The Wellington Archdiocese Justice Peace and Development Commission is a group of Catholics entrusted by Cardinal John Dew to promote Catholic social teaching on matters of justice and peace. The Commission organises events and community meetings in the Wellington Archdiocese, makes submissions to Parliament and local government bodies, and engages with communities to raise awareness of issues and to identify solutions.
With the Government set to sell some state houses, the Salvation Army’s announcement it is pulling out from plans to bulk-buy former state houses, and the growing proportion of people’s incomes spent on housing costs, JDP Commission concerns about social-housing needs and government policies are heightened.
On Saturday 21 March, the Commission organised a public meeting at St Martin de Porres Church in Lower Hutt to raise awareness of the Government’s housing policy and to call for immediate solutions. Of particular concern is a move to sell many state houses with no certainty of other housing providers’ abilities to provide low-cost accommodation for lower- and middle-income families and individuals.
Cardinal John began his speech at the event with a quote from former Prime Minister Norman Kirk. ‘New Zealanders don’t ask for much ‒ they want someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work, and something to hope for’.
Cardinal John also spoke of the need to look after the most vulnerable, such as homeless families sleeping in caravans, cars, and boarding houses. He said 5000 people are on waiting lists for housing across New Zealand with half of those having urgent or high-priority needs.
Other speakers included Lisa Beech from Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, who shared her personal story of raising her children in state housing in Lower Hutt. Joe Hamiora, the Accommodation and Employment Broker from Orongomai Marae in Upper Hutt, outlined his concerns of the Government’s policy affecting housing availability for those in need. Mike Leon from the Wellington Night Shelter provided a perspective from the homeless living in Wellington.
Attending the meeting were members of the public, media and local MPs including Labour’s Trevor Mallard and Chris Hipkins, and the Green Party’s Jan Logie.
The event included a march to a state-housing area in Epuni, with Stations of the Cross written specifically for the event and led by Fr Tom Rouse.
The event highlighted the urgency of seeking practical responses to the situation of empty houses in the Hutt Valley region and wider New Zealand.
Many people are without adequate housing, and affordability is becoming an increasing difficulty especially in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.
Shane Olsen is the Chairperson for the Justice, Peace and Development Commission for the Archdiocese of Wellington.