Editorial: Certainly not the toughest of times

By Keri Welham

For many households in 2012, tightening the belt means forgoing a holiday, brewing your own beer, ditching the Sky subscription.

An APN Media survey of 3000 online readers showed nearly 75 per cent were spending more on power than a year ago, almost 70 per cent had more set aside for rates, more than 65 per cent had noticed insurance increases and almost 45 per cent were concerned about the increase in petrol costs.

The report outlined in your paper today reveals restaurateurs are paying themselves below the minimum wage, people are putting on weight because they can't afford sports subs or the petrol to get to sporting venues, music lessons for children have been cancelled and one woman has even cut down on travel to visit her mother because she can't afford the petrol.

The Great Recession began with the sub-prime loan crisis late in 2007 but really dug in when Lehman Brothers fell in September 2008. More than three years on, times remain tough.

But two stories in today's paper should serve as a reminder to this generation of what tough times really look like.

In World War II, many New Zealanders went to war as teenagers. It is 71 years since 7700 Kiwis fought in the Battle of Crete. Yesterday, a handful of veterans were guests of honour at a commemoration of the battle held at Mount Maunganui RSA. Roye Hammond, 93, travelled from Pukekohe for the service where he shared memories of heading off to war aged 22. He told our reporter he was buoyed by the interest from current generations.

Similarly our front page today carries the story of Joyce and Eric McGarva. They have loved each other for more than seven decades and will this week celebrate 70 years as husband and wife. Their romance harks back to a time when it was not proper for a girl to wear lipstick before she was 16, when a boy asked a girl's family for her hand in marriage and when the army could commandeer a car which was a young man's pride and joy.

Mr Hammond and the McGarvas lived through the Great Depression and the destruction and fear of World War II.

They may struggle to have sympathy for the modern definition of hard economic times - an era where the middle classes may moan about struggling to justify pay television or the exorbitant cost of a night at the movies.

However, we do not need to hark back to the harsh realities of the early 1940s for perspective. There are genuine stories of hardship in New Zealand today, such as the hungry children found scavenging food scraps from a bin in a Northland carpark and the woman who didn't have the petrol to get her child to the GP for an urgent appointment.

These stories are devastating and signal the need for an urgent focus on the plight of the poor in New Zealand.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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