Green Party, National focus on people in hardship at Nelson meetings
Green Party inequality spokeswoman Marama Davidson is pushing her party's plan to end poverty.
"Within a year, we can immediately bring everybody to above the poverty line if the poverty line definition is 66 per cent of the average wage," Davidson said in Nelson ahead of a public meeting.
"Now that's not going to end the rest of the social deprivation but that's going to make a massive difference."
The Green Party public gathering this week was on the same evening Social Investment Minister Amy Adams attended a public meeting on social issues hosted by the National Party in Nelson.
Davidson said the Greens were pushing against the "scarcity argument".
"For too long, our country has been led to believe that there's not enough," she said.
"There absolutely is enough for people to all live in good, safe, warm homes, there's enough for people to live with enough to pay the rent and get good food and pay the power bill and not have to choose between those basic essentials."
The Greens' plan to end poverty, which former co-leader Metiria Turei announced in July when she admitted historic benefit fraud, includes increasing benefits by 20 per cent and raising the minimum wage.
To help pay for those changes, the party aims to increase the tax rate to 40 per cent for people earning more than $150,000.
Davidson said the cost-benefit ratio would be 6:1.
"For every dollar we spend on ending poverty, we get $6 back through the health gains, through education gains, through justice gains and so on and so on," she said. "Poverty is very expensive."
Nelson Green Party candidate Matt Lawrey said he had not received any push back on the campaign trail over the plan to raise tax for top earners, suggesting many people wanted change.
"A lot of middle-class New Zealanders are seeing New Zealanders suffering in the street and they don't like it," Lawrey said. "They don't feel good living in a country where this is an increasing problem."
West Coast-Tasman Green candidate Kate Fulton said with the rise in house prices and rentals, some middle-income earners were struggling to afford anything more than food money, such as a holiday.
"In their minds, they're thinking: 'Well, if I'm struggling, imagine how hard it is for someone who's on a benefit'," Fulton said.
Over at National Party headquarters, Nelson MP Nick Smith said the debate this election on social issues was not on whether there were problems but what was the right response to better help people in hardship.
"My message to Nelson voters is that a strong economy is vital to addressing issues like hardship and improving social services," Smith said.
"The reason we can afford lifting the incomes of 45,000 low and middle-income families by $28 a week, extending cheaper GP visits, fund an extra 24 police and an extra 39 ambulance officers is because we have the budget surplus to afford it."
Adams said despite spending $61 billion a year on social services in New Zealand, "we are not seeing the outcomes we want for some New Zealanders".
"That's why the National-led Government has set up the Social Investment Agency," she said. "We've also invested $321 million into a Social Investment Package, which funded 14 initiatives designed to provide targeted, integrated services."
The aim was to shift the whole system and start investing more upfront in a "highly targeted way that directs much-needed support to those New Zealanders in need", Adams said.