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PM commemorates world-first social security system

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister of New Zealand

12 August 2008 Media Statement

PM commemorates world-first social security system

Embargoed until 10am

Prime Minister Helen Clark today launches a new biography of one of the architects of New Zealand’s social security scheme, Sir Arnold Nordmeyer, as part of commemorative events marking the 70th anniversary of the Social Security Act 1938.

Helen Clark today visits Kurow for the launch of Mary Logan’s biography Nordy – Arnold Nordmeyer: A Political Biography. Sir Arnold was a Presbyterian Minister in Kurow before entering Parliament in 1935 as a member of the First Labour Government.

“Sir Arnold Nordmeyer’s experience of working with the families of workers at the Waitaki hydro electric project in Kurow during the Great Depression of the1930s helped shape his conviction that a universal and comprehensive social security scheme was needed.

“The first Labour Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage coined the phrase ‘from the cradle to the grave’ to describe his government’s approach to helping impoverished workers and their families.

“The Social Security Act was introduced to Parliament on 11 August 1938, and for the first time acknowledged that the care and welfare of citizens was a government responsibility. Until 1938, there was only a very limited system of pensions covering, for instance, the elderly, widows, the blind, miners, and invalids.

“The 1938 Social Security Act established the Social Security Department to administer comprehensive assistance, and for the first time, universal superannuation, and universal medical care.

“This Labour-led Government, like its forebears, remains committed to ensuring that every New Zealander has a right to a reasonable standard of living, and believes that the community as a whole needs to care for its members,” Helen Clark said.

During her visit to Kurow, Helen Clark will also open the first stage of the NZ National Museum of Social Security and the 1930s-themed Kurow Heritage Information Centre. She is also opening a Social Security Heritage Trail around Waitaki Dam.

The development of the Kurow Heritage Information Centre has received grants totalling $231,000 from the Department of Internal Affairs’ Community Development Scheme.


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