'Cracking it' on welfare in Huntly
ALISTAIR BONE Last updated 05:00 09/05/2012
BEN CURRAN/Fairfax NZ
TAKE THE MONEY: Shanelle Herewini and Te Aroha Kirkwood on the streets of Huntly West.
Mike Watane had plans and savings when he was a kid. He wanted to go around the world.
"There were places I had planned in my head. I saw the Gold Coast on TV and thought that was a lot better than Rainbows End had to offer". Then the unexpected happened.
"I saw her stomach getting bigger and bigger and thought 'aw yeah, I'm trapped now'. That was pretty much my money gone, getting her stretchy waist clothes."
He was 21 and she was 22.
He's still with his girlfriend. Baby is three. He's just come off a welding course and goes down to Hamilton every couple of days looking for something.
There's been no luck yet, so he's on his bike, literally, and talking to mate Poro Kingi on a street in Huntly West.
On paper it's a terrible place. Dead bottom and 10 out of 10 on the deprivation scale, worse than Meremere, worse than Ngaruawahia, worse even than living across the river in Huntly East.
It's hard to find actually abandoned houses in New Zealand, but there's heaps here, their windows boarded with graffitied plywood.
The rail line runs straight through Huntly West and the twin towers of the power station don't go anywhere. There are so many gangs locals need more than a hand to count them off and subset them into senior and junior.
Kingi's hefting baby Cali on his shoulder.
He and his partner are struggling, but Cali was planned and wanted. He says a lot around here are not even 18 when they have their first. He's lived here all his life and can't think of a time when that's not been true.
They like the Government's new plan. Watane thinks long-term contraception would help the younger generation, make it a place where you just see girlfriends and boyfriends together and not with a kid in tow.
The heat of the moment can do funny things to your plans, he says.
Down the road a bit and Te Aroha Kirkwood and Shanelle Herewini hear that.
"You tell them to wrap it, but sometimes they don't listen or they are too drunk." Te Aroha giggles, she's on a benefit, 19 years old, eight months gone.
Shanelle says she wouldn't take the contraceptive, even free – "put the money in the bucket".
Get the kid and take the money. She's laughing, maybe playing up. But Te Aroha whispers, just about to herself, "I would like to have that."
The Police Ten Seven crew were at the dairy earlier. Someone knocked it over looking for smokes, the girls say. Three young guys turn up on bikes. They're intense, they give names, probably not real.
Walter is 16, his girlfriend is 17 and pregnant. He doesn't have a job, just a mystery magic formula.
"Money is all around me. Why do I need a job when money just gets given to me?"
Despite that, he's going to hold off. He'll see how "hard case" the first one turns out before getting another.
Most of the girls won't go for the Government offer, he reckons. They want babies.
"I heard you crack it on the benefit if you have babies." he says.
One of his lieutenants has a different take. He learns the Government doesn't actually want to pay people on a benefit to have babies.
"They should move that thing – the minimum wage, yeah – up from $13.50 and they might get a job. Even if they moved it to $15, that would make a big difference," he says.
Farther down the same street lives Fay Love. She's been bowled by a purse snatcher, but still takes a stick to the hoods in her yard.
The voluntary contraception offered to the teen girls of beneficiaries is never going to work: "Half the parents round here are going to say 'it's my child, they can do what they like'."
As she talks, more and more women appear on her steps. They agree. Take their benefit away or it's a joke.
Abby Martens flats with Desiree Maddern. They're both on the benefit. Desiree was pregnant five times before she was 20, twice by accident. She works with the cops in the Blue Light programme, trying to put kids back on track. She's dead against it being compulsory.
She poses a question. "Are girls just having babies for the money, or because they want a baby, or to keep a guy?"
At 19, Abby would be the bullseye for the programme. But she wouldn't do it. She doesn't believe in unnatural contraception; her parents were very into homeopathy.
She's brave, honest. When she's with a partner, she uses a condom she says, but sometimes ...
'Cracking it' on welfare in small town New Zealand... | Stuff.co.nz