OPINION: Tackling long-term challenges facing NZ

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By Jo Luxton

This week marks the first Wellbeing Budget, one of the most important moments of the political year.

We’ve already seen some pre-Budget announcements: much needed investments in St John’s, more supports available for children growing up in state care, and changes to NCEA, including the scrapping of the fees which will ease living costs for many South Canterbury parents.

A substantial investment in trying to end homelessness has also been made. Homelessness is certainly an issue we are facing here in Timaru, we do have people living in cars, couch surfing, and living anywhere they can find some shelter.

I know this first hand because I’ve seen it. People have phoned or called into my office asking for help, desperately wanting a roof over their heads. It is so troubling, and I am happy this Government is doing the work to help stamp out homelessness.

I know this first hand because I’ve seen it. People have phoned or called into my office asking for help, desperately wanting a roof over their heads.

Fixing long-term problems needs fresh thinking and energy. Under Jacinda Ardern’s leadership, we’re running surpluses, paying off debt, and addressing critical problems. We have a clear plan and we are getting on with the job. The Wellbeing Budget will show that.

In the Budget, the Government is delivering on our plan to address long-term challenges.

One of those challenges is family and sexual violence. New Zealand has one of the worst rates of family violence in the OECD. One million New Zealanders are affected by the trauma of family and sexual violence every year, including 300,000 children.

We can’t sit by and let this continue. We have to take action to support survivors, and help break this cycle for our tamariki.

I’m proud the Prime Minister has announced the largest investment ever into responding to and preventing family and sexual violence. It is so desperately needed.

I’ve met with Timaru groups that are doing fantastic work in our community with families who need help. They make a huge and vital impact, but their caseloads are ever-increasing and funding is never enough.

Violence affects how children learn, it affects mental wellbeing, and puts people in a constant state of “fight or flight”. It also increases the risk of suicide.

We know violence and poverty are linked. Our plan to help improve the wellbeing of New Zealanders will lift more families and children out of poverty. Our Families Package means 384,000 families are better off by an average of $75 a week, our extension to paid parental leave gives parents more time in those vital first months with their babies, and our Winter Energy Payment is helping more than one million Kiwis stay warm each winter.

I’m proud to be part of Jacinda Ardern’s Government – a government that will continue to tackle the long-term challenges, and to place the wellbeing of New Zealanders firmly at the heart of what we do.

Jo Luxton is a Labour list MP based in Rangitata