Live updates, December 2: New report details child poverty damage

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Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 2. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

7.30am: New report details child poverty damage

One in five children are living in income poverty, and without significantly increased government intervention that is likely to get worse.

That comes from a new report from the Child Poverty Monitor, which will be launched today at parliament.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft said most people held a vision of New Zealand as a place where anyone could thrive, regardless of their background.

“But for the past 30 years New Zealand has knowingly excluded a large group of tamariki from that vision. Large numbers of tamariki are still being denied what they need to thrive, a situation that Covid-19 could make worse – if we let it.”

Around 13% of children live in households facing a more extreme form of poverty, in which many are not able to access essentials, like warm clothing or healthy food.

Becroft said this will be worsened by Covid-19, and has three solutions that he wants to see implemented:

  • Raise family incomes by increasing benefits, enabling people to live with dignity
  • Increase the supply of state and social housing and bring in new ways to manage rental costs and quality
  • Help families meet their immediate needs, for example by expanding the food in schools programme and extending free medical care to everyone under the age of 18.

7.30am: Key updates from today’s edition of The Bulletin:

In today’s edition: Council considers rates hit to cover Covid, revenue minister fires warning shot over trusts, and some common sense on drug law reform.

Auckland Council is set to lose a billion dollars in revenue, and they’re planning on asking ratepayers to pay a bit more to cover it. Radio NZ reports the proposed 10 year budget was released yesterday, including a one-off 5% rates hit. Mayor Phil Goff said it will amount to an average of $36 per affected household, and will allow the council to continue with a multi-billion dollar capital infrastructure programme.

Some options that were initially considered haven’t in the end been included. Stuff’s Todd Niall has a story which includes some of them – one of the now-shelved revenue raisers would have been a targeted rate to fund climate change related action. However, as environment chair Richard Hills put it, the preferred option is to have climate action be part of the ‘business as usual’ funding and spending of the council. An additional $150 million over 10 years has been proposed here, and it will include measures like phasing out diesel buses.

With Covid-19 blowing a massive hole in Auckland Council’s budget, none of the potential solutions would have been painless. Austerity was one potential approach – I wrote about that back in June, particularly the contrast between central government’s big spending and local government’s comparative squeeze. And borrowing wasn’t necessarily an option, particularly in a time of lower revenue – this piece from Stuff’s Todd Niall from several weeks ago goes into the council’s self-imposed borrowing limits and why they exist. Auckland Council was particularly vulnerable to Covid, because less than half of their funding comes from rates – events and dividends from the ownership share in the airport are among the other sources.

Not everyone is okay with the rates bump. The Auckland Ratepayers Alliance put out a release challenging the numbers put forward by Goff, while also describing the rise as “aggressive”. They also called for a bit more of a “slash and burn” approach to council spending. The NZ Herald’s Bernard Orsman reports that across both rates and water bills, the average household will be facing additional costs of more like $230.

Read the full edition here:

7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines

There were three new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation, and the Ministry of Health issued a warning to be vigilant during the Christmas party season

Auckland mayor Phil Goff released a proposal for a rates rise of 5% next year.

The free-to-air television properties formerly owned by Mediaworks, including Three and Newshub, became the official property of US network Discovery.

The government will rush through legislation before Christmas to allow for pill testing at festivals this summer, it was announced.

Sky TV’s chief executive Martin Stewart quit his job and was replaced by the company’s chief commercial officer Sophie Moloney, with immediate effect.

The government confirmed its business debt scheme, first launched in the early weeks of Covid-19, will be extended until October 2021.

Read all the key stories in yesterday’s live updates






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