Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Paradise lost?

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The trouble with having a roof over your head, food on the table and a nice warm bed is that you are constantly reminded that others are not so fortunate and your conscience is perpetually pricked.

Television news nightly show us disturbing images of people living on the street or in cars and then widens the scope with heart-rending advertisements requesting assistance for some African region where skeletal infants are dying for aid.

You start to think about your own creature comforts due in part at least to the accident of birth and although Paul Henry tells us each morning that we are living in paradise, that’s not how many would see it.

National MP Chester Borrows however is sceptical of some of the stories coming out of Auckland and wants the news media to dig more deeply. He reckons the mother of ten children living in a carport would be entitled to $1500 a week from WINZ and with an accommodation supplement on top of that, her income would be closer to $2000 a week. Other questions he wants asked, bearing in mind she had been renting previously, why did she move? Has she got a poor rent record? Did she always pay her rent on time? Was the accommodation ever damaged?

But Auckland’s problems are becoming everybody’s problem - or good fortune - whichever way you look at it. Local real estate people are cock-a-hoop over the number of Aucklander’s who have cashed up and come south to uncongested roads and cheaper housing.

Immigration and Asian investment is blamed for the Auckland housing crisis and the high costs have driven rents up to such a degree that despite the generous WINZ supplements, maybe a family with ten children can’t really afford to live in the Queen city.

Perhaps there are other reasons for Auckland’s property boom.

For instance for years we have been bombarded by entrepreneurs advising us to use the equity in our existing homes to buy other homes as an investment for our old age.

Ollie Newlands had a TV show called Property Climbers, Robert Kiyosaki wrote Rich Dad Poor Dad and stomped the country preaching to packed auditoriums and more recently Nikki Connors from Propellor Property Investments has hit the airwaves. These three, and countless others, have urged us to buy houses to rent out.

Many will have followed their advice. If they started early they would be reaping the benefit today, and if they chose to invest in Auckland then perhaps they have created the situation where there are fewer houses for first home buyers to buy.

No one wants to see people living in cardboard boxes under bridges, or begging on the street and we shouldn’t forget that charity begins at home. Locally our Food-Bank people have disclosed that their shelves are bare and they are giving away more food parcels than they ever have. Food-Bank co-ordinator Lyn Tankersley says there is huge poverty out there and it is starting to effect middle income earners, many who have two or three jobs, but simply can’t make ends meet.

But if Chester Borrow’s figures regarding mother of ten’s entitlements are accurate, then I suspect there is little more the guv’ment can do.

“Clothes make the poor invisible. America has the best dressed poverty the world has ever known.” - Michael Harrington


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