The forum provided an opportunity for 3 speakers to address their concerns for, and the impacts of widening inequality in NZ. The speakers were preceded by Max Rashbrooke who previewed the book he is editing with others entitled “Inequality”, which has subsequently been released in mid 2013. Inequality in NZ increased rapidly between mid 80s and mid 90s. The average household in the top 10% now has nine times the income of one in the bottom 10%. The top 1% of adults own 16% of NZ’s wealth; the bottom 50% together own ~5%. The seminar speakers were from Wellington’s Downtown Community Ministry, Otago University and an economist. All noted that a high level of inequality will not result in a healthy vibrant, cohesive society and therefore needs to change.
A good discussion followed with challenges to expenditure on infrastructure versus health and education, tax rates on very high incomes, Government support for industries and specific companies, those in power who are out of touch with those with $40 per week available for food, clothing, etc, graduates who can’t get work in NZ. An attitude change is required – for the vast majority of the poor it’s not their fault – the system has to change to provide better pay and more opportunities.