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  • Taylor-Rose Terekia

Ahakoa iti: how some tauira spent the first cost of living payment

Extra pūtea can go a long way for tauira Māori, so how far did this government koha go?

Artwork by Jhaymeān Terekia

On Monday 1 August, thousands of tauira would have checked their bank account to see the first instalment of the cost of living payment. Whatever joy at seeing this pūtea - which was roughly $116-$117 - probably didn’t last long, considering the current cost of living concerns for students who are struggling to make ends meet. We took to our social media to ask our followers how they spent their first living cost payment.


For most respondents, the payment went straight towards kai and groceries. In this period where everything feels expensive, Mishael, a tauira at Waikato university, told us that the "biggest cost by far is kai, especially to eat a well balanced diet.”. Another tauira told us they spent their living cost payment with the long-term in mind, saying it “helped me get some extra long lasting food to store away!”.


One tauira carefully broke it down into categories, “$80 groceries, $20 put away, $15 some coffee and snacks while I studied”. They weren’t the only one who put this extra cash aside, as another tauira told us their living cost payment went “straight into savings”.


For some, the payment helped with transport costs to and from university, including a tauira who shared that “the extra funds went towards transport for clinical placement”.


Others took the payment as an opportunity to treat themselves to something they might not have had the pūtea for otherwise. Knowing the stress that can impact student hauora, we don’t blame them. With the knowledge that this payment was only the first of three, one tauira wanted to use this as a “treat for the first one”. Another tauira went thrifting to update the wardrobe using their pūtea to “hoko ngā kakahu mai te hokohoko shop”. With a number of ways to use this extra pūtea, tauira seem to understand the importance of saving and spending, whether prioritising their wellbeing and/or studies. But how much more money is the Government willing to spend on temporarily easing the burden of finance for tauira? Why not focus on addressing the high costs of living instead of spewing out more quick cash fixes?


When asked if this payment scheme addresses the raru of student poverty, University of Canterbury student Rosa's simple answer was "no way". Mishael agrees, telling Te Pararē that while the cost of living payment made a difference for them “I don’t see it solving systemic student poverty, systemic poverty generally."


As financial instability for students grows, and the Government remains uncommitted to a universal student allowance, all we see is the same old barrier for Māori to not only enter, but to remain and complete tertiary studies in the immediate future.


The cost of living payment is part of a $350 split payment from the government to eligible lower income New Zealanders, to be distributed over three months. This was announced as part of the 2022 Budget as the Government's response to the rising inflation in Aotearoa.


Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.