All posts by Tracey Sharp

Te Ohu Whakawhanaunga

This organisation comprises community, union, faith and other relevant groupings from across civil society. Te Ohu fosters active citizenship and civil society leaders with the ability to negotiate with decision-makers toward systemic and structural change. The purpose of the alliance is to address the causes of poverty in families and communities so we all flourish. The initial focus is Auckland but the long-term plan is to build city-based alliances around Aotearoa.

Contact: Jo Vicente-Angeles [email protected]

www.teohu.community

Raise Your Voices: Press Statement

Youth confront Party candidates about their rising mental health issues.

“Young people like me are bearing the brunt of Covid 19 with big job losses. The pressure to find an income, but rejection after rejection as I apply for jobs, takes away my motivation. Then I look at the competition I face and I feel hopeless.”


These were the words of Sarah-Jane Seddon, the first of four young voters asking the questions to Party candidates last night at the Child Well-Being election forum focused both on inequities of health outcomes for children and young people’s rising mental health issues.

Sarah-Jane made a connection between the impact of a pandemic on New Zealand’s already broken health and disability system and the future job prospects of young New Zealanders.

“It seems to me that two problems might be solved at once – one the job prospects of young people, the other our health and disability system and thereby the well-being of our nation – if government majorly invested in health sector training and education.”

All six Parties answered positively to her challenge with various policy strategies. Minister Chris Hipkins of Labour introduced the concept of “micro-credentials” for health workforce training, such as learning to perform vital Covid 19 swabs to serve contact-tracing. Alfred Ngaro, representing National, spoke of privatising the health workforce to make it independent from government’s constraints and standards. Focusing on Sarah-Jane’s ethnicity, Green Party co-Leader Marama Davidson made note of the higher impact of job losses for Maori and Pacific women with a promise of equitable investment in both jobs training in health and mental health.

Leilani Naufahu came to the podium to speak for her older brother with epilepsy, and spoke of the racist attitudes preventing his fair treatment inside the system.

“My brother may never be cured of epilepsy, but this doesn’t mean the system should just give up on him. When his condition means he has to miss out of so many opportunities, surely the way he is treated by the health system shouldn’t make him miss out on more.”

Her question however was about the cost burden for her family, of having a long-term condition with persistent need of medication and treatment.

“Will your Party provide universal free primary healthcare to ALL children and young people no matter their illness, so that parents like mine aren’t burdened with what it costs long term to raise healthy children?”

Once again all Party candidates but Act answered with a “yes”, however for most it was more of a “yes but”. Numerous free services that are already introduced were boasted about by the major Party representatives but they stumbled on the timeframe for making children’s healthcare universally free.

“To be frank the minor Parties were more interesting. Jessica Hammond of TOP spoke of ring-fencing tax-takes from junk food and cannabis consumption – if the referendum gets a Yes vote – to pay for more free healthcare,” said Dr Prudence Stone, one of the event organisers. “Grae O’Sullivan of Act spoke of reducing the number of DHBs to free up money spent on unnecessary health bureaucracy. While you might not agree with them, these are at least practical policy solutions focused on the fiscal challenge Leilani brought to the candidates.”

Stacey Ryan and Thomas Lamont-Smith came to the podium to challenge the candidates specifically about the “mental health pandemic” among young people in New Zealand.

“I’m going to be blatant with you, the mental health system in this country is appalling. One in six kiwi students have reported a suicide attempt in the past year. Over half of openly LGBT youth have reported symptoms of depression and anxiety,” said Thomas. “In addition LGBT minorities have had mixed experiences of support within mental health services. I found that autistic LGBT people are not taken as seriously in a medical setting due to the practitioners’ pre-existing biases, in conjunction with inadequate education and training.”

“We say we want New Zealand to be the best place in the world to be a child. We are a long, long way from that target. The rapid rise in mental health concerns among young people over the last decade cannot be ignored,” added Stacey Ryan, a youth representative of United Community Action Network. “There is an urgent need to identify youth-specific risk and protective factors to inform effective prevention strategies that can be implemented from early childhood.”

Once again, the Party representatives all answered in agreement, with varying approaches for how to tackle the problem. NZ First’s Tailor Arneil promised more counsellors in the primary and secondary school setting, as well as addressing bullying in social media, although he was not specific how.

