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Finance Minister Michael Cullen says economic growth alone will not solve New Zealand's "intractable" social problems.

In a speech to Labour Party faithful in Auckland, Dr Cullen said a soon-to-be-released report would show New Zealand was failing to make progress improving some measures of social well-being.

He said in recent years New Zealand had recorded good economic growth, but that did not automatically improve people's lives. "If I was to stop people in the street and tell them that the economy has grown 2.3 per cent larger in the March quarter of 2004, it does not necessarily follow that they will feel 2.3 per cent better off compared to how they felt last Christmas."

New Zealanders were suspicious of economic growth because in the past such benefits had not been evenly distributed. They also valued things other than increases in personal wealth. Next week, the Social Development Ministry will publish its third social report, which is an attempt to measure growth in social well-being.

Dr Cullen said the report would confirm improvements in:

* Road safety.

* Reducing suicide.

* Participation in education.

* Reducing overcrowding in housing.

* Increasing local content on television.

In other indicators, New Zealanders' social well-being was not performing as well.

"There are a number of indicators where we are struggling to hold our ground. These include criminal victimisation, income inequality, housing affordability and voter turnout," Dr Cullen said.

New Zealand might linger in the bottom half of international economic rankings but the report would show it fared better when social well-being was taken into account.

Dr Cullen said continuing economic growth would make social progress easier, but would not solve everything.

"Economic growth is clearly not sufficient to address some of our more intractable social problems."

Doing better

Reducing suicide.

Rising education numbers.

Less crowded housing.

Room to improve Income inequality.

Affordable housing.

Voter turnout.

Source: Social Development Ministry

- NZPA