You won't see me putting the boot into Metiria Turei, co-leader of the Green Party.

Last week she made public that, 24 years ago, as a young solo mother she didn't disclose to Winz she lived with flatmates. That would have affected her benefit.

We have seen and heard the usual indignation from many good citizens disgusted with Metiria.

Apart from the clamour that she should repay the overpayments there is even the call for her to resign from Parliament. It's a real hanging offence to some people.


My advice to Metiria is not to give too much time to public reaction. We pick and choose what we want to get on our high horse about. I know many beneficiaries who have done the same. They don't see it as fraud merely survival.

I don't agree that those who receive social welfare support should get more than they're entitled to but I can understand why it happens. Just trying to find out what you're entitled to can often be a demeaning and harrowing experience. That's why I always advise beneficiaries to take a support person with them to their Winz appointments.

When you start to get weary and emotional from having to explain your situation yet again, you get accused of using threatening behaviour and are shown the door.

I'm sure staff have at least two pages of excuses, they know off by heart, as to why they can't help. Rules are rules you know.

Fraud is nothing new in this country. Big time white collar fraudsters do a pretty good job. And we mustn't forget the foreign multinational companies who pay little if any tax on the products they sell in our country.

The Minister of Revenue Judith Collins is trying to get on top of this anomaly as are many other countries but so far with little luck. It's complicated you see. Is such blatant tax evasion fraud?

We have trusted employees who use their senior management positions to steal from their employers. Not only in private companies but in government department and local councils.

There are currently thousands of New Zealand parents who don't make their child support payments and expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab. Australia has them in spades; New Zealanders who have headed over there to avoid prosecution. Are they technically fraudsters too when the taxpayer is out of pocket?

I see beneficiaries as low hanging fruit. Easy to go after and pick off. Should they be receiving more in benefit dollars a week than they're entitled to? No they shouldn't. There are thousands of people who live on a benefit and make do.

But you won't see me rounding on those who do take advantage of the system. I know too many to know that living on a benefit does cause you to see the world differently. To sometimes do what you wouldn't normally entertain doing.

Living on a benefit comes with terms and conditions. You agree and say yes to anything just to get the money you need for you and your family to survive on.

Ask anyone about the stand-down periods imposed. These are a real trial and will often be the reason given for lying about circumstances in the first place. Beneficiaries usually can't afford to stand down. But rules are rules.

Metiria was studying and bringing up a daughter at the time. She studied law, graduated, got off the benefit and has been a contributing member of society ever since.

We don't have a benefit system that is prepared to take into account those that don't want to "cut their cloth to suit their circumstances".

We see beneficiaries as a faceless job lot. All to be treated the same, no exceptions made. Even for those who want support to invest in themselves for the sake of their family's future. We have rules to keep them in their place and so they remain a cost to the taxpayer.

I would prefer government departments concentrate their efforts on going after the highly educated big business fraudsters. The ones who continue to rip off taxpayers to the tune of millions of dollars a year.

Telling the truth is always the best course of action. I would say the majority of beneficiaries know that. Except when desperate, they keep their heads down, hoping not to be noticed as they go about their daily business of survival.

But we do have a benefit system that makes it difficult to live with your head held high. If you stumble and fall, of course an example will be made.

Somehow it makes the rest of us all feel smug. We'd never tell a lie. We know where our money is coming from. We're the good guys.

Metiria made an investment in her future and that of her daughter. New Zealand has benefited from that decision.

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is a Rotorua Lakes Council councillor, Lakes District Health Board member and chairs the North Island Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart the spread of political correctness.