“The most interesting answer of the night for me came from the Minister of Health when he spoke about New Zealand’s ‘tyranny of happiness’ in our culture,” said Norma Mclean, first time voter and Twitch cameraperson for @RaiseYourVoices. “I related totally with him about our education system focusing on academic success and NCEA achievement, without recognising the value of failure for learning. He may not have had any solutions within mental health or healthcare, but I couldn’t have agreed more with him about where this mental health pandemic starts.”

The Child Well-Being Election Forum can be viewed on the Tick for Kids Facebook page or on Twitch @RaiseYourVoices

For further information please contact:

Sarah-Jane Seddon, [email protected] – Spokesperson for Raise Your Voices

Leilani Naufahu, [email protected] – Spokesperson for Raise Your Voices

Thomas Lamont-Smith, [email protected] – Spokesperson for Raise Your Voices

Stacey Ryan, (0204 183 4183) – Youth Spokesperson for United Community Action Network (UCAN).

Norma Mclean, (027 648 2020) – Videographer for Raise Your Voices

Dr Prudence Stone (027 648 2021) – Campaign Manager for Tick for Kids and Communications Coordinator for the Equality Network

Parents struggle to feed children due to ‘unfair’ sole parent benefit system

Josephine Franks, www.stuff.co.nz, 20 October 2020

A solo mother says because her kids aren’t included on her benefit, buying enough food can be a struggle. (File photo)

For seven days in every fortnight, Kaye has her two kids in her care. But when she asks Work and Income for an emergency food grant, it’s like they don’t exist.

That’s because her ex-partner claims the sole parent benefit, and so the children come under his benefit as the “primary caregiver” – even though custody is shared evenly.

Kaye is one of tens of people who came forward in response to Stuff’s story about a solo mum who found herself unable to claim sole parent support because her ex-partner claimed it first.

Read the full article here

NZCCSS Election Statement 2020

“Every day NZCCSS members see desperate families and whānau both in work and receiving income support struggling to provide food and shelter. Their income is simply not enough to cover both rent for housing and the basic essentials necessary for their health and wellbeing. Having a liveable income and a warm, safe home is fundamental to the protection of our intrinsic value and dignity as human beings made in God’s image” says NZCCSS President, Ian Hutson.

The New Zealand Council Christian Social Services (NZCCSS) has a vision of Aotearoa New Zealand as a fair and compassionate society in which everyone has a ‘liveable income’, a warm, safe home and can participate meaningfully in their community.

In order to manaakitia te ara whakamua and create a fairer future NZCCSS urges all political parties to implement policies that ensure all New Zealanders have a liveable income, and can access to good quality, affordable housing.

Download the NZCCSS Election Statement above.

For more information go to their website here

Pictures of inequality

This is a “high-income nation”: No one should be worrying about how to afford essentials like healthy food, hot water or the internet. For decades, government has played a part in concentrating resources among those who are already doing well. There are policies that drive economic inequality, and there are policies that limit the life chances of those who need the most support. When government policy is the driver, none of these inequalities is inevitable or natural: they are all the result of bad political decisions. So every election, we have the power to create a government full of better politicians who can make good, fair policy. Politicians aware and committed to the households that are struggling, and will introduce new income measures.

Special thanks to the Tick for Kids coalition for rallying Raise Your Voices, a group of young voters to develop this video for election 2020

The four things New Zealanders need for good health

George Laking, the spinoff, 24 September 2020

Photo: Getty Images

From damp housing to unsafe work, doctors see every day the conditions worsening the health of thousands of New Zealanders. Dr George Laking of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians explains the four things we can do make a change for the better.

Physicians are specialist doctors who look after people with medical illnesses. We mostly don’t do operations. We listen to patients and whānau, find out what’s happening, and work out a plan for recovery.

Our plans may involve medicines, but we know health depends on a lot more. Health often requires linking people up with social supports. Most importantly, good health depends on change. We need to change the conditions that make health fail in the first place.

At hospitals, we often talk about the “revolving door” that keeps people coming back into care, again and again. The revolving door is there because the condition of people’s lives makes them sick. It does not need to go on like this. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) can point to four things that, when we get them right, will lead to good health for all New Zealanders.

