Drinnan on Poverty Porn

John Drinnan writes:

An article in the Guardian website recently reported on “New Zealand’s Shameful Secret” and the growing problems of poverty and homelessness in a country held up as the land of milk and honey. It was an important and timely article. But parts of read like Poverty Porn.

“Catch a bus or two from Britomart in central Auckland, and after an hour and a half and you will arrive in the urban slum of . Here, houses are wooden, damp and mouldy and often hold in excess of 10 people. Young children walk the streets in mid-winter with no shoes and gummy eyes. Looming over polluted streams and rubbish-strewn parks is the vast Double Brown Beer Brewery. 


The (Auckland City) mission is located in busy central Auckland but the most deprived regions of this increasingly chaotic mega-city are in South Auckland, in the ghettoised suburbs of Otara, Papatoetoe and East Tamaki.

The theme of the article was strong.  It exposes a hardening of attitudes and darkening prospects for the poor. The Guardian’s Dunedin-based reporter Eleanor Ainge Roy has a good turn of phrase that makes for very readable copy. But the story was over-egged. South Auckland is not an urban slum. Otara, Papatoetoe and East Tamaki do have a lot of poor people and problems associated with low incomes. But they are not “ghettoised.”

Most South Auckland residents are proud of their homes and communities. They enjoy lives they have created there, and many have no wish to live in Ponsonby. They well be surprised to find they live in a ghetto or a slum.

I suspect the reporter in question has never been to South Auckland, or lived there.

Its one of the tendencies for middle class media that are discovering poverty in their midst. Papatoetoe is Port au Prince. Favona is a Favela.  …

Poverty is a story that media like. But it betrays the middle class background to the majority of journalists that see hardscrabble places as foreign and unsightly. I wonder if local truck stops even offer eggs benedict.

No eggs benedict. It’s a ghetto!

I was in Cannons Creek the other day. It is probably seen as the Wellington equivalent of South Auckland. I had not been there before so had a stereotypical view of what to expect. Far from being a ghetto or slum it was a tidy well maintained neighbourhood with a good shopping centre.

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