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Time to discuss NZ's priorities - Salvation Army

Published: 8:59AM Friday February 17, 2012 Source: ONE News

The Salvation Army's fifth annual state of the nation report depicts a country that is increasingly divided by wealth, race and age with the prospect of permanent social damage.

Author of The Growing Divide, Alan Johnson, said the intention of the report is to push the issue of expanding disparity into the public forum, and hopefully act as a catalyst for change.

"There are a whole set of priorities as a country we have to talk about," Johnson told TV ONE's Breakfast.

"It's important that somebody actually raises these issues into the public debate, so that we just don't talk about Christchurch earthquake recovery or the financial deficit - we talk about other forms of deficits as well."

Johnson said that while it is difficult to put an accurate figure on the problem he said there are consistently 20,000 children living in relative poverty in New Zealand.

He also pointed to estimates that between 80,000 and 100,000 children see some form of violence in their home every year.

Johnson said that while some people may feel apathetic towards others who have made bad choices in life, "children can't be to blame for the poor decisions by their parents".

"You want to create a society where people have a chance to recover, they have a chance to rebuild their lives despite the thing they may have done in the past," he said.

Young people in the workforce

The report also indicates that 40,000 fewer young people aged between 15 and 19 are in the workforce than there were five years ago.

Johnson said New Zealand should be focusing on creating training opportunities for school leavers to help curb these figures.

Another solution offered by Johnson is a review of the tax cuts that were put in place in the 2010 budget.

"People can vote with their feet now and just go to Australia," he said.

"If we lose too many young families to Australia we start to erode our tax base for the baby boomers, who are retiring right now."

The Growing Divide report will be launched in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin today.

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