Hine Marchand, Community Ministries Worker for the Salvation Army, and Niki Mason of Happiness House, shared their local perspectives on poverty in Queenstown at the one-day TacklingPovertyNZ workshop on 29 March 2016. You can watch the video of their presentation on the McGuinness Institute’s YouTube channel, or you can view the video below.

Hine and Nicky, having both lived in the area for over 20 years, have witnessed incredible changes in their community. Nicky estimated that, on average, people are 20% worse off than when she started social work in the community. A lot of people are struggling to get the essentials; ‘once bills are paid, food is the last thing to get attention’. They argue that the increasing costs of living and stagnant wages are significantly responsible for the growing struggles. They have seen long-term renters – including elderly and families – forced to leave. These are the people in the community who traditionally volunteer and who Hine and Nicky, as social services providers, rely on.

Hine explained that ‘Queestown is a clicky place, it is hard to get in and belong’. Without community involvement and extended family support, people are feeling isolated. One of Hine’s co-workers said ‘poverty is not food, it’s isolation and loneliness’. Transient workers are arriving with nowhere to live. Due to the shortage of accommodation, some people end up paying $200 a week, not including power, for a bunkbed in an overcrowded room. The cold winters and poorly insulated houses force massive power bills, which take the following summer to pay back. One recommendation Nicky put forward was for hotels and the skiing industry to supply worker accommodation. Instead, she mentioned one hotel who had got rid of staff accommodation to make space for more rooms.

Another issue mentioned was the amount of empty houses. Nicky suggested the idea that if nobody is living in the house for over nine months of the year, home-owners should be required to pay higher rates, which would then fund housing projects. Many of the ideas discussed during this session were developed by participants in the afternoon.

About TacklingPovertyNZ workshop tour
In December 2015, the McGuinness Institute undertook a three-day workshop in collaboration with The
New Zealand Treasury. This workshop has led to a number of outputs, one of which includes undertaking a series of one-day workshops around New Zealand in 2016. Queenstown was the first one-day workshop where we tested our approach to see if a useful output could be achieved over one day. Over the next few months we will work on smoothing the inputs and processes. The next stop on the TacklingPovertyNZ tour is tentatively booked for Rotorua on 19 August 2016. We are currently in discussion with other regional councils including the Far North, Gisborne and Manawatu. After each workshop we will prepare a discussion paper to map local issues and to explore ideas developed by participants throughout the day. In addition to being made public, each discussion paper will be given to the Chief Economist of the New Zealand Treasury.

If you are interested in attending any of the upcoming workshops and would like to learn more about theTacklingPovertyNZ initiative, sign up to receive our bimonthly newsletter here or visit our website.