Scraping By and Making Do: Navigating New Zealand’s Welfare System
In August 2017, debate over Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei’s declaration of two-decade-old benefit fraud sparked an ongoing discussion around poverty in New Zealand that revealed the fraying edges of the country’s welfare safety net. The perception that New Zealand has a low level of poverty and a fair, coherent welfare system that ensures those “deserving” of support receive what they need is untrue. Instead, there is an extraordinary disconnect between those responsible for running New Zealand’s welfare system and the daily experience of beneficiaries and NGO workers who must navigate the complex welfare landscape to address hardship. Patching together the threads of a fraying safety net, for New Zealand’s most vulnerable, is little-appreciated work, but crucial to their survival nonetheless. In this thesis, I explore how beneficiaries and NGO workers use tactics to manage the gaps between policy, practice and need created by state strategy in order to address hardship. I examine the resilience and experiential expertise of beneficiaries and NGO workers as they work around the limitations of state bureaucracy to address high levels of poverty in New Zealand.