Goff surveys welfare

01:00, Aug 18 2010
BUDGET TALK: Intense discussion over families in crisis. From left: Labour Party leader Phil Goff, Waiheke Budgeting Services manager Leigh Alexander, Labour list MP Jacinda Ardern and budget adviser Pat Reynolds.

AFTER the Chris Carter incident forced Phil Goff to cancel his Waiheke visit on August 6 and fly urgently to Wellington, the Labour Party leader finally put a shaky foot on the island after what he described as a funny bumpy ferry ride.

Mr Goff and Labour list MP Jacinda Ardern first went to visit Waiheke Community Childcare Centre before popping in to Waiheke Budgeting Services in Oneroa.

The visit was part of a nationwide tour with a main goal to "talk and listen to the people".

Mr Goff says visiting budgeting offices in particular allows him to have a good idea of what's happening in communities, because they are the "barometers" around the country.

They were reflecting a quite sombre image of the nation's economic situation, he says.

"They are all telling me the same things – and that's that things are pretty bad."


Mr Goff says that from visits to other budgeting offices, he has noticed that people coming to seek advice were not only those who were on benefits, but also people on wages or who were self- employed, and even small business owners, "which surprised me".

This situation was confirmed by Waiheke Budgeting Services office manager Leigh Alexander who says more self-employed people have been coming to the office this year.

The number of visits was up too, with a total of 149 people visiting the office for advice or help on financial issues in the year ending June 30.

Mr Goff also talked about concerns surrounding big cuts in early childhood education.

"The childcare centre told me that they have lost $42,000 in funding because of government cuts and that if they were to average that out across their parents it would mean another $30 a week in fees, and not many parents can afford that."

But Mr Goff says Labour has no miracle solution and that if back in power after next year's general elections, "there will be a lot of rebuilding to do".

"It is not a matter of how to divide the cake but of how to grow the cake – that is why we think the most damaging cuts for our economy have been the ones hitting the research and development sectors."

Labour's plans would be to grow the economy, focusing on up-skilling, on boosting research and development, and on improving savings.

"But we are aware that you can only spend what you have got so we will have to have a pretty tight system of prioritisations, and it will start with people and investment in people."

Mr Goff says 53 percent of New Zealanders did not get a wage rise last year, while inflation went up to 3 percent, which is about to reach 6 percent.

"That is really going to hurt a lot of families.

"Things are getting tougher, they are not going better, and people know that," he says.

"After October 1 when GST rises to 15 percent, they are going to be worse off, not better off."

Mr Goff also stopped to talk to a few business retailers in Oneroa, before hopping on board for another bumpy ferry ride back to the mainland.

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