Opinion: An open letter to the ministries of health, social housing and education

Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman.
FAIRFAX NZ

Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman.

OPINION: Dear Ministries of health,social development and education,

I usually don't like group emails, but in this case, I need answers from all of you about issues closely linked. My name is Kia King and I have lived in this beautiful country for nearly 10 years. Soon after I arrived I realised what a wonderful social country New Zealand was in contrast to The Netherlands where I came from. It was easy to find a rental, public healthcare was pretty good and the locals here in Blenheim seemed to have a vast range of community services to choose from, if needed. New Zealand felt like Australasia's equivalent of Denmark in Europe and I had won the golden ticket of residency by marrying my wonderful Kiwi husband.

Recently I am saddened by the realisation that my rose-tinted glasses keep slipping off.

Minister for Building and Housing Nick Smith
FILE

Minister for Building and Housing Nick Smith

The first major disappointment comes in the form of the deteriorating public health system. Various health professionals have pointed out that it has become harder to tick boxes and get on a waiting list. I myself have been taken off a waiting list after 10 months of waiting and this has happened to others around me, too. Nowadays, when I call the GP I need to get assessed by the nurse first to see if I am 'sick enough' to pay them $42 for a 10-minute appointment. If not, I might get an appointment next week.

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I am told that the local after hours GP will be opening fulltime next year to assist with people that can't get into their GP at all. This didn't use to happen, not 10 years ago or even five. What has changed? And why are we expected to pay private health insurance while we had a perfectly good public system we could count on? Taxes are still coming in, unemployment isn't up. So please clarify Ministry of Health.

Minister for Social Development Anne Tolley

Minister for Social Development Anne Tolley

Another slap in the face was meeting a woman last week with two small children who is homeless and can't find a rental. That was the second time I have met desperate people like this, the first family I met a few months ago were camping on their mother's lawn with their 3-year-old. Why are these people homeless? When we arrived in Blenheim eight years ago there were plenty of options and for $270 a week. We were living on a minimum wage of $11.50 an hour, but we could find a house close to the centre of town, were warm and secure. I would walk everywhere with our first born or join numerous SuperCard Gold users enjoying a bit of independence on the bus - yet another social service that has come under threat after Mitre10 pulled sponsorship from Blenheim's only bus. 

What has changed? Please, can you give me some answers Ministry of Housing?

Previously, I would have recommended these people to seek out the help of one our fantastic community services. I volunteered at the amazing Marlborough Family Budgeting Service and am now the secretary of the committee. Last October however, their funding was cut, as well as that of 12 other Budgeting Services around the South Island. They had successfully run for 33 years helping those who needed to balance minimum wage with a large list of outgoings. In the short three years I worked with the service it was obvious how hardship application and/or the need of food parcels were increasing. Why are these services — including the much-used Lifeline — now expected to apply (beg) for funding from other charity services like the Lotteries and Rata Foundation? Please, can you help me understand Ministry of Social Development?

Hekia Parata Minister of Education.
FAIRFAX NZ

Hekia Parata Minister of Education.

On Thursday, those rose-tinted glasses truly shattered when I took my middle son for his second school visit. Since then I have found it hard to sleep.

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We are faced with the equivalent of two classrooms in one (larger) space with two teachers. Thirty-six 5-year-olds learning together in a new way that is supposed to be a vibrant (read noisy), well-connected, physical environment that encourages and supports different types of learning — if you don't mind me quoting your website dear Ministry of Education. Now, in reality, what we were faced with were two fantastic teachers, clearly overwhelmed by the number of small people rushing in between the two classrooms that (thankfully) at this stage still has a door that can close.

I am worried about a 5-year old's ability to: 1. Be able to have the emotional intelligence to know he needs to find a quiet space; 2. Be able to express this to his friends after he has done so.

I am assured that there is nothing they can do, everyone has to do it or they won't get the funding.

This sounds a lot like the GP who is trying to juggle unhappy patients who can't get an appointment. It's very much a case of 'If you can't fight them, join them' and I feel this attitude is hurting New Zealand a lot. I think we need to take action now, before New Zealand is filled with disgruntled citizens who feel ripped off, just like the citizens in most of Europe.

Education is a subject very close to my heart and I have been accused of being sensitive, but when my first son started school in an unmodern, inflexible, unvibrant learning environment only a few years ago, there were no ill feelings whatsoever. I was boasting the quality of our education here in New Zealand and have had a happy go lucky boy come home after school ever since.

I believe everyone deserves a peaceful space and that crucial word is missing in all the teaching jargon. The children are encouraged to wear headphones if they want some peace. Some teachers are speculating it will be a good way of dealing with the increasing numbers of students. But why don't we have enough teachers, what has changed? I'd love to know Ministry of Education. 

Before you answer, I have heard some of your solutions and have even had to dish this advice out at our local Budget Service. I could work more, pay more tax which the Ministry of Transport can spend on infrastructure. You will assist me by paying other people to look after my children. Then with my increased earnings, I could buy private health insurance, life insurance, income protection and if I'm lucky enough to find a second job, I could send my children to a private school who can afford to ignore the new education system which, might I add, already failed in the 1980s.

It's not good enough, you owe me a restful night sleep as well as all the other Kiwi's that pay taxes for the services that are slowly being destroyed. But for now, I'm tired and grumpy and mourning the social New Zealand I was once so proud of.

I look forward to your honest reply.

Yours sincerely, Kia King

Note: Unsurprisingly trying to find an email address for anyone in Ministry of Social Development seems impossible, how very unsociable.

 - The Marlborough Express

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