The new Government has wasted no time getting on and doing what Labour governments do -with the notable exception of the fourth Labour Government.

It has set about spending money on social policies and this week, it was the extension of paid parental leave from the 18 weeks parents have now to 22 weeks next year, and ultimately 26 weeks by July 2020.

Predictably, there has been huffing and puffing from some people - male and female. They say people who want babies should pay for them themselves, just as they had to all those years ago.

I think they are conveniently forgetting they were able to claim the Family Benefit.


From 1946, mothers received payment for every child and the Family Benefit Home Ownership Act allowed couples to capitalise on their benefits and use the money as a deposit for a house.

The Family Benefit enabled huge numbers of middle-income parents to own a home and our home ownership rates were high compared to many other countries in the world.

That's a distant memory now but at least extending parental leave will give young families some relief.

It's still not a generous allowance, even looking at the ultimate 26 weeks.

Many other countries understand the importance of parents being able to spend time with their new baby and legislated accordingly.

My daughter is living in England and she has been able to take a year off her job, nine months of which was paid.

Although her husband could have looked after his little family on his salary, it would have been tight - and it would have been stressful.

And the arrival of a new baby brings enough challenges without money being an issue.


I had forgotten just how much energy you need to have when a baby's in the house. The interrupted sleep, the need to be constantly vigilant, the sheer physical strength you need to lift and carry 10kg of wriggling deliciousness - it all takes its toll.

And new parents have to be on their game because raising humans is one of the most important jobs you can do.

At the Love Grows Brains Trust launch a couple of months ago, speaker after speaker highlighted how vital it is to nurture babies -especially in their first three years.

And having had my grandson in the house for three weeks, I could see the changes and growth in his development in that short time.

Happy and healthy babies and parents are a good outcome for all New Zealanders and study after study has shown investment in new parents brings returns.

A CNN report that looked at the research found (among many other benefits) paid parental leave reduces infant mortality by up to 10 per cent, increases the likelihood of children receiving vaccinations by up to 25 per cent, increases the rate and duration of breastfeeding, reduces the rate of postnatal depression and increases the likelihood of a mother rejoining the workforce.

It's a no-brainer - investment in children means we spend less on at risk adults in the future. Bill English knows that - that's why he formulated his social investment policy and that's why National is supporting the extension to the paid parental leave Kiwi parents presently get.

It's just a shame National vetoed the legislation when they were in office.

And how lovely was it to see the Speaker of the House cradling 3-month old Heeni, the daughter of Labour MP Willow Jean Prime, during the discussions on extending paid parental leave.

Trevor Mallard has promised to make Parliament more family friendly and he has made a good start by providing Heeni a safe and secure seat while her mum was working.

We're not going to see the benefits of extended paid parental leave immediately - but as with all good investments, we'll reap a magnificent dividend in the future.

Kerre McIvor is on NewstalkZB Monday to Friday, noon-4pm.