Let this report be our cry – State of the Nation 2018

State of the nation report

Cover image from Kei a Tātou – It Is Us: State of the Nation 2018

Walter Whitman was an American Poet who wrote of democracy as a diversity of people seeking unity. He sought to lift up the value and the significance of the everyday person in the development of society.

Yesterday, the State of the Nation 2018 report was released nationwide, including in Hamilton, Kirikiriroa. The report is titled – Kei a Tātou – It is us. The title is inspired by Whitman.

There is no nation, no society, no corporation, no entity at all without people and the relationships they have with one another. The statistics in the report tell a story, a stark narrative of sorrow. Is it our story? Is this us and, if so, who are we?

The idea of one nation, of one Aotearoa New Zealand, of one us, is not one that Poverty Action Waikato subscribes too. We acknowledge the United Nations of Māori hapū that signed He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni (The Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand). We also understand that Pākehā were welcomed to this land but only on the conditions outlined in Te Tiriti o Waitangi. No statistics can be interpreted well without knowing our history, and the ongoing process of colonisation.

We value the Salvation Army reports for what they share with us. The statistics, as Anglican Action’s Karen Morrison-Hume suggests, outrage us. As one woman reflected at the meeting last night – the statistics in the report are what the government collects, and the Salvation Army reflects it back to the community. The State of our Nation paints a sorry tale. Let us cry back – things are not right!

Child Poverty

Figure from Kei a Tātou – It Is Us: State of the Nation 2018

Child poverty has tailed off a little. Does this mean our communities are faring better? Not according to John Kavanagh from the Catholic Family Support Service. For those families who are suffering, the reality of poverty has got worse. So what does it mean to say that child poverty has lessened? Statistics without stories do not tell what we know. Let’s share stories.

Prison Population

Figure from Kei a Tātou – It Is Us: State of the Nation 2018

The prison population continues to grow. Why do we continue on a treadmill of what has already been done so many times before and failed? Over two-thirds of people who come out of prison, go back before 2 years. A friend was recently caught shop lifting baby formula. She was sent to court. She was stealing, but what would this story look like if aroha was our response and if aroha guided us in the first instance so that these desperate circumstances were prevented?  We are heartened by some of the community responses that we hear – how people found by the police to be without the right driving license can sign up for a driver license course instead of being fined. This is a story of hope in our community.

And homelessness – it is set to increase they say, because government policy will take a while to change.

Homelessness

Quote from Kei a Tātou – It Is Us: State of the Nation 2018

How can we accept this? In Hamilton, our homeless community has been banned from the city centre and from Five Cross Roads. Is this the best that we can do? Peter Humphrys has long suggested that we bring back boarding houses. What do you think?

And how about wet houses (Wellington’s doing it)? These are places where people who are seriously addicted can drink safely – places where they perhaps may gather the strength to face their torrid realities that together we created.

Methamphetamine related crime is on the up, a big up. What is our response?

Drug crime

Figure from Kei a Tātou – It Is Us: State of the Nation 2018

The stories behind the statistics are the lives of people, our mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, cousins…They are whānau.

At Poverty Action, we are weary of the stigmatising and damaging impact of statistics and are determined to understand them in context. We are outraged and our cry is, let’s talk, let’s gather, let’s respond.

Thank you to the Salvation Army for engaging our minds and stirring out hearts.

For the full copy of “Kei a Tātou – It Is Us: State of the Nation 2018” visit http://www.salvationarmy.org.nz/research-media/social-policy-and-parliamentary-unit/latest-report/State-of-Nation-2018

Ngaa mihi ki a tātou katoa.

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Aladdin’s Cave – a story about Mobile Retail Trucks

As a Financial Mentor (Budget Advisor) and the Education Facilitator for Hamilton Budgeting Advisory Trust, I witness weekly the effects mobile shopping trucks have on our community.

Yes the community as a whole not just certain areas. I will explain this statement later on.

The people who drive these Red or White Aladdin’s Cave on Wheels, they prey on the weak, vulnerable, lower socio economic areas of not just the city but the outlying areas as well. In fact the outlying areas suffer the most because they are the more vulnerable.

Why are they vulnerable?

