Youth Homes: Building the Village. Understanding the experiences of youth homelessness in Kirikiriroa

Executive Summary Homelessness for young people is occurring from a diverse range of experiences, with some being more concerning and troubling than others. Experiences range from needing a few nights away from home at a friend’s house to the need … Continue reading

Breaking Leftover Bread

In the report Breaking Leftover Bread Kaivolution and Food Insecurity in Kirikiriroa Hamilton (2017), Robert Moore and Alex Bailey interviewed people working in 13 community and social service organisations that receive and redistribute food from Kaivolution. The report reflects the observations of those who participated about the experiences of food insecurity in their communities, the barriers that people have to accessing food, and the role of Kaivolution in redistributing food in their communities.

Many participants identified that there are significant economic and logistical barriers to accessing food. Kaivolution mitigates poverty but it does not ensure food security. Kaivolution redistributes food from a heavily industrialised food system that treats food as a commodity, to community services wishing to offer nourishment and manaaki.

The stories in this report reflect the concern to ensure all people and children have food. Sometimes the food redistributed by Kaivolution is nutritious and sometimes it isn’t. Rescued food comes with no nutritional guarantee and it is not necessarily a recipe for good health. However, Kaivolution food does fill empty bellies and it can alleviate budgeting pressures so that the rent gets paid and the power stays on. While this support and food relief is very appreciated by the community, Kaivolution and other food charity services do not address the structural inequities that underpin food insecurity in Aotearoa New Zealand.

It is hoped that this research adds to the acknowledgement of the hard work of Kaivolution and others in the community, but to also encourage and contribute to an ongoing and broader conversation about social and environmental justice in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The report is available here: Breaking Leftover Bread

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

Submission – Oranga Tamariki: Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Legislation Bill

Submission sent – Friday 3 March 2017

1. Acknowledgement

Poverty Action Waikato appreciates the opportunity to respond to the Oranga Tamariki: Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Legislation Bill.

 2. Background

There is a very pressing need to ensure that children and young persons throughout Aotearoa are cared for in appropriate ways that enable the best possible transition to adulthood and to full participation in whānau/families, communities and society in general.

Consideration of this Oranga Tamariki Bill sits in a wider social and political context that currently operates in ways that will act against the ideals and principles outlined in the Bill. For example, the low wages people are paid, the cost of housing, the paucity of employment opportunities for young people, the individual cost of tertiary training/education, along with the rise in cost of living people are experiencing means that there are large numbers of children and young people living in households where there simply isn’t enough income to meet the basic needs for a family to live simply and well.  These factors along with the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth have certainly increased the vulnerability of any person in lower income brackets.

One of the changes that Poverty Action Waikato has noticed in their research (see Neglect and Nurture Report, May 2016[1]) in the Waikato is the increased concern about scarcity of access to housing either through Housing New Zealand or Rental Agencies.  Insecure tenancies, where the average stay in a rental property is eleven months (Howden-Chapman, 2015[2]) and the costs associated were also concerning as they have consequences such as difficulties in maintaining social connectedness, whānau relationships and often for children disrupted attendance at school.

3. Submission points

This submission will highlight some of our concerns about the Oranga Tamariki – Children, Young Persons, and their Families Legislation Bill and the general direction of CYPF.  We note that there are inherent contradictions operating when the same organisation is required to offer care for and control over the lives of children and young people that come to their notice.


3.1 Extension of age for young people

We endorse the recommendation to have the age of a young person extended by one year and to have the State outline an increased degree of engagement with and responsibility for young people who have been in their care until the age 21.


3.2 Colonisation impacts and Te Tiriti o Waitangi

3.2.1 This legislation and the operation of the Department have a long history, largely as a part of a monoculturally driven system of government, which has had a detrimental impact on Māori peoples[3].

3.2.2 Will this latest iteration of a Bill serve Māori and thus all New Zealanders with equity and support the well-being of Whanau and communities by looking after the welfare of children and young people effectively?

