Where are all the benefit babies born?

Lindsay Mitchell has been doing some research on where all the benefit babies are being born.

Unsurprisingly bludgers beget bludgers…and it’s growing.

Every year I track how many benefit babies there are relative to the total births. Being a ‘benefit baby’ means relying on a parent or caregiver’s benefit  by the the end of their birth year. Most will become reliant nearer to their birth date rather than first birthday. Many will go on to experience long-term deprivation.

This year I asked for a  breakdown by Work and Income Service Centre. That was provided. Then I asked the Ministry of Health for District Health Board birth data for 2015. They very quickly obliged without an OIA. Credit to them.

It was then straight forward to place each service centre in a DHB  and calculate the percentage of babies in each district that would be benefit-dependent before their first birthday.

Where the benefit babies are born

Gisborne (Tairawhiti) seems to be a problem area; perhaps this also explains why Gisborne is also the the clap capital of NZ.


Tairawhiti is Gisborne northwards. Almost one in three children born in 2015 would be on welfare either immediately or shortly thereafter.

This is more than three times the rate of the lowest DHB, Auckland.


The disparity, however, within  the greater Auckland region is highlighted by the difference between Counties Manukau at 21.4% andAuckland at less than half that rate at 9.7%. This disparity is far greater than the disparity in the Wellington region (compare Capital and Coastto Hutt.)


Not surprisingly Tairawhiti is followed by Northland. You will have noticed the tallest columns are those with high Maori populations.(Of all the benefit babies, 54 percent had a Maori parent or caregiver.)

Lakes covers the Rotorua and Taupo region south to Turangi andWhanganui takes in Marton and Taihape.

Hawkes Bay goes to Wairoa in the north and Waipukarau in the south.Counties Manukau is self-explanatory.

These then are the five DHB areas where from 21 to 32 percent of children have families unable to support them independently, usually from birth.


At the other end are the cosmopolitan centres. In ascending order, Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington.

Every South Island DHB – bar South Canterbury which is essentially Timaru and inland – is below the national average.

What you are looking at there is where so-called child poverty begins and ends. Welfarism is killing generations slowly but surely.


– Lindsay Mitchell


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  • Sailor Sam

    So high maori welfare dependeny is happening in spite of massive, multi-million treaty payouts.
    Something is obviously not working (excuse the pun) with the distribution of these moneys.

    • Old Man, Torbay.

      I have a feeling distribution is restricted to the top of the food chain.

  • Pluto

    Anyone who’s been to Wairoa will have seen this first hand.
    Everywhere on the main street, kids pushing prams.
    There’s only one way to stop it, make it less profitable.

    • Seriously?

      There are other ways, perhaps less palatable but more effective and less likely to impact the kids.

      If a person has been a benefit for a long period already maybe they should be required to have a contraceptive implant that can be removed if they leave the benefit? Maybe it should kick in after you already have two kids, or four…

      It sounds extreme, but it is hard to get around the docking of benefits impacting the kids as much if not more than their irresponsible parents.

    • Totara

      Dialling welfare generosity back a few notches, and closely monitoring the proportion of births to welfare-dependant homes until it equals that of the general population is the place to start.

      If Lesley can monitor this effect, then a government department can too.

  • Dave

    I have banged on about this for years. Where is the leadership from Maori, WHERE. Maori are only 15% of the population, yet 54% of benefit babies, likewise, 51% of the prison population, although they blame the justice system for that. I would love to know the overall breakdown of welfare costs by ethnicity, no doubt the stats are similar.

    Nothing will change for Maori overall, until Maori take OWNERSHIP of the issues, STOP blaming whitie, and start acting.

    • Seriously?

      One thing always bugs me about these stats: How many Maori are there in NZ?

      I suspect the vast majority of those who identify as Maori are in fact more non-Maori than they are Maori. Cultural self-identification is fine, but it should not be confused with ethnicity.

      Maybe the answer is to stop using a minority part of a person genetic make-up as an excuse, particular when the 25% of your DNA that has been oppressed by the colonizing forces sits alongside the 75% of the DNA that did the oppressing.