Because they are the people who don’t have the cars, or money to put into the cars to make them legally driveable, or just don’t have a budget to pay for petrol to travel into the city to get the better deals.

And then there is the fact that they don’t have cash to spend on clothes, manchester etc. or they have a poor credit rating, therefore no ability to get a non-shark lender loan.

So what is the draw of the Red or White Aladdin’s Cave on wheels?

You can get it now and pay later. “But wait there’s more if you purchase this item we will chuck in this item for free!”

The elderly, infirmed, gullible, the poor are ushered to the opening of the cave and then they can shop inside at the leisure of their discretion, booking up everything available to their hearts desire.

I have a sole parent client who went into the cave two Christmases ago to buy a selection of clothes and toys for her children. It is now September 2017 and she owes $700! For three sets of clothes and six towels. These were originally $225.00 when purchased. If she had gone to Kmart, the Warehouse, Postie Plus etc and put these items on layby she would have only paid the $225.00 or probably less as the items are cheaper in those stores. Yes some of the responsibility lies with the client as we know Christmas comes every 365 days of the year, we have 365 days to save.

When I put that fact to clients they go yeah you’re right Christmas comes same time every year.

So it is a community and social problem, lack of education, lack of people power, why don’t people just go out onto the street and tell those damn Caves to !#$% OFF!

I have a house bound elderly client barely has enough money to pay her rent, power and insurances. Lives on $22 per week to feed herself and purchase general grocery items who wanted some companionship, so she settled for a 42 inch TV but wait one of Aladdin’s men told her he could throw in a vacuum cleaner for free if she went up to a 50 inch TV ! She can barely get around to vacuum her little one bedroom unit but she still got it anyway.

I met her two days after the deal went down because a concerned neighbour made her book an appointment with our service. By the end of our 1 ½ hour appointment I had them come back and get that 50 inch TV. I told the company that there was a serious breach of responsible lending and threatened them with exposure to Consumer NZ. Never had so many apologies ever in an hour.

A heart-warming ending but how many other vulnerable people in our community get stung?

Another case I have had is a client who had paid off her account in full with the additional 44.49% interest on top, well done to her, had an extra $20 deducted from her final account. When she contacted them to show that she had paid the bill in full, they apologised profusely and suggested to her that she now has credit and would she like to purchase other items from inside the cave.

She continually called for a week daily to ask them to reimburse her credit, nothing happened so she decided that she better seek some advice from our service.

I called this outfit and they had the cheek to tell me to write a letter on her behalf requesting the reimbursement. They put the blame on her overpayment, believing this to be their right to keep her money and use it on credit in their system.

I write letters to the Cave operators often telling them to back off my clients once their debt is cleared and never to deal with my clients again. And as I pen this off there will be another vulnerable family being approached and ushered to the Cave.

The sooner a bylaw is put in place that bans mobile caves from frequenting the lower socio economic areas or something similar the better. You never see the Mobile Caves in Rototuna!

 

Penned by Ursula Pollock

Financial Mentor/Education Officer

Hamilton Budgeting Advisory Trust

International Women’s Day Report by Kyro Selket

IWD 2017 REPORT

I want to begin by saying, THANK YOU to everyone who got involved in my crazy International Women’s Day idea. 2017 saw Kirikiriroa Hamilton offered a number of events throughout the day, which acknowledged local women and women’s communities. Before I expand I want to take this moment to thank our sponsors: Countdown (Bridge ST), D V Byrant, Kaivolution, and Hamilton City Council. Also thanks to Ivan from Nivara for opening his space for an evening of entertainment.

As I stated there were a number of events organised for the day.
IWD 2017, began with breakfast at Fairfield Community Centre. Thanks to Eddie Neha and a superb crew of cook’s, guests were offered a variety of food. This included a wonderful hot breakfast, along with muffins, fruits and cereals. Rangatahi from Fairfield Intermediate, who were participating in their week long leaders program, welcomed guests and spoke with them about their hopes and dreams. Participants also included teenagers from St Pauls School. So again a BIG SHOUT out to all those who organised, cooked, and participated in the event. Thank You.

