An open letter to the new Government, ahead of tomorrow’s election
Tomorrow, millions of New Zealanders will step inside their local halls, schools, hospitals and sporting clubs to vote for the candidates and party they feel best represent their values and aspirations for this country. We as a nation may debate the finer details, but in our hearts we (hopefully) share a common desire to see New Zealand succeed economically, environmentally, and socially.
At the Auckland City Mission, we work each day with New Zealanders who embody the impact of our collective failings as a national community. We meet parents who cannot, despite exhausting efforts, feed their children. We meet men and women battling addictions, wanting to get sober, who are forced to wait months to get help. We meet people who have slept on park benches and under bridges for decades, often as a result of fleeing diabolical cases of family violence and neglect. For these New Zealanders, poverty, homelessness, addiction and ill health are not choices; they are a lack thereof.
Therefore, from our position at the edge of the cliff, we wish to offer five aspirations for the new Government, whomever you may be:
- Homelessness must become brief, rare and non-reoccurring in New Zealand. For this to happen, we need to develop a national strategy to address chronic homelessness and put this into action. If Canada can do it, so can we. Homelessness is not a choice.
- Minimum wage and benefits must be increased. We cannot stress this enough. For the past 5 years, we have distributed more than 10,000 emergency food parcels annually – and that is just to families living in Auckland. This is not just a case of food being too expensive. This is not a case of parents “squandering” money on luxuries. This is not a case of individuals being “lazy” and failing to find work. It’s a case of incomes not being high enough. Forcing families to rely on food banks and charity in order to feed (or clothe, heat, and house) themselves is not an acceptable solution. Poverty, for the child, the working family, the elderly and the physically incapacitated, is not a choice.
- Additional resources must be allocated towards addiction recovery services. We know that people battling alcohol and other drug addictions are having their recovery jeopardised due to lack of detox services and facilities. There is currently a 6-week waiting list for our own Detox service, which is one of only two in Auckland, a city of more than 1 million. These are people who are desperate to become sober and regain control of their lives and we, as a society, must support them. Many New Zealanders choose to drink alcohol; nobody chooses to become an alcoholic. Addiction is not a choice
- Finally, additional resources must be allocated towards mental health services. Far too many of the vulnerable, marginalised people we work with every day are living with serious mental health issues and are unable to access the support they need, when they need it, at a cost they can afford. Mental illness is not a choice.
Tomorrow, we will go to the polls and we will make our choices. As the successful candidates and parties, we hope that you will consider those New Zealanders who lack choices; that you contemplate the above aspirations, and that you make the right ones in turn.
Congratulations and kind regards,
The Auckland City Missioner