After moving to New Zealand 12 years ago I heard a lot from locals about what a great place it was to raise kids.

But, as I took my children to school, I saw huge numbers of kids heading to class without shoes - in the middle of winter.

That was a shock. Couldn't their parents afford shoes, I wondered?

To add to the picture many of the children didn't have raincoats, others didn't even have jumpers.


I didn't think about it then, but now I would expect many of the kids didn't have lunches and hadn't had food for breakfast.

Nowadays when people say to me that New Zealand is the best country in the world to raise children I ask them why they think that?

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They cannot say exactly why, I guess most just parrot the myth of this paradise for children.

Then I ask them if this is the best place to raise kids - why are there more than 270,000 children living in poverty right now?


Why do so many children go to school without being fed?



Why does a Kiwi kid die about every five weeks at the hands of parents or caregivers?


Is it true police are called to domestic violence incidents every seven minutes?


And can a United Nations' report possibly be true when it states that one in four NZ girls are sexually assaulted before they are 15?


That doesn't sound like a child paradise to me.

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Any one of those issues should have this country hanging its head in shame, let alone all of them.

But most Kiwis will avert their eyes from the issues as they are too unpleasant to deal with.

Much of the blame for the above things can be laid at the feet of successive governments that, for decades, have shied away from really tackling the problems.

Into the too hard basket they go and while they can be ignored - for a while - eventually the lid comes off to reveal the festering mess inside.

And this is where New Zealand is at over housing.

The property-buying frenzy that has sent the Auckland median house price rocketing towards $1 million has made many folk very rich and ruined the lives of countless others.

If I were in the Government I'd be truly ashamed of what has happened in that city where working families cannot afford rents.

In Auckland's central suburbs rent is, on average, just under $600 a week.

On the North Shore you are looking at just under $570 per week.

Even in South Auckland the average rent is $450.

A TV3 investigation the other month found families in Auckland were hiring out garages for $400 a week.

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When the minimum wage is $620 a week, before paying $120 tax, even Blind Pew can see there is a crisis.

We in the Bay of Plenty are riding along on the jet-trail of the Auckland market, which is good for those of us with houses.

Values seem to be heading for the stratosphere with demand red-hot and the cost of renting a place skyrocketing.

Median rents for three-bedroom homes in Bethlehem/Otumoetai are now $420 a week, according to Tenancy Services. In Papamoa it's $450. Greerton $390.

Take $390 off your after-tax minimum wage and... well you can do the maths.

Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti , speaking as part of the Bay of Plenty Times' special series on the hidden homeless, says one in 10 of her families are homeless or in temporary accommodation.

Some of the homeless are living in cars at the moment.

Picture yourself in your car. Imagine how cold you would be overnight in winter. Think of how vulnerable you would feel in that situation.

And many of these people are working.

They work and yet cannot get, or afford, a house.

How disgraceful is that?

In fact, it isn't disgraceful - it is an outrage and New Zealand needs to pull its head out of the sand and have a good long look at itself.

The housing crisis is, in my opinion, the No1 issue facing this country and it has been obvious for a long time.

When the penny finally dropped on how dire things were looking, the Government blamed others for the problem.

Now the situation is probably irredeemable.

Laissez-faire is one thing, in my opinion, negligence is quite another.


- Richard Moore is an award-winning Western Bay journalist and photographer.