3.2.3 We recognise the cultural richness and resourcefulness of he tangata, whānau, hapū and iwi.  We acknowledge there are situations where children and young people really are unsafe and not well cared for in their immediate/nuclear families and need to be supported by state care systems in conjunction with the whanau and communities they are connected to.   At times, however, the welfare or well-being of children appears to operate out of a system where children are taken from families as a form of punishment for transgressions rather than an assessment of the best interests of either the child or their family.

3.2.4 We are concerned about the ongoing reference to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. Principles do not feed or safeguard children in anyway and they do not by implication ensure that equitable relationships with Māori whānau, hapū and iwi as Crown partners are a requirement of any engagement in the process of caring for children.

3.2.5 We propose that in line with many of the recommendations in Puao-Te-Ata-Tu (1988[4]) that Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the three articles contained within this document be referred to in the Bill, rather than the ‘principles’.  In particular, the third article of Te Tiriti (the Treaty of Waitangi) which explicitly states: that the Natives of New Zealand (Māori) are extended Royal Protection along with the “Rights and Privileges of British subjects”.

3.2.6 In practice the Crown as the other party to Te Tiriti o Waitangi has systematically failed to deliver to Māori equitable and culturally appropriate rights and privileges since 1840.

3.2.7 We are concerned that the changes being proposed in the Bill that will remove a requirement to prioritise the placement of tamariki Māori within their own whānau will not help tamariki Māori to maintain connections with their whakapapa.

3.2.8 Further this proposed change will potentially limit the role of staff to explore the wider whanau/family relationships that could potentially support and benefit a child or children to remain within a whanau/family network.  Building and maintaining whanau connections with children were highlighted in Puao-Te Ata-Tu and reinforced in every report since that time so that any tamariki in state care have placements prioritised within their own whānau first, and failing that within their hapū or iwi, and not severed from their whakapapa and tikanga.


3.3 Social Investment Approach

3.3.1 We are concerned that the Social Investment approach currently being adopted is not based on a substantial evidence base that offers an analysis of the effectiveness or otherwise of this approach.

3.3.2 From a community perspective it seems that the focus of the social investment approach will mean that the areas of contracted support that are more likely to show some immediate success will be preferred to receive funding as they will be deemed to meet outcomes criteria.   He tanagta/people, whānau/families, communities, hapū and iwi who have far more complex and at times intergenerational situations of deprivation and need will continue to struggle on the margins of society as they require support and services across agencies.  This is the situation we are currently witnessing with the social investment approach to housing where people are experiencing issues of availability of and access to affordable housing with assured tenancy arrangements over time. The safety net of state housing provision that has been available for past generations is being systematically withdrawn.


3.4 Poverty and Inequality    

3.4.1 A recent UN report has documented our failure in Aotearoa/New Zealand to care for those most disadvantaged in our communities and the need for a systematic plan to alleviate poverty. [5]Addressing inequity in our country is an essential part of preventing young people coming to the attention of government services.

3.4.2 We agree that there needs to be a radical and significant change in the way children, young people are supported and are kept safe. This includes supporting whānau/families and communities to overcome generational poverty and neglect so that they can provide safe places for children be raised and nurtured.


4. Conclusion

Poverty Action Waikato supports the resourcing of people and communities so that children and young people live, learn, and grow well within their whanau/family and community environments in ways that strengthen their cultural learning and connections.

Dr Rose Black

Poverty Action Waikato

[1] Casey-Cox, A. & Black, R.  (2016). Neglect and Nurture: Window on Waikato Poverty Report 6 Kirikiriroa Hamilton, NZ: Poverty Action Waikato.

[2] Howden-Chapman, Philippa. (2015). Home Truths: Confronting New Zealand’s Housing Crisis. Wellington, NZ” BWB Texts

[3] Ministerial Advisory Committee on a Māori Perspective for the Department of Social Welfare. (1988). Puoa-Te-Ata-Tu (day break). Wellington, NZ: Department of Social Welfare

[4] ibid

[5] Committee on the Rights of the Child. (2016). Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of New Zealand(21 October). Retrieved from

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

A budget of bugger all

The pool of resources being spent on the welfare for the most vulnerable in our communities is not getting any larger – yet the needs in our communities have expanded.  At the post budget lunch last week, Alan Johnson from the Salvation Army reflected on the actual realities of the budget, providing the 70 attendees with a critical perspective different to the political spin hitting our mainstream news media.

