29 Jun 2016

Home ownership would close inequality gap - Labour

10:31 am on 29 June 2016

The Labour Party wants the government to help Maori and Pacific people become home-owners after the latest household wealth figures show a large gap between ethnicities in New Zealand.

Caucus run 21/07/15

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The new statistics showed New Zealanders of European descent were the wealthiest, with an individual median net worth of $114,000, while for Maori it was $23,000 and just $12,000 for Pacific people.

Labour finance spokesperson Grant Robertson said one of the reasons for the gap was the lack of homeownership among Maori and Pacific people.

"One of the things that helps give people more security and confidence to start building their lives in the community is knowing they've got a home to own. And I think there is a huge opportunity for a partnership with iwi. I know a lot of iwi are looking at house building programmes, I think the government can get alongside those as well."

Mr Robertson said inequality was getting worse, with the country's richest individuals - those in the top 10 percent - holding 60 percent of all wealth by the end of July 2015.

Prime Minister John Key told reporters the figures were consistent over the past 20 to 30 years and were similar to when the Labour government was in office.

14062016 Photo: RNZ/Rebekah Parsons-King. John Key talks about the effects of the Orlando shooting.

Prime Minister John Key Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

"It's not surprising it's getting a little bit more that way because, in reality, better-off New Zealanders will own assets, particularly houses, and those house prices are rising and that's what will be driving that.''

The figures showed the average household was worth $289,000, and the most valuable asset they owned was the house they lived in.

Mr Key said the government wanted to make sure those that were less well-off could also afford homes.

"While of course the top end own a lot more assets because of their capacity to save, there are very heavy levels of redistribution in New Zealand.

"So if you earn under $60,000 and have a couple of children, in all probability you'll pay no tax and get significant Working For Families payments in New Zealand.''