After weeks of scorching temperatures and sun the weather decided to be problematic, unleashing a barrage of extreme rain and wind. Sadly, this saw us cancel the Women’s Market which was to be held in Garden Place. Probably the hardest event to organise, what with so many women’s organisations struggling to stay ahead of the onslaught of neoliberalism policies. Nevertheless, 12 individuals, tertiary and women’s organisations confirmed their interest. Stalls ranged from yummy food to information of consent. Whilst the weather beat us in 2017, it will not in 2018.

Furthermore our women’s workshop ‘’A Powerful and Purposeful You, “which was to be run by Sue Kohn-Taylor, a leading personal development and wellbeing coach was also cancelled. The event was to be held at the Hamilton Business Association on Victoria St, however due to an increasingly strange noise coming from Sue’s engine, she was driving from Auckland to Hamilton, Sue was forced to turn back. The professional that Sue is meant she ensured she caught up with all those enrolled guarantying they received all the workshops information. So THANK YOU Sue and I hope the car is ok now.
Important to any International Women’s Day is events that express the creativity of women. With the support of Creative Waikato and Yasmin Davis hard work, IWD held an exhibition at Creative Waikato. it was a snapshot of 12 local women’s work, presented in different mediums and from different cultural backgrounds. Whilst the exhibition was only for one day, I am sure that those who managed to visit would have been as humbled as I was by the beauty of the works on offer. Next year we are ensuring that the exhibition run for a week.

At 1pm I found myself at the Lunchtime Recital Series, held in the Dr John Gallager Chamber, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts. Hear participants were entertained by talented women from the music and theater department. Organised by Stephanie Acraman, herself an Opera Singer/Voice Teacher at University of Waikato Conservatorium of Music, the programme included Sonta Op 27 No 2, Sexy Lady, Symphonie Espagnole, as well as extracts from ‘Gender Equality is Your Issue Too and quotes by famous women’, such as Kate Sheppard. The recital was a feat, more so because according to Stephanie, it was the first time lecturers, tutors and students, all female, had performed together on International Women’s Day.

An essential aspect for IWD in Kirikiriroa Hamilton was to highlight women who have played an integral role in shaping communities in Kirikiriroa Hamilton, as well as local women’s lives. With the help of Tracy Robinson, Margret Evans and a small team of librarians; Celebrating Local Historical Heroines was offered. This involved reproducing prints of drawings commissioned by the previous City Council of local local women. It included Hilda Ross (displayed at DemiUrgos – Victoria St), the Māori Queen Te Atairangikaahu, and others which were displayed at the Hamilton Library Popup. Continuing on this theme, Kim Samphier, manager of Momento on Victoria St, elected to profile Dame Malvina Major.

In conjunction with the displays, Margret Evans organised for Dr Diane Gordon-Burns (Ngati Mahuta) to share the story of Tainui’s 14th Century Whakaotirangi. The presentation also explored research she conducted on other local Waikato women.
To end the day participants, whanau and friends were invited to the IWD closing event at Nivara Lounge. Sixteen year old musician Mouse Varcoe and Raglans Parabola West preformed for a somewhat small but intimate crowd. It was the perfect way to end the day.

IWD has not been celebrated on such a scale for a number of years. Therefore the goal of bring this important event back onto the local map was certainly achieved. Since the event there have been a number of enquiries about what will happen in 2018 and many of those who participated have said that they would like to be kept in the loop for IWD 2018. For me the most exciting aspect of the day was engaging with a diverse group of people. It felt good to be engaging with women of all ages, sharing their hopes and dream for their lives and the future of Kirikiriroa Hamilton.

Waitangi Day – Living Wage & Mobile Retail Trucks

On Monday the 6th of February, Poverty Action Waikato joined with the Waikato Living Wage network to commemorate Waitangi Day. It was a privilege to be part of the community day hosted by Te Runanga O Kirikiriroa and The Western Community Centre.

We spent time talking with the community about the Living Wage and the difference it would make in our lives and communities. One woman reflected to us that she was able to make ends meet only because of the sharing that happens amongst her extended family. Making ends meet on her minimum wage salary alone was just not possible. Another women shared her concerns about the low wages that school support staff receive, and how vital they are to the functioning of the school and particularly to children whose needs are often over and above those of others. The Waikato Living Wage Network is now even stronger with these women joining us in our advocacy!