The Minister of Finance has capped welfare spending at approximately 30% of the budget. Superannuation is funded out of this welfare spending. The Prime Minister has made it clear that the current government will be retaining all superannuation entitlements. As the population ages, more and more people will be claiming their superannuation entitlements and this will mean that there is less and less money available for other welfare recipients. There is a conversation that needs to be had about the distribution of welfare spending and some personal challenges for more privileged people  claiming their superannuation benefits.

The government’s spending on income related rent subsidies and accommodation supplements has increased significantly over the last year and is expected to increase significantly over the following years if the current trajectory of government spending holds. There is a concerted push by central government to push people our of State Housing into the private rental market with assistance. This is effectively a transfer of wealth from tax payers to private landlords.

The government has not reviewed the regional cap on the accommodation supplement – this is concerning to us in the Waikato because over the past year, for example, the average rent in Hamilton increased 5%. Without increases in the accommodation supplement, people who rent are effectively required to find this additional money themselves. In a low wage economy, with restricted welfare spending, increased accommodation costs would simply be too much for some families, households and individuals.

This budget represents an extension of the neoliberal agenda – a push to market provision and the ongoing erosion of the Welfare State. Poverty Action Waikato is advocating for increased investment in State Housing and a social welfare system that recognises our shared vulnerabilities. We need a system that meets needs and that prioritises the common good. For more of our suggested actions, based on the stories of the social service sector in Hamilton, please read our latest report – Neglect and Nurture.

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.

Post Budget Lunch

As part of a nationwide series of post budget events, Child Poverty Action Group is pleased to be hosting this event together with: Poverty Action Waikato, Anglican Action Hamilton, and DV Bryant Trust. Speakers include Alan Johnson and Professor Martin Thrupp.

Venue: Celebrating Age Centre, 30 Victoria Street, Hamilton.

Lunch is provided, please bring a koha to help cover this.


Event website is here.


Poverty Action Waikato supports the Feed the Kids Bill…

Poverty Action Waikato supports the Feed the Kids Bill…

along with the Anglican Church, Auckland Action Against Poverty, Barnardos, Caritas Aotearoa NZ, Child Poverty Action Group, CTU Rūnanga. Every Child Counts, IHC, the Methodist Church, NZ Educational Institute, NZ Nurses’ Organisation, NZ Principals’ Federation, Plunket, PPTA, Salvation Army, Save … Continue reading

A night with Fairfield Rotary – Respect!

We met with the good people at Fairfield Rotary club on Monday night and heard about their good work raising funds to support many community projects and actions in Hamilton city. Rose and I talked with the Rotarians about our research and advocacy in the areas of food, housing, welfare reform and alcohol…and then it was time for questions – always the best part! One of the questions we got asked was whether we had been able to define poverty – Rose suggested that poverty means different things to different people and that the experiences of poverty are diverse and complex. One measure of poverty that is commonly used by researchers is ‘people living in a household with an income less than 60 percent of the median household disposable income after housing costs.’ One Rotarian concluded the night by offering his own understanding of poverty, demonstrating that how each of us define poverty depends to a certain extent on who we are and our own life experiences.

We had a lot of conversations with the Rotarians over the course of the evening, and one person reflected to us how as a landlord they were dismayed because their offerings of help to their tenants had been treated disrespectfully. A lack of knowing about respect and how to be respectful is an issue that we believe spans across all sectors of our society. A good question to think about might be – what would a truly respectful society look like? Would there be a big gap between rich and poor; would people struggle to feed their families; would people have to live in cold and damp houses? Perhaps there is something in the Rotarian motto ‘service above self’ that speaks of respect. Thank you Fairfield Rotary for a great night of discussion and your ongoing commitment to serve the Fairfield community.