      • KatB

        Totally agree with you and it’s what I was getting at in my post. I joke with my part Maori husband how he lives with himself knowing how is white side oppressed his Maori side. It frustrates him as much as anybody else to see people making useless choices in their lives. My husband has had the same opportunities that I’ve had in my life and he has used them. He has never felt at a disadvantage because of his ethnicity. He knows if somebody is useless it’s not solely because of their ethnicity, it’s because of bad life choices by them or those that raised them.

      • Dave

        KatB and Seriously? I don’t disagree with your comments at all, but to start with a solution, one needs to look at the causes, and who / which groups to focus the solution on. For pregnancy / welfare, its best to target those who are far more likely to use it, i.e. lets not start in Remuera, Cashmere hills or Khandallah for example. When you cut the stats, every time it will place several groups at the worst end, unfortunately, Maori are over represented in those groups, and generally cry foul when the spotlight is shone. We should also remember, these are also proud people, and should be able to sort this themselves, but………

        • KatB

          Yes I can see your point and I think we’re on the same wavelength. Though I think the stats we should be waving around are the alcoholic, drug addiction, truancy etc stats. Then when the spotlight is shone people can’t cry foul because it’s not race targeted it’s behaviour targeted. While a particular race may feature highly within these groups, it’s the behaviour that needs to be targeted. I guess I’m rather optimistic as I like to see us as all New Zealanders first and then our ethnicities/cultures celebrated next. So as a New Zealander, I’d like to see these issues sorted out as a country united. I’m sick of people segregating themselves one minute then crying racism in the next minute.

          • Dave

            “as a country united” yes, 100%, One NZ. Unfortunately, there is this issue that keeps popping up to remind us we are deeply divided, that some are “entitled” and can claim everything. Until those issues are sorted and put to bed, and another 50 or so years rolls on, then there will be some form of separation, even if in thought only.

            We strongly need one NZ, one set of laws FOR ALL Kiwis, we all live here together, share the same roads, parks, beaches, hospitals etc.

    • KatB

      I hear what you’re saying Dave but I tend to look at these statistics from another angle. These statistics are not OK whatever the ethnicity of these people. We need to be sorting out this beneficiary problem right across the board. While Maori are highly represented in all the wrong sort of statistics, it’s not purely because they are Maori. We need to stop putting Maori on a pedestal and treating them, and letting them treat themselves like they’re special and need to be dealt with differently to the rest of society. I wonder how “Maori” at lot in these statistics actually are. It seems to me we’re just giving a whole lot of people an excuse to be useless. I think we need to chuck the statistics out the window and put some policies in place that make it loud and clear, whatever your race, religion, sexual persuasion, gender etc, this beneficiary mentality will no longer be entertained.

      • PersonOfColor:WHITE

        Agreed. The criteria should be that having claimed a benefit for ONE child, the limitations start being imposed on further children. Let’s at least LIMIT the damage for a start.

  • Seriously?

    There no doubt a degree to which a career on the benefit is a learn behavior – or at least that seeing your parents do it normalizes the choice. But that it is not all as simple as that.

    Intelligence is partly genetic, and low intelligence must increase the risk you will find it harder to get a job. Those that don’t value learning themselves will be less likely to do simply things like read to their kids / help them learn.

    You could remove the parents form the benefit, but to the degree that other influences like that impact on outcomes they will still remain.

    I think the mistake (particularly of the left) is the assumption that we are all equal. Plainly, that is wrong.

    • Totara

      This is one of the reasons why early childhood education can make a (small) difference. But the trick is that it only works when the kids have to leave their home environment and enter a more functional ‘normal’ environment at a centre.

    • PersonOfColor:WHITE

      We ARE all equal. Its just that we don’t all use it equally.

      • Seriously?

        That is plainly false.

        I may well be that we should aspire to treat people as if they are equal, but equal we are not. When was the last time you saw someone 5 foot 1 play for the All Blacks?

        • PersonOfColor:WHITE

          So is this hypothetical person height challenged, or short?

          • MaryLou

            Vertically challenged.

          • PersonOfColor:WHITE

            oops! Marxist rhetoric is not my native language.

          • Seriously?

            He is simply not gifted with the genetic make-up that means it is possible for him to be an All Black, not matter how hard he might try. Much like I suspect many All Blacks were not gift with the genetic make-up that would allow them to be world leading astrophysicists, no matter how hard they might try.

            Effort and opportunity may well have a greater influence that genetics, but nevertheless we are not created equal.

