Advocate hails Green plan to end poverty, says current situation a 'disgrace'

An anti-poverty group has welcomed the Greens' ambitious plan to reform the tax and welfare systems, saying the current arrangement is a "disgrace" that condemns families and children to poverty. 

The party's package includes a guaranteed minimum income which would replace all current working-age benefits, new child credits which would replace Working for Families, new taxes on extremely high incomes and wealth and a revamp of ACC.

"We have enough for everyone to live with dignity, but the system is rigged so a few have more than they will ever need, while far too many will always struggle," co-leader Marama Davidson said on Sunday. "It is time to change this."

Child Poverty Action Group spokesperson Janet McAllister said it would improve lives.

"Family incomes are currently so low they're damaging," she told Newshub. "A little bit of modelling we've done today suggests that this Greens package would indeed lift incomes to adequate levels for many, many families and whanau."

The Greens say only 6 percent of Kiwis would end up paying the wealth tax, which would apply only to net wealth above $1 million. Very few people - about 9 percent - earn more than $100,000 a year, Treasury data shows, while only 3 percent earn more than $150,000 a year.  

McAllister said advocates have been calling for change for years.

"The current system keeps money from some of our poorest families, which is a disgrace, and it's perpetuated some of the very worst poverty in New Zealand." 

The Greens' plans have come under fire from the Opposition. ACT leader David Seymour said, "this kind of European socialism will only prolong the economic pain" brought about by the pandemic, and National's Paul Goldsmith said the Greens want to "punish" the successful.

Statistics NZ in 2018 said the wealth of the bottom 40 percent of Kiwis hadn't changed in years, while the wealthiest 20 percent saw their fortunes skyrocket.  

An Oxfam report, also in 2018, found 1 percent of New Zealanders had hoarded 28 percent of new wealth generated the previous year - while the poorest 30 percent only got 1 percent of it. 

Data from Stats NZ shows that in the year ended June 2019, about one in eight children - 13.4 percent - lived in households reporting material hardship. 

"There was no significant change from 2017/18 to 2018/19 in material hardship," its report said.

While there were children from all ethnic groups living in households with low income and in material hardship, the rates for Māori and Pacific peoples were particularly high. 

McAllister said the Greens have "thoroughly thought about the system" and come up with a solution to poverty in New Zealand. 

"They're tackling key serious issues in a really thoughtful way. We congratulate the Greens on a thoughtful package."  

On current polling, the Greens are expected to make it back into Parliament - and with New Zealand First sitting well below the 5 percent threshold, there's more chance than ever they could form a governing coalition with Labour for the first time.