disappear. As the baby boomers retire and downsize then pressure of supply eases.

    I generally think that a change of emphasis Constitutionally should make local councils the strongest player so that local decisions in more rural areas can favour the looking after the local systems. Appropriate air and water quality rules/taxes to ensure these systems are prioritised and add to local infrastructure funds. Places like Auckland would probably find the rates to handle quality in these things would put a dampener on new development. This is also important for the preservation of localised culture as well.

  10. There are now massive issues with housing, particularly in Auckland. We have a government that holds as a matter of faith, that the market will deal with problems, but that is not unique to National.

    That is symptomatic of ALL of New Zealand since the Rogernomics/Reaganomics mistake in the 1980’s , which in turn was a result of the failed Union Controlled protectionism that preceded it.

    However it began, it is past time that all New Zealanders learned that the market isn’t the answer they thought it was either.

    Focusing on housing misses some of the point. Auckland is part of the point too, as the concentration of non-agricultural economic activity there is extreme. This has to be considered as part of the market failure, as the energy available in the South Island is far more abundant. The issue is the communication with the rest of the world and the big shows, the cultural center, are in that one place.

    The only way that changes is if the government puts a priority on that communication within and with the South Island, establishes preferential handling of the South Island and manages the problem.

    No government of any description in the past 30 years, has.

    That’s fundamental to the issue of the housing and has to be altered, but let us assume that we are handling that. There is another aspect of the same problem though…

    We have a mindset that says that investment in housing is safe, while investment in NZ business is not. That is rooted in the free-trade mistake of the past 30 years. No New Zealand based company can reasonably compete with companies that have no environmental limits, can pay their workers pennies to our dollars, housing them in barracks and shipping the finished goods at risible carbon prices. So instead of building our own furniture, we import it, and export logs. Instead of our own clothing manufacture we export wool. Instead of building our own railcars, we import them. We import our wind turbines instead of supporting our home grown business. We import our Whiteware even though we were building some of the best in the world.

    So between the business that cannot hang on and the lack of oversight of the financial sector, housing is CORRECTLY perceived as safer… and now we can start talking about what the housing sector itself does.

    When I first started thinking about housing here in NZ (and I now do “own” my own property here in Wellington), was when I turned up at a house showing in Papakowhai. The agent was discussing the prospective rents that the owner could collect with a group of people, and when I avowed that I wanted to live in it myself it was as if I had just stepped in from Mars.

    Later I visited an accountant… who provided glossy brochures about how, through the magic of negative gearing and the tax provisions in place, I could own a house for nothing much at all…. as long as I rented it to someone else the house was free and would of course, appreciate in price.

    In the meantime I was experiencing the extreme quality problems of the housing supplied. Utterly without precedent in my experience. I had lived in Levitt built mass housing in my youth, houses built in the 1940’s, and I had never experienced the sort of cold, mold and drafts that were supplied by NZ housing stocks.

    The tax deductions in particular, for the interest, the rates and the insurance on the house (so long as it is a rental property) leave the owner-occupant in the dust when it comes to bidding on a house. The overseas buyers jack up the marginal prices. The council takes responsibility for the quality – even though it has no skin in the game. The housing inspectors aren’t empowered, the bankers don’t necessarily even insist on the inspections. The rules are stacked so bizarrely that when describing the LAQC to the Real Estate guy I worked with in LA, he asked when the Real Estate agents had gotten control of government.

    The problems are extreme but to solve them needs a government that is willing to intervene in the market in a significant way.

    1. Stop foreigners from buying.
    2. End the deductions or offer them to the owner-occupier
    3. Get the council out of the inspection loop – privatize THAT
    4. Make urban intensification a real thing whether people who live in the zone like it or no.
    5. Prioritize development and industry outside Auckland.
    6. Go back to having councils develop infrastructure supporting the community developments
    7. Land Tax (ending the land banks)
    8. BUILD HOUSES!!!

    Not yet possible in New Zealand. Gummint is the problem, just ask Roger-Reagan.

    New Zealanders have to learn that the limits of government aren’t what they learned in the 80’s. The lesson they learned then was the wrong one. Media has to help the education process now, because the Overton Window has wound up in the vacant lot to the right of our homeland.

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