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Is NZ still a great place to bring up children?

He aha te mea nui o tenei ao?

Contributed by: Dr Mataroria Lyndon, senior lecturer at the University and lead clinical adviser at Counties Manukau District Health Board. Article originally published in Ingenio magazine

Is Aotearoa still a great place to bring up kids? I wish that I could proudly answer “yes” to this question, but I can’t.

The image of the quintessential young Kiwi family packed into a station wagon, with a dog, headed for a lovely day at the beach is a far-off dream for many New Zealanders.

There are an estimated 200,000 tamariki living in poverty and 90,000 rangatahi, or young people, not engaged in any form of education, training or employment.

I grew up in Whangarei and south Auckland and I’ve seen the ethnic disparities that are contributing to these frightening statistics. Business and Economic Research Ltd recently reported that Māori weekly take-home pay is $140 lower than that of non-Māori workers. Income inequality affects ethnic minorities directly. It also affects our whole nation indirectly. We know that whānau with lower incomes are more likely to have children who perform worse at school, to have poorer health and to become dependent on welfare. This dire social inequality adversely affects people’s well-being as well as a nation’s overall economic productivity, so we all miss out. There are enough resources to improve tamariki quality of living but we must make people-centred decisions.

I believe that this country is on the turnaround and that the catalyst for this is the new government, after nine years of “crisis, what crisis?” Policies that invest in empowering and educating our young people, that promote innovation and cross-sector collaboration, and protect our natural resources will be important to improve society for the benefit of our future generations.

The Budget, due out as Ingenio goes to print, should give an indicator of priorities for the government, though it will take longer than three years to make the turnaround needed.

Aotearoa now has a government that cares and it needs the chance to deliver on its new approach.

You may think that I am an optimistic socialist – maybe. My view is underpinned by my upbringing in Tikanga Māori, “He aha te mea nui o tenei ao? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.” What is the main thing in life? It is people, it is people, it is people.


Dr Mataroria Lyndon MBChB, MPH, PhD is on the staff of the Centre for Medical and Health Sciences Education and is lead clinical advisor in Māori Health at Counties Manukau DHB. He completed a Master of Public Health at Harvard University as a Fulbright Scholar and Frank Knox Fellow in 2017.

This article was originally published in Ingenio Magazine.


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