Nearly three-quarters of New Zealanders believe the gap
between rich and poor has increased under six years of
National Government and almost two-thirds feel they are no
better off or have gone backwards, a Herald-DigiPoll survey
Forty four per cent of the 750 New Zealanders surveyed this
month said the gap between the rich and poor had got a lot
bigger over the past six years.
A further 30 per cent said it had got a little bigger. Just
over 22 per cent said it was about the same, and only 3 per
cent believed the gap had closed.
One-third of those surveyed felt they were now better off
financially since National became the Government, 30 per cent
said they were about the same and virtually the same number
said they were worse off. Eight per cent were unsure or
Labour leader David Cunliffe said people "really know in
their heart of hearts that gap has widened too far".
"It's borne out in all the data and there's no hiding it and
it's a terrible thing for New Zealand. It undermines the New
Zealand way of life, New Zealanders know it and they're not
going to vote for more of it."
"That's why things like a capital gains tax and a lift in the
top marginal tax rate will provide resources that can be
given to give a hand up to the more vulnerable and help close
up some of those gaps."
Through a spokesman, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said
the fact the poll showed most New Zealanders felt better off
or the same about their situation "is encouraging given they
have been through a large recession and the global financial
crisis in the past six years".
But the fact that three-quarters believed the wealth gap was
widening showed "they are concerned that others may not be
doing so well - despite the best available data showing no
evidence of rising income inequality over the past decade".
While it increased in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and
decreased between 2004 and 2007 because of Working for
Families, income inequality has gone up and down in official
measures since aftermath of the global financial crisis and
there is no clear trend higher or lower.
But Labour Party finance spokesman David Parker said income
inequality in New Zealand remained above the OECD average,
"and we know that the income measure of inequality excludes
capital gains, which are unusually untaxed in New Zealand".
"The entrenched inequality that comes from long-term income
inequality gets worse every year and you see that in falling
home ownership rates."
Mr English said that while "a number of families are still
finding their situation challenging, on average wages are
rising a bit faster than the cost of living, interest rates
remain not far off 50-year lows, the Government is ensuring
more houses are being built and we're investing billions of
dollars to support vulnerable families.
"The best way to help low-income New Zealanders is through a
growing economy that supports more jobs and higher incomes."