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An Open Letter From Housing Minister, Mark Gosche

20 December 2000 Media Statement

It's still dark at 4am when one father-of-four leaves for work - it takes him nearly two hours to walk from Otara to the factory where he packs boxes.

Seven hours later he begins the journey home, pausing at his children's primary school so they can walk home together.

He could save himself a three-hour walk each day as his casual job pays little more than the unemployment benefit and family support payments.

But he says that as long as there is a job available – he'll be there to do it.

Why?

Because he wants to work, he wants to set a good example to his kids and he wants a better future for them.

He says that he is proud to have work.

For the past two years more than half his meagre income has gone towards paying a 'market rent' to Housing New Zealand.

From now on there will be $50 extra to spend on his family each week and he is planning to spend it on his children: good food, books, shoes, school trips, new clothes.

His 12-year-old is a rising star in his junior rugby team and the family is hoping to buy him his first pair of proper rugby boots for Christmas.

But there are other hopes playing on the mind of this widower who also cares for his mother-in-law in the 3-bedroom family home.

He recently started a new job, cleaning at a Manukau office block three evenings a week. This week he is going to find out if his packing job will become permanent.

When that happens he says he can finally plan for the future.

His plans and hopes for the future include buying a home of his own.

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His dreams include sending all his children to Auckland University.

This is the Kiwi Dream.

It is alive in New Zealand and not just in the homes of the privileged and well off.

This is my response to those theorists and politicians who argue that low-income New Zealanders do not have dreams of their own.

This is what I want to say to people who believe that low-income New Zealanders will be discouraged because their state house rents have dropped.

They need to get real. They are living in "theoryland". They believe people should continue to be impoverished to give them an incentive to work.

The reality is that people want to work, for the money, the dignity and human interaction that work brings.

Waiariki MP Mita Ririnui summed it up at the weekend when he appeared on TVNZ's Marae programme. The presenter asked him if income-related rents would create more dependence on the state.

Mita told him that those were the thoughts of people who have not walked in the community. Those were the thoughts of people who have not walked in the shoes of the poor and struggling.

Those kinds of critics fail to realise that income-related state house rents are not about dependence – they are about survival.

Ia Manuia le Kerisimasi ma le Tausaga Fou
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Mark Gosche

© Scoop Media

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