Dame Diane Robertson, Chair of the Data Futures Partnership Working Group and Chair of the Committee for Auckland Trust, shared her thoughts on the myths and reality of poverty in New Zealand at the one-day Manawatu TacklingPovertyNZ workshop on 15 August 2016.

You can watch Diane’s video on the McGuinness Institute Youtube channel or view it below.

Diane spoke to participants about the Family 100 project run by the Auckland City Mission. The project followed 100 families over a 12 month period and aimed to bring about a deeper understanding of the experiences of families living in urban poverty in Auckland.

Diane mentioned how we often talk about individuals and forget that people live in complex family units. It is a New Zealand myth accepted by our income and benefit systems that the normal family is a mother, a father, and two (and a half) children. When conducting the Family 100 project, instead of looking at the individual, the entire family tree would be discussed. As Diane put to the participants, until you know the family, how can you understand what keeps them in poverty?

The project also highlighted how much time was spent on inefficient social services. In a two week period, a four person family may have to visit 45 different services. We need to be asking ‘how do we make these services fit the family?’ not ‘how do we make the family fit the services?’

This mind-set is also projected onto people who have fallen into heavy debt. High levels of debt are often due to a situation completely out of someone’s control; however, every week, a large portion of their income goes towards paying off the debt. For some, budgeting is not enough to make it out of such immense debt.

Diane left participants with a thought for people currently in poverty. She spoke of how often they are unheard, how hard it is to access and meet their needs, and how they are being excluded from a society that they have every entitlement to be a part of.

About the TacklingPovertyNZ 2016 tour
In December 2015, the McGuinness Institute undertook a three-day workshop in collaboration with the New Zealand Treasury. Its purpose was to explore ways to reduce poverty in New Zealand. This workshop has led to a number of outputs, one of which was a tour of one-day workshops around New Zealand throughout 2016. The purpose of the tour was to build and share ideas on how to tackle poverty, come up with local solutions and connect like-minded people within communities.

The Manawatu workshop was one of six, along with workshops in Queenstown, Rotorua, Gisborne, Kaitaia and Kaikohe. A discussion paper for each area visited has been published on our website. These papers are specific to each community and together form a series showcasing insights from individuals who attended a one-day workshop in their local community.

In addition, the mayors from each council met with the then Minister of Finance, Hon Bill English to discuss the outputs of the workshops, which led to the Demarcation zones for public policy innovation proposal sent to the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Bill English, on 21 December 2016. The proposal calls for the establishment of demarcation zones, which will isolate and separate an area from existing rules to make space for new rules to be implemented that are fit for the specific community they serve – decentralising economic and social governance. This instrument of public policy reform aims to tackle poverty and build economic wealth in the community.

Working Paper 2017/01 – TacklingPovertyNZ 2016 Tour: Methodology, results and observations has been released for comment and can be found on our website. This paper brings all the outputs together from the six workshops and aims to illustrate the differences between communities. In 2017 we would like to build on these findings. There was a lot to learn and digest, and we are still working through what this means in terms of public policy. Any feedback on this paper is most welcome. This year we will send an invitation to all MPs to meet to discuss the working paper.