          • PersonOfColor:WHITE

            Sure. But nobody can stop you aspiring to whatever you want. (Tommy Gentles was 5’3”)

          • Seriously?

            I’m sure even Tommy had the sense not to aspire to be a lock. He could aspire all he liked, but he was not getting that job.

            I think I agree with your other point though, we certainly do not make equally good use of the capabilities we might have – the nurture aspect no doubt plays a dominant role when the goalpost is as low as getting a job.

    • Dave

      “Intelligence is partly genetic” Yes, but attitude is not. A lot of these welfare dependent people, have a terrible attitude to themselves, and to society as a whole. Even a person of low intelligence, but with a good attitude and possessing a good outlook can find reasonably paying work. I believe the issue is around their attitude, and desire to support themselves.

      Perhaps these kids need a few role models, successful people who have a lot of “desirable’s” the young ones can aspire to, and want so they work to achieve. Might also pay to have a few young mums with nothing bring in screaming snotty kids to tell the horror stories of the so called life on benefits.

  • Oh Please

    I know of several girls in Gisborne actually encouraged by their mums to get pregnant so they could claim benefit. Sickening waste of lives.

  • Grizz30

    The South Island should separate and form it’s own country. It appears to be subsidizing the North Island.

  • Fuglybud

    Forget the Maori bit its part of a wider apartheid problem. If we stop the state funded breeding system and just helped out those who find themselves in need, as opposed to those that put themselves in need, imagine how much improved the crime, drugs, health, education and employment stats will look like in 15-20 years time.

  • Wheninrome

    Love auckland or hate auckland you cannot get round the fact that Auckland disproportionately pays the majority of the taxes that go towards the payment of these benefits to these other areas.

    • Dumrse

      I’m struggling to recognise your point ?

  • localnews

    Maybe Lindsay could run some projections for what is going to happen over the lifespan of those children. Welfare is going to run out. Whether it happens because enough people get sick of seeing their hard earned money wasted, or whether it happens because the country becomes destitute as per Greece, we are going to run out of welfare and it is going to happen in those childrens lifetimes. We should just knock it on the head now.

    • Totara

      Or just look to Venezuela. They have now run out of money to pay the companies that print Venezuelan banknotes!

  • lyall

    i doubt many long term Maori beneficiaries would view their benefits as a generous koha from the taxpayer, but rather as their rightful entitlement for letting tauiwi live on ‘their’ land. This view is only being reinforced as more and more social services, in rural areas especially, are set up to employ and cater for Maori only – with a vision to remind clients that they are ‘tangata whenua’ and if they are broke its not their fault at all but merely a symptom of colonisation – being taught this must make it a lot easier to forgo birth control and have a child you cant afford!

  • Usaywot

    Family near me with three kids have produced 6 welfare dependent children….from several fathers. It has been a career choice. And why not with a state house, benefit, and chance to sit and watch soapies all day> Keep working you tax paying suckers to maintain their lifestyle.

  • andrewo

    I cannot overstate the importance of tackling the ‘DPB baby syndrome’. This single issue underpins all the other dysfunctional aspects of society: Criminality, illiteracy, child abuse & addiction. If we could fix this one issue we’d empty the prisons and the courts.
    Just an idea: Has anyone considered offering ‘at risk’ women cash for long term pregnancy (DEPO) injections? I hate the thought of cash hand-outs too, but if it deflects them from bringing another benighted life into this world, along with the attendant social costs then the payback is huge.

    • Wheninrome

      If we were offering cash I would want it to be permanent. Of course we would then open a new industry for the pyscho analysts and those who know what is best for one relating to the deprivation of fertility for these individuals and more cash would have to change and hands, a modern day taniwha in the making

      • Totara

        A vasectomy is the best financial investment a couple can ever make. A $300 outlay for, what, $300,000 cost of raising an extra child.

        If there is any personal investment with better returns, that ordinary people can make, then I haven’t heard of it.

        • Chris Fleming

          In some countries the men get a free radio after the opp.

          Maybe here an iPhone or Samsung S7.

          • Dumrse

            Swapp a crate would probably work better.

        • Wheninrome

          No question and certainly in the long run the Country would be better off. Children wanted, loved, educated not a burden on their parents or the taxpayer. They would grow up and repeat the trend. Is this utopia we are thinking of here, an ideal world.

