MORE Southlanders are seeking help from food banks this year as accommodation becomes less affordable and working New Zealanders now earn $11,500 a year less than their parent’s share of the national income.
Salvation Army Invercargill corps Captain Annette Bray said Southlanders were finding they had more complex needs these days and the organisation’s food bank service was not just helping people without an income.
“The overall cost of living has gone up and more and more people are struggling to make ends meet,” she said.
Salvation Army national secretary for social services major Pamela Waugh said a range of factors, including the rising cost of affordable housing as well as increased debt levels, had contributed to New Zealanders being in financial difficulty, particularly during the Christmas period.
Invercargill Food Bank chairman Peter Swain said the Invercargill Food Bank had seen a 20% increase in people using the service this year compared with last year.
Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust chief executive Tracey Wright-Tawha said there were more people with problems around food and shelter accessing Nga Kete’s range of social services this year.
Overall, Nga Kete had seen an increase of about 5% of people accessing services and Mrs Wright-Tawha believed this was because of the increased strain being put on other charities such as The Salvation Army.
Nga Kete had started its own small food bank this year to try and help people in crisis, she said.
“We have had to apply more village thinking for problem solving.”
There had also been an increase in the number of transient clients who had come to the region seeking work or affordable accommodation, but who had struggled to find it and had ended up homeless in the community, she said.
Statistics New Zealand’s National Accounts (Income and Expenditure) data released last week showed people with jobs now received the smallest amount of the country’s yearly income since 2006.
In the year to March, New Zealand’s 2 million wage and salary earners received 48.7% of the national income. In 1981, they received 58.7%.
Each percentage point loss was worth about $1150 a year per wage and salary earner, so wage and salary earners now averaged $11,500 a year less than their parent’s share of the national income.
Invercargill-based E tu Union organiser Anna Huffstutler said she had taken on 234 more Southland-based workers as members since January 1, this year. This did not include new members her colleagues had taken on.
New Zealand Council of Trade Unions secretary Sam Huggard said in response to the Statistics New Zealand data, he believed the recent change of government was driven by increasing pressure on working New Zealanders.
“It’s clear most New Zealanders intuitively feel the injustice of these statistics – now we have the numbers which prove it.”
Working people knew $11,500 could be the difference between a decent quality of life and a world of financial stress, he said.
Invercargill’s Jubilee Budget Advisory Service manager Sharon Soper said the service had seen an increase in the numbers of clients using its services with lower income earners still struggling to pay basic bills.
“If they are on the minimum wage, then it’s pretty hard for them – it’s not a lot more than the benefit.”