WelCom June 2017: In the wake of Budget 2017, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand has expressed concern that ‘small town New Zealand’ and vulnerable communities like Kaikōura have been neglected. While the social justice agency welcomes the commitment to increased investment in the Budget, it calls on the Government to ensure that vulnerable groups are not left behind.
‘We welcome the Budget’s assistance for low-income families – particularly in Auckland – but we remain concerned that regional towns could be left out in the cold,’ says Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand Director, Julianne Hickey.
‘Access to decent housing is the foundation upon which communities and families can flourish. Housing NZ will invest $2.2 billion in the Auckland Housing Programme, which will contribute to 34,000 new houses being built in Auckland over 10 years. But the housing crisis isn’t just in Auckland, it is nationwide. The Government must not forget the rest of the country.’
As a member of the world’s second largest humanitarian network and an agency with a wealth of experience in responding to and preparing communities for emergencies, Caritas is concerned with the lack of funding allocated to disaster preparedness.
‘We need to have a much greater focus on disaster preparedness and building resilience, as betting that we won’t have another natural disaster for 10 years is high risk, particularly when the last five years have included a number of floods, earthquakes and bushfires. The National Disaster Fund is almost exhausted and will only be on the road to being restored to around $1.75 billion within a decade,’ says Mrs Hickey.
Caritas welcomes the $812 million capital investment to reinstate the earthquake-damaged sections of State Highway 1 from Picton to Christchurch. However, the agency is concerned that there is a noticeable disparity in other infrastructure investment: $436 million set aside for Auckland City’s rail link, and yet only $548 million for rail across the rest of the country.
In smaller towns and communities from Northland to Southland, there are people struggling to afford stable, decent homes; areas that are not seeing the benefits of necessary infrastructure projects; and communities that will remain vulnerable to disasters if preparedness is not prioritised.
‘The long-term wellbeing of all communities must be at the centre of future Budget considerations,’ says Mrs Hickey.
Roger Ellis is Community Engagement Manager, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand.