Free-thinking Chloe has gone out to bat for impoverished students – but inflation-fuelling govt spending needs to be bowled first

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

  1. ‘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.


  2. 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?


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