New Zealand’s open-air environment and a raft of social measures gave this country the reputation of being ‘a great place to bring up kids’.
The post-war baby-boom generations in particular enjoyed their overseas experience, then came home to have their families. Homes were readily available then, on quarter acre sections, with room for children to play.
The medical costs of pregnancy, birth and childhood disease were all provided free by the Welfare State. The Plunket Society provided free care to ‘help the mothers and save the babies’. Education was free right through from kindergarten to excellent universities.
Along the way there was free milk in schools, possibly the by-product of a subsidised, or state controlled industry with spare product to dispose of.
Much of this came to an end in the late 1980s. Medical costs became means-tested, parents increasingly paid for extras in their children’s education, and education at the tertiary level became a major expense for parents and students themselves. The consequent effects on public and social welfare have become apparent.
Now New Zealand, with its comparatively clean environment and high standards of care, remains a great place to bring up kids – if you can afford to pay.
Excerpts from Kiwiosities, a book by Gordon Ell on the traditions and folklore of New Zealand.