The Coalition Government came into power promising a kinder welfare system.
Today, it revealed its first steps toward that goal. Isaac Davison takes a look.
ANALYSIS: New Zealand's welfare system is broken, but the Government is offering only band-aids for now.
The big review of welfare, published today, concluded that the social security net was no longer fit for purpose. Urgent and fundamental change was required for a system which directly impacts 630,000 New Zealanders, the expert advisory group said.
Benefit payments were too low, sanctions did not work and often made things worse, the system was outdated and failed to recognise modern families and financial realities, and more housing support was needed.
There were also structural, big-picture proposals - social security had to be rebuilt from the ground up to restore New Zealanders' dignity, to protect the most vulnerable in society, to reduce entrenched poverty in this country, and to deliver for Maori.
The Government came armed today with three policy changes. It had clearly learned from the last working group on tax that it needed a response ready or it could lose control of the debate.
None of the policy shifts are transformative.
The biggest tangible change is allowing people on a benefit to earn more before they get penalised. That is a welcome move because the threshold of $80 a week - above which pay is docked - has been the same for 20 years.
The Government also committed to getting rid of the penalty for mothers who did not name the father of their child. This change is not new, and was signalled when Labour came to power. It will not be in force until April, and won't be backdated.
The scrapping of just one sanction will disappoint the Greens, whose confidence and supply agreement included a commitment to remove all "excessive sanctions" from the system. It was a central part of former co-leader Metiria Turei's ill-fated election campaign.
Turei's successor, Marama Davidson, pointedly said the changes were "small" while adding they were a "necessary step to fixing our broken welfare system".
The expert advisory group was damning about benefit sanctions, saying there was little evidence they changed behaviour and instead worsened social harm. It recommended getting rid of most obligations and sanctions, including those for failing drug tests or requirements for disabled people to get regular work assessments.
The decision not to go further on sanctions is likely to be the influence of New Zealand First, which takes a harder line on welfare.
The Government has not immediately rolled back the most controversial of National's reforms, in particular the requirement for solo parents to return to work when their child turns three - a policy which was bitterly protested by then-social development spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern when it was introduced.
The expert advisory group's chairwoman, Cindy Kiro, said the "big finding" in the review was that benefit rates needed to increase urgently - ideally by up to 47 per cent. While remaining diplomatic about the Government's response, she underlined the need for quick action.
"You will see that there are people living in a whole range of family circumstances right now who are facing weekly income deficits and shortfalls," Kiro said.
"That can't be sustained - that's not healthy for them or their communities. That feels pretty urgent for the people who are there."
The Government has no short-term plan to lift benefit payments. Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said major reform needed careful planning, and further changes would take place over the next three to five years.
That means more substantial welfare reform will be at the mercy of New Zealand voters in 2020.