OPINION: Christmas is fast approaching and thoughts of hazy summer days at the beach or river over the holidays are often on the mind, writes Rino Tirikatene (Labour) in From the Beehive.
But for a growing number of Kiwis, going away for a holiday to the crib at Mataura or parking the caravan up at the Catlins for a couple of days is fast becoming a thing of the past.
Unemployment is the reason - unemployment and its "cousin" Poverty. As the National Government barrels on with its "rich getting rich, poor getting poorer" policies, ordinary New Zealanders have been left struggling. Job losses throughout Murihiku mean that this Christmas will be a lean time for some Southlanders.
But if there's one thing I know about Southlanders, it's their resilience and hardiness. Family and community will come together and support one another and help get each other through tough financial and emotional times. Parents who had jobs this time last year don't want their kids to miss out and when they have to scrimp and save to provide a sense of normality for their kids over the holiday period, things can get a little emotional.
In my September column I made the claim that under National, poverty is our biggest growth industry. Nothing it has done over the past two months has led me to change my mind and, in fact, things are getting worse. Unemployment overall has risen 7 per cent. For Maori it's a shocking 15 per cent of the total workforce. Something has to be done.
Hopefully some of the remits that were passed at last weekend's annual Labour Party conference, and the new policy of getting 100,000 Kiwi families into new homes announced by David Shearer, will convince the electorate that Labour is committed to ending poverty.
David Shearer has been endorsed as Labour's leader. It's a pity that recent events took some gloss off last weekend's conference because every delegate that I hung out with was really enthusiastic, excited, and looking forward to the huge challenge of getting rid of this current Government.
Let's hope that, from today, we can paddle our waka in a straight and true direction, always keeping in mind that the bailer is a most useful person in a waka.
Labour wants a New Zealand where, after a hard day's work, dad can sit down and have a beer and a steak for tea but gives in and treats his kids to a meal out knowing the bills and mortgage are "sweet as" for the month. That's not asking too much is it?
» Rino Tirikatene is the MP for Te Tai Tonga.
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