MP pays visit to city groups

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 01/09/2012

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Labour's social development spokesperson has taken a break from sparring with Paula Bennett to visit community groups in Palmerston North.

Jacinda Ardern says without the hard work of such organisations the situation for New Zealand's poor would be much worse.

The Government was doing too little to help those in poverty, she said, and groups such as Salvation Army and Te Aroha Noa Community Services were having to pick up the pieces.

Three reports released in the past week had shone light on how dire the situation was in New Zealand. The latest, by the Children's Commissioner, had found 25 per cent of Kiwi kids were living in poverty.

"I think what each of those reports shows is there was room for the Government to have been much more proactive on this issue."

The Government continued to blame the global financial crisis, Miss Ardern said, but there were things that politicians could do.

"The stark contrast is we're not willing to sit and wait and see if everything fixes itself".

While some legislative changes Miss Ardern wanted to make would take time, others would have an almost immediate effect.

A school lunches programme "could be done tomorrow", she said.

"Lifting the minimum wage will immediately make a difference".

Earlier this week, Miss Ardern clashed with Ms Bennett in Parliament over how poverty levels were measured, with the Social Development minister saying people came in and out of poverty daily.

Miss Ardern was not impressed by that argument.

"We think measurement is important, what gets measured gets done."

Ms Bennett said she welcomed the Children's Commissioner report and said there were many proposals and recommendation which government agencies could consider.

"The Expert Advisory Group has worked hard to address the complex issues surrounding poverty which cut across social development, health, housing, education and other areas," she said.

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