Wednesday 9 May 2012

Policy Watch

“Aotearoa is not for sale”

From the Hikoi

There were lots of people. Lots and lots of people. Most of all, the people were the people who comprise US - big people, small people, brown people, white people, every-shade-in-between people, striding people, limping people.

The old lady alongside was having a spot of trouble with her mobility scooter. On the other side was a bloke from Patea, and a woman from New Plymouth next to him. An elderly man dignified his shuffle with his tokotoko. Two very posh-looking ladies demonstrated the ‘high heels are made for walking’ approach; a woman managing a pushchair, a sign and a flag, perambulated beside them. The Suits joined in. Two small dogs trotted with their elderly owner. Chants, waiata, songs and haka filled the air. It was a funny feeling really.

The hikoi was ostensibly about asset sales and a whole lot of other things too. But something else really shone through. This grand mixture of people. Our people. Our country – a nation in the Pacific with our own definition. Not some northern hemisphere outpost; nor an aspiring Asian enterprise, or a branch office of Australia. We are us. Somewhere along the line something fundamental really has changed.

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.

Good stuff on why poor people do badly from asset sales here

Alcohol reform or non-reform?

Binge drinkers seemed to be sober on the hikoi, and government thinks its new approach to alcohol will sort out bingers anywhere else. The Alcohol Reform Bill due to return to Parliament for final consideration next month, includes:

1. A split purchase age – purchase age to be increased to 20 for off-licence retailers such as liquor stores, supermarkets and grocery stores, but remains at 18 for on-licences such as restaurants, bars and clubs.

2. Parents and guardians will be responsible for their children’s drinking –i.e. supply of alcohol to minors without their parents or guardians consent or in an irresponsible manner may result in a fine of up to $2000.

3. Local authorities will be able to limit the sale of alcohol, set conditions on licences, and broader criteria for objecting to alcohol licence applications.

4. Dairies and convenience stores won’t be able to sell alcohol. There will be national maximum hours for alcohol sales (if we want booze between 4.00am and 7.00am we’re out of luck).

5. Tighter restrictions on promotions that target young people.

More details here

Related Documents here

Alcohol Action New Zealand have called it the ‘alcohol non-reform bill’ describing it as worse than weak'; with government refusing to address “vested interests of a powerful alcohol industry which will continue to enjoy relatively unregulated free market conditions …”. Power given to local communities requires them 'to square off against Pak’N’Save, Countdown , and Hospitality Associations etc and all of their latter’s legal and financial resources'.

There will still be broadcast advertising of alcohol and alcohol sponsorship of just about everything. Other reforms not in the Bill include the 'unbelievably cheap price of alcohol, and the fact that people 20 years and over will continue to be able to drive around drunk and still be under the legal limit (0.08) for driving.' The Greens say Government is fast tracking alcohol reforms to divert attention away from other controversies, e.g. ACC, Sky City.

Addiction services to remain busy

The Salvation Army thinks “Government appears to expect its citizens to continue to meet the exorbitant social and fiscal costs of alcohol abuse by declining to provide robust legislation to mitigate the damage.” They recommend Government immediately increases excise on alcohol by 25 per cent. “This would have little effect on moderate drinkers but would reduce alcohol consumption by teenagers and heavy drinkers – the most price-sensitive consumers – by as much as 10 per cent.” They should know as they treat 3,500 people for addictions through 10 Bridge Programme addiction treatment centres.

Like other organisations, the Salvation Army says many of its welfare services are “approaching breaking point”. Demand for food banks has risen by 70 percent since the start of the recession in 2008, and budget counselling is up 189 percent. Caseloads of Salvation Army social workers rose by 94% overall, and those in the South Island division by more than 270 percent. They are likely to get even busier with government changes in welfare and housing policies and SkyCity busily negotiating to get more pokie machines. This is despite numbers of problem gamblers using SkyCity casino increasing by almost 300% since 2008. Planned harm minimisation technology might help, but “cuts to the number of pokie venues are needed if we’re serious about reducing problem gambling” says Professor Max Abbott, Director of AUT University’s Gambling and Addictions Research Centre.

Keeping our young under the thumb

First there’s alcohol, with around “half of the main things in the Bill relating to youth drinking; despite the fact that of the 700,000 heavy drinkers in New Zealand (using a standard WHO definition of heavy drinking), fewer than 10% are under the age of 20. Over 90% of NZ’s heavy drinkers are 20 years and over.”