These four things have long been known. They’re summed up in words famously associated with former Prime Minister Norman Kirk: “People don’t want much – just somewhere to live, someone to love, something to do and something to hope for”.

You won’t find a better prescription for a nation’s health than these words. They’re the starting point of the RACP’s work to #MakeItTheNorm. They’re backed up by our knowledge, experience, and evidence of the things that matter for health:

  1. Somewhere to live: It needs to be the norm that everyone has healthy housing.
  2. Someone to love: It needs to be the norm that all whānau enjoy wellbeing.
  3. Something to do: It needs to be the norm that everyone has good work.
  4. Something to hope for: There needs to be justice. Everyone has to have a fair go.

As Aotearoa goes to the polls, the RACP has one question: what are our elected leaders doing to make these four things the norm?

Our members are physicians and paediatricians working mainly in hospitals, all over the country. Every day, in clinics and on the wards, we see how New Zealand gets it wrong. We see the harm caused by cold, mouldy and damp housing; by whānau life on subsistence incomes; by unsafe and precarious jobs; and most perniciously, by inequity – the uneven access to resources that leads to avoidable and unjust loss of health.

The links have long been known between health and the conditions in which we gestate and are born, live, grow, work, play and age. Here, in more detail, is the prescription for change we need to make Aotearoa a healthier place.

Read the full article here

Māori Party housing policy includes immigration halt, homes on ancestral land.

24 September 2020, rnz.co.nz/news

The Māori Party is promising to halt all immigration into New Zealand until housing supply catches up with demand, if it becomes part of the next government.

It is part of the party’s housing programme, Whānau Build, unveiled today by co-leader John Tamihere.

The party is also vowing to allocate half of all new social housing units to Māori, and build 2000 homes on ancestral land over the next two years.

It is estimated to cost of $600 million – tagged from the government announced $20 billion Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

“These houses will be funded by the state as a long-overdue investment that others have taken for granted,” Tamihere said.

“It will help in resetting and reorganising Māori whānau and Māori whenua by making available land for papakaīnga and ensuring that our land is used in the best possible way.”

Tamihere said there would be special exceptions for some migrants.

“If we’ve got skill gaps, only, we would bring in people. And family integration, we accept that, because we’re as human as all other people. But other than that, we will put the shutter down and say, we need to take a breather here.”

“We’ve had 50,000 new immigrants coming in per year in 2017 and 2018, and heading into 2019 … we need to build our supply side up for housing to meet our demand.”

Tamihere said vacant or empty houses would be taxed to force them into the housing market.

“In Auckland, there’s 38,000 of them and unless they are brought into the housing stock and used for rental – because they are by and large [of] good quality – we have a problem.

“The question is, why would people leave these houses vacant after they’ve bought them? It’s because they double in price every eight years, so you’re going into a casino where you can’t lose. So you have to, for the sake of all New Zealanders, tax foreign ownership of residential property, particularly if its left vacant. If we don’t do that we will never get out of the housing crisis.”

The Overseas Investment Act would also be required to apply to all residential housing purchases because many of these vacant houses were owned by foreign interests, he said.

“It is expected this policy will free up over 50,000 houses and ensure that an asset class people invest in, but can never lose, has some consequences for the greater common good of our country.

“Immigration must be stopped until the supply side of housing meets the demand side. Immigration is causing disruption and adding to the false elevation in demand and therefore elevation in prices.”

The Māori Party is also hoping to impose a capital gains tax of 2 percent of the appreciation per annum on any property not considered a whānau home.

It is also pledging to stop the sale of freehold land to off-shore interests.

Plan to charge for emergency housing back on

A Government plan to charge people for emergency housing like motels was derailed by Covid-19, but will now come into effect two days after the election

Dileepa Fonseka, Newsroom, 22 September 2020

For most of us the biggest event of the last two years was Covid-19, but for one South Auckland family it was a home renovation.

A family of seven (two adults and five children) have lived beside rodents, been shunted to different corners of Auckland, and had their belongings flooded out in a garage they used for storage – after their landlord of five years decided to renovate the property they lived in.

There’s a shortage of social and transitional housing. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

Mary* spends her days looking for houses, making applications for rentals, getting rejected then taking those seven-eight applications in to Work and Income at the end of the week – where she waits in line for three hours – so she can prove she hasn’t been able to find a house.

