After having National Party MPs for 50 years, Northland has a chunk of the poorest housing in the country
by Phil Duncan
From the moment Winston Peters announced his intention to stand for Northland, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. Indeed, it baffled me that mainstream political commentators didn’t see it until poll after poll, week after week, finally shone a bunch of lights in their face simply too bright to ignore.
The by-election was brought about by the resignation of National MP Mike Sabin, currently the subject of a police investigation.
There were two reasons I thought Peters would win. One is that he’s the past master of populism, able to appear as anti-establishment and opposed to right-wing economics while being thoroughly enmeshed in capitalist politics. The other is that Northland electing a National MP for the past 50 years hasn’t helped the majority of people there and this was a chance to “send a message” to National without changing the government.
The socio-economic situation there was described by progressive blogger Dave Kennedy at Local Bodies a few days ago:
“Poverty can be seen everywhere in Northland, it is evident in the housing, the health statistics and stories from local doctors like Lance O’Sullivan.
“Schools struggle to meet the diverse needs of the mainly Maori communities and while there seems to be ample money to support elite private schools, Northland schools get ignored and bullied instead. Many of the successes in education in the region are due to communities doing what they can despite the Government. Kerikeri High School has lifted Maori achievement by supporting a successful programme that has had its funding cut. Much special education support, under the current system, is not directed to where there is greatest need and the likes of Kings College have greater access to services instead.
“Northland has amongst the worst health statistics in the country and this is most obvious in the area of child health. Diseases most closely related to poverty are common in Northland children. Hospital admissions for: Bronchiolitis, pneumonia, bronchiectasis, pertussis, meningococcal, tuberculosis and serious skin admissions are significantly higher than the New Zealand rate. Rheumatic fever is common and tamariki Maori have a 1 in 200 chance of a damaged heart by the end of school. The KidsCan charity had to step in to ensure that Northland children got necessary prescriptions because families struggled to pay the $5 dollar charges.
“Rheumatic fever in children is often related to poor and overcrowded housing and the shocking state of many Northland houses is very visible when traveling around. Many houses reflect what you would expect in third world countries, not an affluent nation like ours. While the attention is on the housing shortage in Auckland there is little being done to help upgrade the poor homes in the far north. It has since been revealed that poor maintenance has reduced the availability of state housing and this has obviously been an issue in Northland too.
“Maori, in particular, have greater difficulties than most to access funding for housing and even building on their own land and this is well documented.”
And, as Don Franks noted on this blog, “it’s one of the most shit-poor parts of New Zealand. In 2013, Northland was assessed as having the lowest electorate proportion of wage and salary earners. Earning stuff all, Northland was also assessed as having the second lowest median family income – just $51,400.”
Moreover, unemployment remains consistently higher than the national average, almost a quarter of the constituency’s population aged 15 and over have no Read the rest of this entry »