        • anniem

          Agree, good idea to pay the women to get Depo but even better (or as well); pay the men a substantial amount to have a vasectomy. Say 20K would have them coming out of the woodwork?

        • Doug

          The downside to this in terms of beneficiary babies is that it only takes one fertile male to male many females pregnant

    • Crowgirl

      When you go on the DPB you should be getting the jab as part of getting the benefit until you come off it and go into work. No jab, no DPB. It’s a no-brainer.

    • MaryLou

      It’s been talked about, and loudly decried by the usual suspects. Totara (above) is correct – most real environmental groups recognise overpopulation as an issue, and not for profits in places like India use contraception as the cornerstone for improving life for those in impoverished areas. But here in NZ, it seems to be a different story – here, it “devalues people and cuts across their human rights” even to mention it. Maybe when Otara starts looking like an Indian slum we might see a change of tune – yet I doubt it, what with the media already comparing the living conditions out there with Indian slums.

    • Observer

      You would probably reduce crime and future welfare costs by billions, but it would take someone with serious balls to get it through. Michael Laws suggested something similar for repeat CYF parents who abuse kids and that prompted outrage.

    • SlightlyStrange

      Someone recommended it a few years ago – offer women on benefits free long-term, reversible contraception (like an IUD) and a payment, and the lefties screamed that it was taking away rights.
      I could NOT see how it was taking away rights. Many of these women cant afford to see a GP and get an IUD. They aren’t cheap. Maybe some of them might have taken the opportunity up!

    • Mark

      I would support a charity set up to do this.

  • Totara

    Let’s say that you were a caring, compassionate, social-justice-minded person, who was genuinely concerned about the levels of poverty and inequality in New Zealand.

    If you only now just realised that politicians have long known that most (admittedly not all) of the poverty in New Zealand could have been eradicated by the simple step of requiring contraception as a condition of further welfare, wouldn’t you feel just ever so slightly betrayed?

    Inequality was a major plank of the Clark government taking power in 1999. They had 9 years to do something about poverty that might have had long-lasting effect. But they squandered their opportunity by reverting to tax-and-spend, which has made the problem worse.

    And now we have the Key government increasing welfare generosity, which is unlikely to give him much support in the polls, but will definitely add further to long-term welfare dependency.

    Same with the Greens. They did have a policy recognising over-population as an environmental concern. But that was under Rod Donald. Now they want to add to welfare for low-income parents; encourage them into having more kids than they can really afford; lock them up in life-long poverty; and add further burden on the environment.

    There is nothing new here. Richard Dawkins wrote about it in the 1970s in his book, The Selfish Gene.

  • PersonOfColor:WHITE

    Very good analysis. I hope it gets wide attention.

  • Observer

    The Child Poverty Action Group and Susan St John never seem to point out that contraception is one of the most effective means of reducing child poverty (and poverty in general). Eric Crampton’s suggestion that contraception could be a condition of welfare entitlements is entirely sensible.


  • Bartman

    Data analytics – the truth will be revealed!

  • Genevieve

    The factor that unfortunately can’t be remedied in the mothers of these benefit babies, is a lower than average IQ. Numerous studies have linked a lower IQ with higher rates of childbearing and the higher a woman’s IQ is, the lower her desire to breed becomes. This is quite disastrous for the future of the human race. As intelligence, or a lack of, is a major issue in high rates of benefit babies, the need to administer long-acting contraceptives to women who can’t reliably remember or actually want to take a daily tablet, should be a priority in dealing with this problem.

    • Observer

      Professor James Flynn pointed this out a few years ago and prompted howls of outrage from the Children Commissioner at the time. That kind of realtalk isn’t permitted in polite discussion.

      “An internationally recognised expert on intelligence warns New Zealand children could get dumber in three or four generations unless women with higher education started producing more babies.

      Otago University emeritus professor Dr Jim Flynn was commenting on census figures that show mothers without a higher education were the anchor of New Zealand’s current fertility rate.

      “Everyone knows if we only allowed short people to reproduce there would be a tendency in terms of genes for height to diminish. Intelligence is no different from other human traits,” he told the Sunday Star-Times.

      “A persistent genetic trend which lowered the genetic quality for brain physiology would have some effect eventually.”

