Child abuse, poverty, housing, prisons show NZ ‘off track’
Entrenched child abuse and poverty, alarming housing conditions and an exploding prison population are in stark contrast to New Zealand’s strong economy according to a report released today.
The annual State of the Nation report produced by the Salvation Army’s measures data around five key areas of children, crime and punishment, work and incomes, social hazards, and housing.
The director of the unit, Lieut-Colonel Ian Hutson says the report highlights the areas of children, crime and housing as areas where New Zealand is off track.
“These raise serious concerns requiring urgent changes,” says Lieut-Colonel Ian Hutson, Director of the social policy and parliamentary unit which produced the report.
There have been some positives with wage growth and rising employment, the teenage pregnancy rate decreasing and a reduction in youth offending.
Auckland has seen a 12-year high for building consents, but this is offset by record levels of immigration.
Housing availability, affordability, household and housing-related debt are all off track according to the research.
The government gets a tick for early childhood education where participation by low-income families and communities reflects the government’s commitment to improving access for poorer communities.
However the report highlights that the most recent enrollment data is 18 months old, and with an annual spend of $1.8 billion by the government to fund private providers this is disappointing.
The Salvation Army acknowledges National’s success in building a strong economy.
“Such success should be acknowledged both as social progress in its own right and for the opportunities it offers for other sorts of social progress,” says Alan Johnson, ocial policy analyst and State of the Nation author.
In his speech to Rotary Club of Auckland last Thursday, Prime Minister Bill English spoke about the strength of the New Zealand economy.
“Hiding from economic reality eventually requires drastic and damaging change.
“This has been the guiding philosophy behind the National-led Government’s approach over the past eight years.
“And it has delivered the strong economy we have now,” says English.
The majority of New Zealanders agree with National’s direction for the country according to the latest Roy Morgan Research Poll.
It shows 63% of Kiwis believe NZ is heading in the right direction, with 23% disagreeing and 14% can’t say.
Mr English gave his reason for why a focus on the economic health of the country is a priority.
“The whole point of building a strong economy is to improve the lives of all New Zealanders,” says English.
It is the lack of social progress and improvement for all New Zealanders that has provided the focus for this year’s report, says Johnson.
“After 10 years of measuring these issues, we’re seriously questioning the economic and social direction of this country and asking, ‘Are we off the track?’”
The poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost partly inspired this year’s title and speaks about how a single choice can make all the difference to what happens as a result.
“The policy route chosen by a Government can make all the difference to what happens subsequently in our collective and individual fortunes,” says Johnson.
At the beginning of an election year, the Army’s report asks people to think deeply about the social progress they want to achieve for themselves and their children and to question whether we have chosen a track that benefits only a few.
“Or will we work together to establish a track leading to a New Zealand where all children and families are able to live, grow and be supported to flourish in a nation we might gladly call God’s own?
“Who has the insight, the imagination and the courage to identify a path that might lead to such a country?” says Hutson.
The report is available for download here.