The escalating cost of living, increased household debt, lack of affordable housing, worsening of education outcomes and increase in young people reporting psychological distress are among some of the challenges facing New Zealanders identified in a new Salvation Army report.
The 16th annual State of the Nation report, titled ‘Costs … of Living / Nga Rourou Whakaiti’ was launched at St Paul’s Cathedral in Wellington on 15 February. The audience of about 60 people included Members of Parliament such as Greg O’Connor and Nicola Willis, the deputy mayor of Wellington Laurie Foon, senior public servants and NGO representatives.
Following a greeting from Lt-Colonel Ian Hutson, director of the Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit, Commissioner Julie Campbell opened in prayer. Commissioner Mark Campbell introduced the report, while report co-author Paul Barber gave a summary presentation, followed by questions from the audience.
The report pulls together existing data to provide an annual snapshot of our social progress as a nation.
‘Despite rising incomes and low unemployment that are lifting incomes for many, the report acknowledges the very real pressures that are increasingly and significantly affecting people’s lives as inflation begins to bite and people struggle to feed their whānau, to find work and secure warm, dry affordable accommodation,’ says Lt-Colonel Hutson.
‘While inflation is a thief from everyone’s pocket, the lowest income households are among the hardest hit.
‘The report theme also hints at a broader collective set of costs that a society needs to take into account that support people to live fulfilled lives and to avoid the very real social and economic costs of inequality.’
The six sections of the report traverse: Children and Youth, Work and Incomes, Housing, Crime and Punishment, Social Hazards and Māori Wellbeing.
‘In an election year, it is our hope to see political leadership that will take action to address social disparities and support our communities to meet the “costs of living”. This includes an emphasis on enabling legislation and effective policy in housing and stronger regulation around gambling-related harm.’
Lt-Colonel Hutson said the Māori name of the report, ‘Nga Rourou Whakaiti’, carries with it the idea of empty food baskets along with the loss of mana for both hosts and visitors when there is insufficient food on hand.
The full report is available on The Salvation Army website: https://www.salvationarmy.org.nz/sotn2023