The Green Party of New Zealand has expressed their approval of a support package for families announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. However, they are demanding further action from the Labour Party. The package, first announced at the Labour Party’s National convention on November 6th, includes increases in existing social programs such as the family tax credit. According to Ardern, almost 350,000 families will get an extra twenty dollars a week starting in April of 2022, lifting around 6,000 children out of poverty.
This initiative is a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which severely impacted New Zealand’s economy. The Child Poverty Action Group estimates that 18,000 children ended up in poverty in the year between March 2020 and March 2021. CPAG researcher, Janet McAllister, attributed the dire situation in part to inadequate governmental support, stating that “income loss due to job loss was probably inevitable due to Covid-19, but income loss to the point of inadequacy is due to our inadequate welfare system.”
While the Green Party welcomed the prime minister’s announcement, party spokesperson Ricardo Menendez March said that Labour “should have gone further and increased income support more quickly, and enough to ensure every family has enough to put food on the table, pay their rent, and keep their home warm.”
March pointed out that the changes fell short of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s recommendations. The WEAG was established in 2018 during Ardern’s first term as prime minister to advise the government on renewing New Zealand’s welfare policies. Although the group submitted its final report in 2019, none of its 42 recommendations have been implemented. Given that the report was written before the Covid-19 pandemic, Auckland Action Against Poverty argued that even full implementation of its recommendations would be insufficient given changed circumstances.
The Green Party is currently in a “cooperation agreement” with the labour government, holding positions in ministries despite Labour having won an outright majority in the last election. Still, this has not stopped them from being critical of Labour’s policies, including their response to the Covid-19 pandemic. March called Labour’s plan “window-dressing,” and “tinkering around the edges.” He contrasted this with the Greens’ Poverty Action Plan which, through universalizing certain programs, plans to “lift all families out of poverty.”