“Most of the time I’m stressing out here trying to deal with housing every week. Reporting and following everything they tell me to do to keep us here for my boys to have a roof.

I don’t know how to do this … I don’t sleep at night. Even if I’m tired. I can sleep for three hours and I wake up and I feel like tired, but I just won’t sleep.”

Read the full article here

Election 2020: Green Party and The Opportunities Party support introduction of rent caps

Mandy Te, stuff.co.nz, 17 September 2020

The Green Party and The Opportunities Party have announced they will both support the introduction of rent caps which would limit the amount a landlord could increase rent.

At the Enough for All: Election Forum 2020 event in Wellington Central on Wednesday evening, a renter called Zoe told politicians about her renting experience in the capital city.

“In 2017, I moved into an eight-bedroom flat in central Wellington – nine of us lived there in order to make it affordable, and we shared a rent of $1600 per week,” she said.

“My rent for a room that could charitably be called a shoebox room was $205 a week which was more than half my income at the time.”

Affording the rent was stressful for Zoe and her flatmates – many had taken on one or more jobs while studying to cover it.

“It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence that me and my flatmates needed to often cover for our other flatmates because of the inability to pay rents on time.”

While they managed to make their payments every week, Zoe said their home was not warm or dry.

“In our first winter in the flat, I began to notice black mould on my ceiling.”

A month later, the roof in her room began to leak and later, pour, she said.

The flat was offered $200 in compensation.

Zoe said their rent was hiked up year after year – in 2018, it was $1700 per week and in 2019, it was put up to $1800.

To make rent affordable, 11 people were living in the property.

In February, the flat was told their rent was going up again by $200 – making it $2000 a week.

“Obviously we moved out because it was unaffordable and over that same period, my income and the same with my flatmates’ [income] had barely gone up.”

Renters needed action now, she told politicians.

“My question to you is: until the rental housing supply kicks up with demand, does your party support introducing rent caps to limit the amount by which landlords can raise rent?”

Green Party candidate Ricardo Menéndez-March says “we need to make sure landlords are not ripping us off in the middle of a housing crisis” (File photo).

Ricardo Menéndez-March from the Green Party said it supported “to legislate to ensure secure and affordable long-term rental accommodation”.

“I do think we need to we need to make sure landlords are not ripping us off in the middle of a housing crisis.”

It was “absolutely unfair” for people to be spending most of their income on rent and “people here are going without because of high rents”.

National Party’s Nicola Willis acknowledged that there was a massive housing challenge in Wellington but the party would not support the introduction of rent caps.

“We have to increase the supply of housing that’s why we’re committing to replacing and appealing the Resource Management Act … we believe that kind of systemic reform gets to the nub of our housing issue which comes down to not enough houses to keep up with demand. When we solve that, then rents and house ownership become more affordable.”

Taylor Arneil from New Zealand First said it advocated for the building of more homes instead of introducing rent caps.

Labour Party’s Andrew Little said it did not support introducing rent caps.

Labour Party’s Andrew Little says it had inherited a housing crisis from the previous Government (File photo)

“This Government has done a number of things. We have regulated what landlords can and cannot do or need to do in terms of quality of housing and many things are starting to kick in,” he said.

The Labour Party had inherited a housing crisis from the previous Government which had reduced the country’s state housing stock, he said.

The current Government had added to social housing, he said.

“There is more to do and Kiwibuild hasn’t been the success we would have hoped it might be, but we have built houses that are more affordable for more people, and we need to continue through things likes progressive home ownership schemes,” Little said.

The Opportunities Party leader Geoff Simmons said housing was the biggest issue facing New Zealand.

“To solve this problem we need to hold house prices and rents stable for another generation to allow our incomes to catch up,” Simmons said.

“So this is a massive, massive challenge – it is going to take lots of different actions to do that.”

Anna Mooney, spokeswoman for Renters United, a group that advocates for renters and has begun a petition for fair rent, said it was unfortunate “National, Labour and NZ First are offering no solutions to runaway rents other than increasing supply”.

“That will take decades, while renters fall deeper into hardship,” Mooney said.

“Renters United wants to see rent caps in which landlords cannot raise rent by more than inflation. This is the only way to stop rents from becoming more unaffordable.”