Then there’s student loans whereby students will pay off their loans faster and lose the voluntary repayment bonus. The plan is “$60 to $70 million of annual savings, which will be largely re-invested across the wider tertiary system.”  The Child Poverty Action Group say the change will make a bad situation worse for many struggling young families.   New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations describe the change as “a tax increase on graduates to pay for a blow-out in the tax-cuts that the government gave to the wealthy.” Tax cuts to the top 10 percent of income earners are costing $700 million-$800 million.

Paying the loan shouldn’t be a bother really. After all, graduates get great jobs and do very nicely. Of course some do. However, youth unemployment is up. Even Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett says “We’re most certainly seeing more young people having a hard time finding work, without a doubt.”  The CTU's youth sector, Stand Up, is drawing attention to the 87,000 15-24 year olds out of work, education and training (NEETs); the population of Palmerston North plus some more.  They are concerned Government restricting youth transition funding to 16 and 17 year olds will lead to thousands of young unemployed people over 18 being left without any support, e.g. “Funding has been cut from several effective youth services, such as the Workn’ It Out scheme in Otago.”

The 16 and 17 year olds are also first in line for welfare reform. The Minster’s announcements on welfare reform for young people and others are here. Questions and answers on welfare reform are here

Fewer opportunities for Repo Man

Repossession is horrible. It will be slightly less horrible if the Law Commission gets its way. Recommendations from the Law Commission Final Report on Credit (Repossession) Act include :

- People being told explicitly when repossession could occur.

- Bedding, washing machines, portable heaters, passports and identity documents, are not subject to repossession at all.

- Extending the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act to include what is now covered by the Credit (Repossession) Act, and that repossession should be included in the Code of Responsible Lending.

Dealing with dementia, depression, anxiety, and personality issues in older people

Central Region Dementia Behaviour Support Advisory (DBSA) Project Team have collaborated with the Northern DHB Support Agency to develop a new online e-resource tool on protocols, training methods and resources on issues related to gerontology at

Alzheimers New Zealand is asking government to make dementia a national health priority and recognise dementia as a national crisis and to adequately fund the sector to best prepare for the significant costs of dementia in the future.

Fostering inequality - On the one hand …

The path of the Avon river provides a beautiful illustration of inequality in Christchurch

There is a risk democracy will be left out of Christchurch rebuild
“It's not just the buildings, the roads, the sewerage pipes, the water mains that are broken, the people are broken also as people remain in limbo in quake damaged suburbs
Families are going without fresh fruit and vegetables to pay for petrol which has increased in price three times faster than household incomes.”

‘The 2% increase in wage levels for the year to March …in the Labour Cost Index translates to 27 cents an hour for those on the minimum wage of $13.50.’

There are now 160,000 people unemployed – 9,000 more than just three months ago. Jobs available are just not increasing fast enough to keep up with people needing jobs.

… On the other hand

Former prime ministers and their spouses are collecting tens of thousands of dollars in perks – and a new bill being led by Prime Minister John Key will lock them in.

Social Services for New Zealand’s Future

Community based social service agencies are on the cusp of a time of great change and challenge. This theme threaded its way through the NZCCSS Future Wellbeing Social Services Conference in Auckland in April. It continued at the inaugural Auckland Social Futures conference on Friday 20 April, also held at the University of Auckland. A full report of the conference can be found here

Some of the presentations:

Paula Bennett
Tariana Turia
Directions and Trends in Philanthropy


Good read on inequality

Report on Māori and the Criminal Justice System by Just Speak, the youth wing of Rethinking Crime and Punishment

What’s on?

The Families Commission and the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse one day family violence symposium for practitioners, policymakers and researchers.

When: Monday 28 May, 8.45am - 4.30pm
Where: Westpac Stadium, Waterloo Quay, Wellington
Cost: $80 + GST

Petition to emphasize to the government that homelessness is a major issue in Otautahi (Christchurch), as is overcrowding and that this is a direct result of the shortage of affordable, clean/safe/warm rental properties; and calling for immediate regulatory intervention. See or contact

1000 days to get it right for every child: the business of nurturing children
A discussion series by Every Child Counts and BusinessNZ, Thursday 10 May, 7-8.30pm. Soundings Theatre; Te Papa Chair: Kim Hill; Panel: Dr Allan Freeth (Telstra Clear), Dr Jo Cribb (Deputy Children’s Commissioner), Lisa Tumahai (Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu), Dr Airini (Head of School of Critical Thinking in Education, Auckland University) With audience participation and discussion.

No comments: