THE rising cost of living in New Zealand is affecting Southlanders on many different fronts, pushing families to make budget cuts and consider assistance from support networks and organisations.
Invercargill’s Salvation Army community ministries co-ordinator Brenda King said there had been a noticeable increase in Southlanders seeking assistance and financial advice from the service.
“Lots of families are feeling the pressure. I think the price of food, petrol and rent are all contributing to a really, really difficult situation,” she said.
Those seeking support from the Salvation Army include working families who have not previously required community support.
“[Those on income benefits] get the winter energy payment and food grants, but if you’re on a wage there’s none of that available. You just have to kind of suck up the extra cost and try and manage, but people aren’t really managing too well so we are seeing an increase in numbers.
“I think there’s definitely a lot more stress.”
According to Stats NZ, between February 2021 and February 2022, fruit and vegetable prices increased 17% while meat, poultry, and fish prices increased 7.1%. This is the biggest annual increase since September 2011, when annual food prices increased 4.7%.
Annual inflation has also hit a three-decade high at 5.9%, and due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, fuel has also seen a substantial price increase in recent weeks.
“A family of five is spending $300 on food which has leapt up quite considerably from a couple of weeks ago, and $300 is more than they can afford,” Mrs King said.
Affecting people and their ability to receive help from community organisations is the ongoing spread of Covid, as people are finding themselves having to self isolate and are unable to attend appointments.
The Salvation Army also offers a financial mentoring service in association with Jubilee Budget Advisory Service, which people have been using to navigate rising costs.
“We chat about what’s happening for them and what the need is and if we can help, 90% of the time we’re helping out with food.”
Due to the uptick in clients, the foodbank shelves have also been seeing lighter days than usual, although donations from Countdown via its food project have been managing to keep the shelves stocked.
“In the past two years there have been fewer donations through the door.
“Gone are the days where schools used to have mufti days for us and that kind of thing. That hasn’t happened really since Covid. The whole climate has changed.”
Mrs King said general sentiment in the community was individuals’ concern for being able to make ends meet and uncertainty about rising costs for essential items.
“On our client contact form there are two questions that we ask, does food run out in your household due to lack of money and do you feel stressed. The answers are don’t know, never, sometimes, always, and always is getting circled more times than not.”
“It’s really hard for people.”