We also spent time talking with people about the Mobile Retail Trucks. The message was clear – people want them gone. We gathered submissions from people and our working group is now collating these into a report that will be delivered to Hamilton City Council. We will also publish this report on our website. Hamilton City Council maintains that there is very little that they can do to curb the operation of the trucks in Hamilton City. We are not so sure. We are continuing our research and advocacy in this space and listening to the voices we heard on Waitangi Day.

Thank you to all those people who shared their ideas and passion with us, and to the tamariki for painting beautiful Living Wage banners.

 

 

Hamilton beggars: is it ‘Do not feed the animals’?

There is something dehumanising about the campaign by the Hamilton Central Business Association to stop people giving money to beggars. It feels like the ‘Do not feed the animals’ signs found in zoos and suchlike across the world.

My family do nearly all our shopping in central Hamilton. We like its character, wide verandas and sense of renewal. We have never been hassled by beggars on our outings. But if I want to give a few dollars to someone with their hat out then I will.

The Hamilton Central Business Association talks about people getting the ‘correct’ help. They seem to believe there is a good safety net to catch up all the people they will help evict from the central city. There really isn’t.

A recent Poverty Action Waikato report, ‘Neglect and Nurture’ presents a more flax-roots picture than is usually painted by the Key Government. It illustrates the increased conditionality of public and social services in Hamilton. The inflexible requirements for accessing services means that people are often not getting the support they need.

The report tells us people who must attend a budgeting course before accessing funds may face a 2-3 week wait. That to have mental health problems now makes people more vulnerable than ever. It talks about how difficult it is to access a caseworker and about recent immigrants from the Pacific getting little support. There is insecure and overcrowded housing and the predatory activities of instant finance companies increase the likelihood of debt.

The problems highlighted are not just a Waikato issue. The report of the Cross-Party Inquiry on Homelessness published this month also concludes that a large number of eligible people are not being helped by the relevant Government agencies, Housing New Zealand and the Ministry of Social Development. Other providers are not getting enough resources to deal with the volume of homelessness either.

The language of the Cross-Party report is of people falling through gaps and cracks but they seem more like gaping crevasses. Up and down the country our society is becoming more punitive when we should be doing more to help.

Beggars might well use the money for addictions but middle class people have more expensive ones. My niece and her husband accidently bought a P-contaminated house this year. It was all over the news and the house was in leafy Waikanae of all places.

Hamilton is also a very comfortable place to live for the middle classes. At home by the Waikato River there are tui and fantails and kowhai and nikau palms. On long weekends many people seem to go off to their holiday homes.

It all begs the question, in what ways are the Hamilton Central Business Association going to provide extra support for the beggars they want to remove off the streets? They could fund the support through other organisations or directly and they could lobby local and central government.

Otherwise they should just allow Hamilton’s central streets to remind us of the deeply unequal society we all live in.

Martin Thrupp is Professor of Education at the University of Waikato and a member of the Poverty Action Waikato working group.

Published in the New Zealand Herald, October 21, 2016

Post Budget Memo to MP’s David Bennett and Tim MacIndoe

On Friday the 27th of May, we delivered the following post budget memo to MP’s David Bennett and Tim MacIndoe . We are awaiting a response.

MEMOPAW Logo redrawn 2013-1112

RESPONSE TO BUDGET 2016

Date: 27 May 2016

To:  David Bennett and Tim MacIndoe

From: Poverty Action Waikato

 

This budget represents a poverty of imagination and yet again the poor and working poor are the losers.  The needs of people living on the breadline are immediate yet there is no direct funding from the budget that will meet any of these needs.

We note the complete absence of funding targeted at increasing the State owned housing stock.  We call for the dividends paid to Government from Housing NZ to be directed to an immediate recapitalisation for increasing the housing stock, rather than going into the consolidated fund.  Recent evidence reported on RNZ (18 May, 2016) indicated that the State owned stock currently falls 20,000 houses short of per capita provision in 1991.  The overall housing stock is well short of the need for housing, particularly for people living on low incomes.

We note the increased taxation on tobacco while many of the other harmful substances which carry high social and health costs, such as alcohol and sugar, have not been targeted for increased taxes.

We applaud the investment in Te Reo Maori to strengthen the use of this official language.

