Te Tai Tokerau’s child poverty policies revealed

NEW ZEALAND’S poor child poverty record is under the radar as candidates in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate are defending their child health policies.

A United Nation’s report released this year shows that one fifth of children in New Zealand are in poverty, which refers to households earning 60% less than the median income.

Many of these children suffer from preventable diseases associated with poverty, such as strep throat and scabies, diseases now rare in many developed countries.

Last year, more than 25,000 children were admitted to hospital for respiratory infections, reported Michelle Duff in The Dominion Post recently.

New Zealand is ranked second to last in child health and safety rankings of 30 OECD countries, with only Turkey worse, according to a report done by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The Maori party and the Mana party are particularly concerned about rheumatic fever, a serious condition that is often caused by throat infections and can damage heart valves.

Wellingtonian Bryan Bruce, whose documentary Inside Child Poverty: a special report is set to air this week, says New Zealand is now at a “moral crossroads” and is calling for politicians to work out a long-term policy for children’s health.

Maori Television hosted the Native Affairs’ Debate on November 14, a three-way debate between candidates in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate, an area with high rates of child poverty.

Labour’s candidate for Te Tai Tokerau Kelvin Davis (left) says Labour would prioritise children’s needs in its policies, and have a charter for children, as well as a dedicated ministry.

Labour would take GST off fruit and vegetables, make the first $5000 of income tax-free and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which it estimates would give parents an extra $70-90 a week.

“Strep throat swabs are given to kids in high risk areas so kids can get treatment if necessary,” he says.

“Our health policy is about giving 24/7 free access to under six kids so parents can take their kids to the doctor at any time of the day or night.”

Mr Davis says Labour’s health policies consider the wider picture, recognising that many factors affect children’s health and therefore an integrated approach to healthcare is necessary.

Labour’s goal is in preventative health: encouraging people to live healthy lifestyles, providing access to healthcare, supporting insulated homes, and ensuring adequate wages, he says.

Maori party candidate for Te Tai Tokerau Waihoroi Shortland (right) says his party has begun tackling the issue of rheumatic fever with a screening programme launched in Kaitaia in September.

The Maori party website says it will address the relatively low health status of our children by providing free preventative health care to children aged under six.

“The battle to eradicate this third world disease from the north and everywhere else has once again raised its potential to wreak havoc on our children,” says Mr Shortland.

The Maori party has secured initial funding for tackling diseases such as rheumatic fever, meningococcal, meningitis and diabetes, which are rife in the north, he says.

“The one motivating factor we should never lose sight of is that these are all winnable battles, we only need the resolve and the resources to achieve the outcomes.”

Mana party’s candidate for Te Tai Tokerau and the current candidate for the region, Hone Harawira (left), said in the Maori Television debate that the first priority is “feeding the kids” by providing free meals in all decile 1-5 schools.

Under Mana party’s policies, wage-earners’ first $27,000 would be tax-free and they would introduce free after-hours medical care for children under 16.

Mana’s health policy states that working to bring about higher standards of living is critical to addressing the health issues that Māori currently face, such as rheumatic fever.

The policy includes developing a free public health system, an eventual aim to ban tobacco in New Zealand, reducing alcohol and fast food advertising, providing for a community veto on pokie venues and expanding Maori health provisions.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *