During the week Spinoff published an interview with an amazing young woman, AIGAGALEFILI ‘FILI’ FEPULEA’I-TAPUA’I, who lives in South Auckland. She is referred to as “Fili” in the article. I hope she does not peak too early, which I have seen so many times with young able people. I really liked what they wrote about her:
In May this year, she wrote a post on Instagram that went viral. It’s a furious and moving free-form poem in which she calls out the social inequality her Pasefika community faces: “If education is key, why do our locks keep changing? If knowledge is power, why does it come at a price we can’t afford?” She talks about how many of her fellow year 13 students left school for good after the first Covid-19 lockdown, abandoning their education because they had to help support their families who were struggling because of job losses. Kids are essentially losing their childhoods because of poverty. It’s not something students in higher decile schools have to face. She rages against the portrayal of her community in the media, a community on the front line of essential services, and vulnerable. “I just wrote it because I was angry. I was just so fed up throughout the lockdown, seeing all those issues that I had mentioned in the post, and this helplessness, and not knowing what to do. It came out in the best way I know how: poetry.”
Then she went on to discuss the poverty level within her community and what impact it has on their education:
There was a bit of uncertainty as to whether Aorere College would reopen after Auckland’s second lockdown because the Americold community cluster that forced the lockdown is close by in Māngere. There are health assessments in class each morning at 8.50am, and then the gates are shut at 9am, and late students have to go home. While that’s good on a health and safety level, Fili says it’s affecting the senior school roll. “A lot of our students, they work night shifts. It’s this thing where everyone’s like: ‘There’s no point coming to school because I won’t be able to come before nine.’” It’s a blow to the year 13 students facing their final exams who’ve already lost weeks of education because of lockdown. The school has extra study support in place, but again, the kids who need it, who are working after school, can’t make it.
Here’s the whole article and I recommend you watch the video toward the end of the article where she performs her poetry. This really is an impressive young New Zealander with a big future in front of her https://thespinoff.co.nz/auckland/12-09-2020/angry-eloquent-and-17-fili-has-something-to-say-to-you/
This article got me thinking about what sort of New Zealand we really want to live in. This week we were reminded, during a session led by Carl Davidson, that the average income in Christchurch is $32,000 per annum. This is the average so there’s a lot well above this and a heap well below. That’s why we need a UBI. The TOP Party is spot on with this policy. When will this policy take hold with other political parties?
Contemplating the average income in Christchurch was brought home to me this week as I spoke to a mate about the family which operates the dairy down the road from his business; around the corner from where we live. The husband opens the diary around 6.30am. His wife feeds the kids and gets them off to school. She then takes over the dairy and her husband leaves to work part time at the Casino. He arrives back at the dairy around 2.45 and she heads off to pick the kids up from school. The wife then takes the kids home and prepares their dinner. The husband closes the dairy early evening and heads off home. His wife then leaves their home and goes to the Warehouse where she stacks shelves late into the night.
The tragic part of this story of this incredible commitment by amazing parents to give their children a start in life, is that I bet their income is pitiful.
I sat with a Pacific Island friend recently and she was telling me how members of her community cannot afford to get sick, or their families starve. If you add my friend’s story with the one about the young woman in South Auckland, we have the essence of how difficult it is to manage Covid 19. The issue is poverty.
I wonder if the destruction of small businesses, like the ones I wrote about above, has been by big box retailing. This has been part of the creation of our poverty driven society, supported by a understanding that we must have a “contract” culture and a low wage employment structure.
I know Stephen Tindall well. I’ve worked with him and his charitable trust, which has generously poured millions to the community each year for decades. However, as an institution the Warehouse has destroyed heaps of small businesses which just got by, as they served small local communities.
My friend who was speaking so glowingly about the family running the dairy near him, runs a small business himself. He can relate to their struggle. They have all been struggling even more in their area lately because NZTA and CCC engineers have been rebuilding the road outside their shops. Soon they will have vast numbers of cars pouring past their businesses from North Canterbury families travelling to work. They also have ended up with fewer car parks as well.
One of the many by-products from the Covid 19 outbreak is, I suspect, that there will be an increasing demand for more urban planning to foster the villages which make up our City. In the future there will be greater emphasis on local shopping and local businesses. The sort of businesses that keep an eye on the old person who might need a bit of a hand. Or the kids who are being naughty and needing a firm observation of their behaviour. Or the young mother struggling with their child. This is community. This is what we have to honour by shopping locally.
The economic challenges we face were well covered in the article below where the writer focused on mostly macro-economic features. I do wonder whether we should be putting greater emphasis on really small businesses and featuring on the role they play, way beyond just making a buck but how communities thrive around them. Here’s the article https://thespinoff.co.nz/business/17-09-2020/a-recession-is-bad-but-the-recovery-can-be-great/.
Here’s a couple of paragraphs which summarise exactly what faces every business:
The unprecedented nature of the economic shock means we face a unique recovery full of opportunities. A key opportunity dished up by Covid-19 is a weapon in the fight against climate change. Many New Zealanders were forced to work from home, and many preferred it. The lockdowns provided proof that a decent chunk of the workforce can successfully work remotely, thereby reducing the need for the daily commute. A shallower peak in transport takes some pressure off clogged transport infrastructure and reduces carbon pollution. The need to re-engineer parts of our economy is also throwing up opportunities to tackle climate-related issues. The government has the ability to fast track progress in environmental areas, with access to ample funding at very low, even negative interest rates. We have a “once in a generation” chance to right the wrongs of the past.
Policy measures should now focus on enabling businesses to adapt. The wage subsidies were the best policy response during “triage”. We’re now in a rehabilitation phase. Policies aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be important. SME grants may be a cost-effective way to support affected businesses and encourage new ones to emerge. SME grants would enable affected businesses to pivot online or evolve for a new client base. Ultimately, we need to redirect disrupted employees into new employment opportunities. Lost retailing jobs could be redirected into new and exciting roles in protecting the environment, education or revamping health. SME grants could be targeted at lowering the cost of hiring additional workers.