Chloe Swarbrick is one of the most interesting politicians in the New Zealand Parliament, a highly effective campaigner who – after one term as a List MP – won Auckland Central for the Green Party.
Still only 28, she is already seen as a future leader of her party.
This week she took up the cudgels on behalf of students and gave the government a hammering.
She pointed to new evidence showing that thousands of students are living in poverty, with many struggling to pay rent and put food on the table.
“Everyone in this country deserves to live a life of dignity. Our new research shows that’s a right denied to thousands of students. Political decisions over the last few decades have normalised and entrenched student poverty. This wasn’t an accident. It can be fixed,” says Swarbrick who is Green Party spokesperson for tertiary education.
She cited the results of the People’s Inquiry into Student Wellbeing by the Green Party and NZUSA, Te Mana Ākonga, Tauira Pasifika and the National Disabled Students’ Association, in which more than 4,500 students responded:
* On average, those living in a shared flat spend 56% of their weekly income on rent. 91% support rent controls and 82% support a rental warrant of fitness.
* Two-thirds of students regularly do not have enough money to buy food, clothing, pay bills, get health care or other basics. Disabled, Māori and Pasifika students were most likely to be in that position.
* One in six students said their shared flat didn’t meet their needs but couldn’t move because rents were too high.
* Two-thirds haven’t been able to pay for transport or the costs of a vehicle.
* 91% said they would use public transport “more” if it was free.
* Most students (69%) reported a decline in mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and some said this negatively impacted their studies.
“Education is a public good. We all benefit when somebody takes on tertiary study, contributes original thought and their skills to our communities, country and world,” says Swarbrick.
“Yet students are struggling, significantly. The minority of students who today can access the allowance are in real terms hundreds of dollars worse off a month than students even a decade ago, which is nothing on when education was effectively free prior to the 1980s.
“We opened this Inquiry when it was clear neither the Government nor the supposed opposition were interested in the real data or experiences of students on the ground. We said it would give us irrefutable evidence of the systemic barriers and challenges facing the 400,000 students in this country. It has. This must force change”.
Point of Order finds the Swarbrick case (that students who rent on average spend 56% of their income on mostly damp, cold flats) is indeed deplorable.
Internationally and locally accepted ‘affordability’ measurements declare no one should be spending more than 30% of their incomes on housing. We need affordable, healthy homes for everyone, and students overwhelmingly understand the need for rent controls and a warrant of fitness for rental homes – because they live in a world without those fundamentals.
The problem is that the situation, if not of the current government’s making, has grown substantially worse since the Ardern government took office.
And the Green Party is part of the current government.
Is Swarbrick now confessing that the Green Party has no influence on what the Ardern government is doing?
Oh, well Swarbrick will keep on campaigning on behalf of students.
But students won’t be holding their breath for the Universal Student Allowance, fees-free tertiary education, free public transport, rent controls and a rental warrant of fitness that she says they need.
How much worse has the current government made the student plight, with inflation reaching over 7%, the highest it has reached in over 30 years?
A pity Swarbrick is not on record earlier, castigating the government for its runaway spending which if not igniting the inflationary fire stoked it into such a blaze.
2 thoughts on “Free-thinking Chloe has gone out to bat for impoverished students – but inflation-fuelling govt spending needs to be bowled first”
‘We all benefit when somebody takes on tertiary study, contributes original thought’. Had a laugh over this statement by Chloe. University and original thought are an oxymoron these days.
As seems ever common with Chloe, there is cognitive dissidence. They want rental WoFs and rent controls, but then are upset at high rents. Does she think the two might be linked? A cause and effect there, or did she skip school the day they discussed that?