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Metiria Turei speaks in the Budget Debate

METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green): National cannot be trusted. National cannot be trusted to solve the serious challenges that our country faces. Everybody in this country knows that our housing is broken in this country, everybody knows that our rivers are broken, and we all well know that our climate is broken. Children in this country are still getting sick from preventable Third World diseases, 9 years after National has proved that it has failed time and time again. Let us talk about how families are doing, shall we, after 9 years of National.

Rheumatic fever rates for Pasifika children are still growing, after 9 years of National. What has National done in this Budget? It has cut the budget for rheumatic fever prevention. It has gotten rid of the targets for reducing rheumatic fever. Do you know why it has done that? It is because National knows that we will never get rid of rheumatic fever in this country until we solve the housing crisis.

What has National done in this Budget? It has not done anything serious about dealing with housing. It has given money to the accommodation supplement, which just goes to landlords and increases rents—even the Government knows that; its own information tells it that. It has put more money into emergency housing, which is a declaration of failure by this Government. It is a declaration of failure to say it will fund 4 more years of emergency housing because it is not going to bother to do what is needed, to build the housing that our families desperately need to live in. Why do they desperately need that? Because their children are still, after 9 years of National, getting sick from preventable illnesses like rheumatic fever.

Up to 1,600 New Zealanders will die this winter because of cold, damp, and mouldy homes. Up to 15 of those people will be children—babies who have just been born, children who are cherished and loved by their families. Up to 15 will die this winter because their homes are damp and cold and mouldy and make them sick. National has had 9 years to make sure that every single one of those 15 kids has a decent place to live that makes them well, not sick. National has had 9 years to make sure that we do not have extra deaths in winter because housing is so cold and miserable, and 1,600 families will suffer this winter because of National's failure. That is all that this Government has delivered to our country: more and more people getting sick, and far too many of them dying for it.

National still means families living in unsafe homes. National still means families living in their cars and in garages over winter. National still means selling off the very State houses that those families could be living in right now, keeping themselves warm and dry and healthy.

Mental health services are becoming No. 1 in the concerns of New Zealanders around health. Everywhere we look, we see more and more people suffering from mental health issues because of stress, because of all sorts of problems—poverty—but not being able to find the help that they need. Suicide rates have jumped under National. During the 9 years of this National Government, we have seen a surge in child suicides in this period, in youth suicide. In the 9 years of National, what have we seen National do in this and previous Budgets? It has been cutting the funding for the very mental health services that will keep these children, these young people, alive. We hear stories almost every week of health services that are desperately trying to provide for their communities and the families that are around them but cannot, because National has, year after year—9 years on—cut the funding for those essential health services that save New Zealanders' lives. This is what National's legacy will be: more and more New Zealanders unwell, and far too many of them dying because of it. That is what 9 years of National is leaving us.

What about our beautiful and pristine rivers—the rivers that are part of our birthright, part of our economy, and part of the joy of being New Zealanders in this beautiful country? You cannot safely swim in 62 percent of New Zealand's rivers, because if you do, you risk getting sick.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Just rubbish.

METIRIA TUREI: And the man responsible for that is still in denial, as you can hear him squeaking from across the Chamber. Instead of cleaning up those rivers, instead of holding those polluters to account, instead of making sure that they pay for the pollution that they are spreading into our waterways and pay for the cost of cleaning up, National gives more subsidies and public money to irrigators and to polluters. Its failure to take care of our environment—the very environment that provides our health, provides for our families, and provides for our economy—is yet one more failure to add to the many that are the legacy of National's 9 years.

Four out of five bird species in this country are at risk of extinction—four out of five. Yet this National Government continues with coalmining in kiwi habitats on conservation land, while handing out fat subsidies to oil and drilling companies to drill in the Māui's dolphin's habitat. The Māui's dolphin is on the brink of extinction. National's 9-year legacy will be the extinction of some of these species, some that we have held dear.

So now is the time, New Zealand, to rid ourselves of National's failure, of this 9-year degradation of the things that we hold the most dear. Our families, our children, our loved ones—we hold them the most dear, so they should be at the heart of the Government. In a Greens Government—families will be at the heart of that new and progressive Government. That is why we released the "Budget for all mothers" just a few weeks ago, before the National Government's Budget. That was a clear signal to New Zealand that we will put families and children at the heart of any new Government that we are part of. That is why we will continue to fight for the right of communities to have their rivers and their waterways cleaned up, their right to be able to drink safe water from their own taps—a right that National has degraded over the last 9 years. We will make sure that we are responsible global citizens in the fight against climate change and in the investment and the innovation and the opportunity that a 21st century sustainable economy can bring to our country.

Nine years of National have proven that its experiments on our country have been a failure, and our families and our environment have taken the cost of that. It is an experiment that New Zealanders are now tired of. It is an experiment that New Zealanders are putting aside in September, because they will not tolerate any more the degradation and harm that this National Government has caused them. They are looking for a new and progressive Government, of which the Greens are a part, that will put families and our environment at the centre of the decisions that we make. That is our commitment to this country. Thank you.