A New Zealand Crisis

The divide between New Zealand’s poorest and wealthiest inhabitants has widened alarmingly over recent decades. Differences in income have grown faster than in most other developed countries.

New Zealand society is being reshaped, stretching to accommodate new distance between those who ‘have’ and those who ‘have not’. Income inequality is a crisis that affects us all.

A diverse gathering of New Zealand scholars, journalists, researchers, business leaders, workers, students and parents share these pages. Their voices speak to the complex shape of income inequality, and its effects on the communities of these Pacific islands.

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Inequality means watching people close to you … persistently struggling ... to keep their households afloat, to do their best for their children and to make good decisions by weighing up the constrained range of choices on offer. Karlo Mila

The sharp increase in income concentration at the top of national income distributions over recent decades should have prompted a … public debate about the question: ‘When are the rich too rich?’ Robert Wade

While equality is highly valued, there is huge disagreement about why equality matters and what precisely should be equalised. Jonathan Boston

The future, in one sense, is now. It is not an abstract, theoretical or even visionary picture of what the world may be like in fifty years or a hundred years. It is, rather, the potential we hold now, as a society. Linda Tuhiwai Smith

Introducing Inequality: A New Zealand Crisis

An interview with Max Rashbrooke

Forums for the Future: Between Rich and Poor

Introduced by Max Rashbrooke, 'Forums for the Future: Between Rich and Poor' were held at Te Papa on 13 September and 4 October 2012.

Political columnist Colin James, health researcher Philippa Howden-Chapman, and Stephanie McIntyre, Downtown Community Ministry Director, discussed the effects of inequality at the first forum.

At the second forum, four leading speakers discussed the ways education, a stronger economy, fairer workplaces, and a more supportive welfare system could help close the gap between rich and poor. Kim Hill chaired the panel.

Table of contents

Preface Jonathan Boston and Max Rashbrooke

PART ONE: Introduction
1 Why Inequality Matters, Max Rashbrooke
2 Inequality and New Zealand, Max Rashbrooke

PART TWO: Issues and debates
3 Inequality and the West, Robert Wade
4 The Cost of Inequality, Ganesh Nana
5 What Kind of Equality Matters? Jonathan Boston

PART THREE: Consequences
6 Only One Deck, Karlo Mila
7 Building Inequality, Philippa Howden-Chapman, Sarah Bierre and Chris Cunningham
8 Crime, Imprisonment and Poverty, Kim Workman and Tracey McIntosh
9 Schools and Inequality, Cathy Wylie
10 Inequality and Māori, Evan Te Ahu Poata-Smith

PART FOUR: Looking ahead
11 Reducing Inequality, Paul Barber
12 Education and Skills, Paul Dalziel
13 The Rewards of Work, Nigel Haworth
14 A Better Welfare System, Mike O’Brien
15 The Future is Now, Linda Tuhiwai Smith


1 Not in it for the money, Ian Taylor
2 In the middle, Kristine and Craig Absolum
3 Don’t let it get entrenched, Damian Christie
4 The value of support, Pete Bryant
5 Income, not budgeting, is the issue, Tamara Baddeley
6 A divided Auckland? Chris Harris
7 Rebuilding divisions? Mary Richardson
8 The State as parent and warden: Stan’s story, Stan Coster
9 So, what school did you go to? Asher Emanuel
10 Back to the Maori future? Anake Goodall
11 On generosity and restraint, Kate Frykberg
12 Just so many obstacles, Kelly Belcher
13 A collaborative approach, DSK Engineering
14 Unconditional basic income, Gareth Morgan and Susan Guthrie

Print publication:
Ebook publication: Dec 2015
Pages: 282
RRP: $39.99
ISBN: 9781927131510
ISTC: A0220120000222C3
DOI: 10.7810/9781927131510

Search inside


Visit editor Max Rashbrooke's Inequality website for updates on the book, events and inequality in New Zealand.


'Children's money worries go unheard', Rob Stock, Sunday Star Times, 31 May 2015

'Pensioners profit while the young fall behind' and 'Income inequality: How NZ is one of the worst in the world', Stacey Kirk and Andy Fyers,

Max Rashbrooke spoke with CTV, watch on YouTube

Watch Max Rashbroke on The Nation

Interview with Robert Wade on Radio NZ

New Zealand Herald interview with Max Rashbrooke

Karlo Mila's chapter extract in the New Zealand Herald

Nine to Noon, Radio NZ, review of Inequality

Interview with Cathy Wylie in the Manawatu Standard

Southland Times editorial

Listen to Max Rashbrooke speak with Denise Roche on Planet FM

Max Rashbrooke spoke to Olivier Jutel on Dunedin's Radio 1


'The contributors give not only an overview of more recent developments within the topic of inequality, but also help readers to understand where the world may be heading...The book is elegantly presented and very well edited, and is dense but well-researched. It is definitely a ‘must-read’ for anyone with a curiosity about the economic world and what the battle against inequality might mean for us all.' Marcin Waldoch, Journal of New Zealand and Pacific Studies

Inequality: A New Zealand Crisis provides the reader with valuable insights into the causes and consequences of increasing inequality in New Zealand. … It adds much needed comment on the unequal opportunities afforded New Zealanders and is a must read for anyone concerned with social justice.’ Maxine Dyer, He Kupu, November 2015

‘Provid[es] generally clear and readable commentaries on inequality by authors who explicitly state their own values, policy advocacy and political perspectives … Inequality: A New Zealand Crisis deserves a wide readership for encouraging more rigorous conversations about important issues that may or may not be in crisis, but contain all the ingredients for arriving at (or should that be revisiting?) this destination’, David Pearson, Journal of New Zealand Studies

'It’s a timely and useful read, a book with heart designed to engage the mind', Jolisa Gracewood, Busytown