      Statistics show women without tertiary qualifications who had reached their early 40s had produced 2.57 babies each.

      In contrast, women with a higher education were producing just 1.85 babies each.”


      • phronesis

        Flynn, Greer, etc. etc. a generation of lefty academics that now sound more like the far right. It really goes to show how far the political spectrum has shifted in the last few decades. Of course Flynn could have gone on to point out that cultures that have valued physical prowess over intellectual ability for the last few thousand years would also have a generally lower academic ability….

      • Sheree

        I have higher education, have a professional career and have three young children. I can tell you the main reason why career woman have less babies is that it is incredibly hard work to juggle family and a career! I agree that higher educated families need to be having more babies but we need to assist those families more.

        I get no incentive to have more kids (no extra help for daycare costs, no income top up etc) but as a country we seem to incentivise low income families to produce more kids. Nuts.

        We need to look at different ways to address this imbalance. For example I have a friend who lives in Singapore who tells me the majority of couples with kids have live-in help. This is incentivised by the government and encouraged and is now the social “norm”. The government actually looks after woman with careers!

      • KatB

        We can’t necessarily equate higher education with higher intelligence though. From what I’ve experienced it can be quite the opposite. Tertiary qualifications alone is not a good indication of ability to pass intelligence on to the next generation.

    • Doug

      The disaster is this, without intervention babies born to the lowest IQ mothers would have a higher tendency to not make it to adulthood, while the children born to smarter parents would have a higher chance to make it to adulthood.
      This meant that although the lower IQ families might outbreed the smart families, the smart families would celebrate just as many making it to their 21st birthday, balancing it out.
      But today, we do our best to save the children, after all, who wants to see a child suffering, or dying before their time? But this means more effort is needed to help them, hence the smarter families have less children, either through financial constraints (tax burden amongst other things) or work effort (building a “better” society), while the lower IQ just breed away, knowing someone else will look after them.

  • Brian Smaller

    Remember that you get the same base benefit where ever you live. That goes a lot further in Wangas than Wadestown.

  • Ruahine

    This easily fixed. DPB for only the first child. Then no more.
    Pregnancy is not a sickness.

    Is all about the money. Just get a name on a birth certificate. Any name will do.

    Charddonay is still popular and sounds real classy. Yeah!! two DDs

  • sandalwood789

    These figures – this one graph – proves once and for all that the government isn’t serious about tackling child abuse (given that the vast majority of it seems to happen in welfare households).

    If the government were serious about tackling that (and welfare dependency) they would immediately bring in tough new disincentives to deter those on welfare from having children. They’ll never do so.

  • How many were born to the bludgers receiving WFF? How many of those are in Ponsonby, Grey Lynn, Albany…

  • Intrigued

    For anyone who has an interest in this area there is now access to useful data via the Integrated Data Infrastructure – a joint project between various departments – Corrections, Health, CYF, W&I and Stats NZ to map where the children at most risk are in NZ. It is no surprise that the areas with the highest welfare dependency (as per Lindsay Mitchell’s analysis above) also show areas with the most at risk children. If anyone is interested in seeing the information that is now available and an interactive map of NZ, go to https://shinyapps.stats.govt.nz/sii/
    And http://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/research-policy/ap/2015/15-01 A lot of the work being done by MSD on the overhaul of CYF integrates this information and it is a credit to this Government (in my opinion) that they are looking at the real cost to the State over the lifetime of a child born into a family with the identified risk factors (there are 4 key risk indicators) with the aim of investing in social welfare programmes that will (hopefully) mitigate against the perpetual cycle of welfare dependency, child abuse, crime etc and all the worst outcomes for children. It will be interesting to see how it all manifests in the next iteration of CYF but I sincerely hope it works as there are significant problems for tens of thousands of children in NZ. I think it’s our best hope yet from what I have seen. After working in this field for nearly 2 decades I can assure you I’ve seen nothing from the left of the political spectrum or the CPAGs of this world to really come up with a solution for the real “child poverty” in NZ in all its ugly forms – other than use the term as a political club to try and score political points. I’ve been to the CPAG annual Budget Breakfast analyses in past years and yearned for a shred of common sense or practical and workable solutions from them and come away disillusioned and angry at their ideological grandstanding.