Two families with young children have different views on Labour's plan to give an extra $60 a week for new babies. One is grateful but says it's imprudent, the other is struggling and says it would be a huge help

A middle-class Auckland couple about to have a new baby say they don't need the $60 a week that the Labour Party wants to give them if it wins this year's election.

Dr Jane Silloway Smith, research manager at the conservative Maxim Institute, and her scientist husband Dr Bryan Smith between them earn just under the $150,000 threshold that Labour has set for its proposed child payment for the first year after a new baby is born.

The Smiths, who came here from the United States in 2008, say they would be grateful for the extra $60 a week, but they could do without it.

"Children are expensive even in two-professional-income households like ours, but my husband and I are fortunate enough to be able to handle that financial burden," Dr Silloway Smith said.


A former history lecturer, Dr Silloway Smith, 32, returned to work at Maxim just 12 weeks after giving birth to the couple's first child, Edmund, 22 months ago. She left work a week before he was due, but he was a week late so she had only 12 weeks of paid parental leave left after he was born.

Edmund goes to the Parnell Trust early childhood centre while Dr Silloway Smith works at the Maxim office three days a week.

She works one other day each week at home with Edmund and has three days off.

"We had options, and I was able to come back [to work] because I wanted to," she said.

"It works really well with his personality. He loves being with other children, and it's a nice balance for me between being with other people and being with my family."

She has a second baby due in April and plans to take six months off this time - 14 weeks on taxpayer-funded paid parental leave, part of the remaining time on leave paid by Maxim, and several weeks unpaid.

Dr Silloway Smith supports paid parental leave, but she said the Government had a limited budget and giving her family $60 a week would be "a waste of money".

"If the NZ Government was in a position where it was flush with money and there were surpluses everywhere, and education was going well and health was going well and poverty rates were decreasing, then great, that would be excellent," she said. "But in a country where we are just now starting to come out of some serious debts, to be increasing spending in this way, I think, is a little bit imprudent."


Labour spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said the party made the first year's payment "near-universal" in line with the Children's Commissioner's expert group on child poverty, which said universality would "support a parent to stay home during infancy, enhancing parent-child bonding, encouraging child development and breastfeeding".

She said families would have to apply to the Inland Revenue Department for the new payment, as they do now for family tax credits, and Dr Silloway Smith was free not to apply.

"If she strongly holds to the view that her family circumstances mean that the Best Start payment is not something she needs or wants, or paid parental leave, then she doesn't have to apply for it."

Francois Byamana and Cassandra Barnett, with 16-month-old Izuba, could afford heating in only one room last winter. Photo / Richard Robinson
Francois Byamana and Cassandra Barnett, with 16-month-old Izuba, could afford heating in only one room last winter. Photo / Richard Robinson