It is extraordinary to see that the Government is investing more than 3 times the amount allocated to supporting pressing areas of social deprivation in new military spending.  This spending reflects the ideological direction this Government is taking.

We the undersigned, call on the Government to reject the current pathway to destruction of our common good communities and society that is underpinned by neo-liberal economic policies.

letter delivered

Writing back to the Hamilton community about Neglect and Nurture

 

In the report, Writing back to the Hamilton community about…Neglect and Nurture (2016), Anna Casey-Cox and Rose Black interviewed people working in 16 Hamilton community and social service organisations. The report reflects the observations of those who participated about how neglect and nurture operates in Hamilton and offers insights for building a responsible society.

Participants pointed out that people utilising services are struggling to access income, food and accommodation needed to live. To address this it was suggested that a combination of good policies, effective action and services underpinned by the values of manaakitanga, collaboration, unconditional love and interdependence are essential for enabling society to flourish. Community houses and centres are highly valued resources, offering an essential point of contact for people in need. In many cases, community and social service providers have to go beyond the call of duty, so as to ensure people are accessing the best possible all round care and support.

“Walking alongside someone in need in a holistic way is valuable work that is time intensive and under resourced in our community”.

Consequently, the report suggests greater investment in community centres, community houses and advocacy services. Thus ensuring that our most vulnerable populations have access to resources and the time and space to self-nurture and care for one another. By prioritising people and communities, Hamilton as a city will also flourish.

Go to our Latest Reports Page for the full copy of the report.

Latest Windows on Waikato Poverty report now available

A review from Stewart Lawrence, Professor in Accounting, Waikato Management School.

“This report offers an excellent exposition of the failures of the market economy – in the areas of housing, employment and health. It shows clearly the impact on specific vulnerable groups (Maori, children and young adults). The statistics provided are shocking and thought-provoking. The report clearly shows the implications of treating housing as a commodity, and labour in a market economy is treated simply as an expendable commodity. The revelation (p.15-16) of the attitude of the wealthy towards tax avoidance is particularly shocking. The accounting profession has a lot to answer for in this respect. The winners of the market economy are the rich and powerful. What are the positives to the wealthy of having a fairer distribution of wealth? The report takes up this point well on page 14. There are benefits for everybody in social and economic equality. If inequality keeps increasing there are dangers. The increasing concentration of wealth in a few hands and the lack of purchasing power of the many was a major point of Marxism – it would lead to revolution! The illustration of Timebank was a reminder of the labour theory of value – in which labour is the source of all wealth and all labour should be equally valued.

I enjoyed the section on “Economies that serve communities’. Here is the challenge to the market economy that fails so many people. If the market does not satisfy community needs, mass movements could ultimately displace the system that suits only the few. The latter had better beware! Poverty is an inevitable outcome of capitalist accumulation. The concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands brings with it the danger of the downfall of exploitative systems. The rich somehow have to realise that there are advantages to them in greater social well-being and cohesion. Poverty is avoidable.

I enjoyed the paper and found its contents convincing.”

Revenue gathering Asset Sales to continue

Twelve thousand Housing New Zealand or ‘state’ owned houses are to be sold into the private sector under the guise of community services. 

The weekend announcement by housing minister Nick Smith will see the further transfer of publicly owned state assets into the private sector.  Minister Smith says that the reason the government is selling off these houses is because the needs of those who currently live in state houses can be better met by community based organisations. 

At the moment all taxpayers own and contribute to providing a level of social security to all the citizens of our nation through social welfare, education, health, and housing policies. 

“Time and time again research has provided evidence that adequate housing is one of the most basic needs that will contribute to the health and well being of the people of our nation and is therefore a fundamental responsibility of the state rather than the private sector”, says Dr Rose Black from Poverty Action Waikato. 

If the government decides it cannot afford to provide social housing how might an already very stretched and slimly resourced community sector do so?

Rather than sell off publically owned state houses the government would serve the public better by setting up ways in which state and community organisations work together to provide for the housing needs of people. 

The sale of more State owned houses will further exacerbate the growing inequality in our society as support for the poorer members of society are no longer met by an ethos of social security.  The level playing field and notions of equal opportunity are becoming more mythical by the day.