Duncan Garner: Serious intervention needed to fix poverty in New Zealand

OPINION: Remember the phrase, 'we're all born equal?'

Maybe we were in the 1960s and 1970s - dad went to work, one income, one home, that was enough. 

Mum stayed home, we all took our lunch to school, there was little need for handouts. 

We had one car, there was no cell phone, the BBQ was charcoal and we all ran around barefoot.

Life was simple - maybe even dull, maybe boring. It didn't have the flashy wealth but it also didn't have the raw and confronting poverty we see nowadays.

We were a more egalitarian society - a flatter, fairer society. No one stood out.

Then came the 1980s and we opened up to the world.

Dog eat dog - we rushed to close certain industries overnight - efficiency they said. Brutal said those thrown on the scrap heap.

Trickle-down didn't happen and worse still, as the numbers of unemployed increased we cut benefit levels across the board.

Thousands of New Zealand families at the very bottom waited and waited and are still waiting for something to change.

It's believed thousands of children are living in these long term benefit dependent families. 

They haven't seen their mother or father ever hold down a job.

I've seen this in Hokianga. 

They rarely attend school in some places - having the right stationery is not part of the general chatter.

That's left up to the teachers to provide and thankfully they do.

But in many cases, it's a ghetto in our backyard.

And now our Productivity Commission wants to peer further into their lives and find out how big this group is and find out what's gone wrong and what can fix it. 

The bigger that group gets, the poorer we all become. 

We need citizens that buy in - but we need better data about who they are, where they are. 

Sadly the fix requires a serious intervention on a scale we have never seen before.

Duncan Garner is a co-host of The AM Show.