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Candidates address food issues

Almost 10 per cent of Wairarapa residents are on food aid and the problem is getting worse.

While Masterton Foodbank supplied a total of 4000 people during 2018, for example, it has helped almost 3000 meet their food needs during this past April alone.

The Times-Age spoke to the candidates vying to represent Wairarapa in Parliament about the issue and what role they think government has to play in supporting people who are struggling with food security.

Kieran McAnulty – the region’s current MP, who is once again standing for Labour – said the government was focused on supporting New Zealanders struggling with the rising cost of living.

“Further cost of living support is rolling out to over a million New Zealanders. Around 880,000 people will get an increase in Superannuation,” he said.

McAnulty said 345,000 families across Aotearoa – including 646,000 children – will be better off through Working for Families Tax Credits, and that fuel tax cuts and half-price public transport fares had also helped ease inflation.

Inflation was a worldwide problem, he said, while acknowledging there were things the government could do, such as targeted support, increasing wages, and being balanced with government finances.

McAnulty said Finance Minister Grant Robertson had signalled this would all be a focus in the upcoming Budget, and that the cost of living was the number one issue for the government.

Wairarapa National Party candidate Mike Butterick said there was no doubt that people who have never had to ask for help are now struggling to cover the basics.

“The people I’ve been talking to are really starting to struggle; it’s getting pretty tough,” he said.

Butterick said the government was to blame for the current cost of living crisis, with billions of dollars in “wasteful spending and economic mismanagement”, while National is promising to “restore discipline to government spending” and stop piling costs onto businesses.

That’s important, he said, because higher costs for businesses just end up being paid by Kiwis at the checkout.

A National government would “let New Zealanders keep more of what they earn” by adjusting tax brackets, which Butterick claimed would leave the average household $1600 better off.

Green Party candidate and former Wellington City mayor Celia Wade-Brown said part of the answer to food poverty lies in community gardens and allotments and strengthening community bonds.

Data from the Fairer Future anti-poverty campaign shows the Government’s April welfare increases have been insufficient, she said, and that the worst-off families need $300 dollars more in support to make ends meet.

“There are very clear opportunities to make it possible for every family to afford the food they need.”

Wade-Brown said the government needs to increase benefits to liveable levels, break up the supermarket duopoly, and introduce rent controls and tax reform.

“It is time to be bold and rewrite the rules to make sure the wealthiest people in New Zealand pay their fair share.”

Relying on charities is not sustainable and there is a clear need for a capital gains or inheritance tax, Wade-Brown said.

“The super-rich in Aotearoa are paying a lower effective tax rate than nurses and teachers.”

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