5 Nov 2008

Maori Party wants $500 present for poor children, elderly

7:17 pm on 5 November 2008

The Maori Party is looking to spread some Christmas cheer, suggesting a $500 tax free payment for each child in poverty-stricken families and the same for superannuitants to help them through the holiday period.

It says that would cost a total of $136.5 million.

Party co-leader Pita Sharples says it is about supporting the most vulnerable members of the community during the global financial crisis.

Dr Sharples says the proposal has a number of benefits.

"The money that's invested in these families will be spent, and the retailers will get increased turnover, and then the retailers will buy their products and so on so this is what they call a multiplier system where it has far-reaching effects, and it's a full cycle."

Dr Sharples acknowledges the proposal would not solve longer-term problems.

The Maori Party's Hauraki-Waikato candidate, Angeline Greensill, says the major parties are ignoring poverty and families as campaign issues.

She compared the $136m cost of a payment with the $150 billion the Government is offering to support the banking sector.

However, the Green's Maori Affairs spokesperson says the Christmas bonus is short term thinking.

Metiria Turei says it would be more useful to look at ways to increase family income throughout the year, and to raise minimum wages and benefits as an economic stimulus.

Poor families 'most important'

The Child Poverty Action group says poor families should be the main focus.

Its researcher Donna Wynd says while superannuitants should not necessarily be excluded they have been better catered for than beneficiaries through other forms of relief. Ms Wynd says nine years of economic growth have not solved child poverty.

The Business Roundtable says state spending should be trimmed in the current economic climate.