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The army's addictions and supportive accommodation national manager was in Dunedin yesterday to launch the organisation's fifth State of the Nation report, the Growing Divide.
He shared his experiences of living in adjacent neighbourhoods in Auckland.
One area had a decile-2 school, the other a decile-8; one had people, not cars, housed in garages; one had people returning from night shift and taking over child-minding duties from someone else in the house who was on their way to work; one had many families living in the same house, the other only one.
"New Zealand has always had a divide between people in its cities ... but what we are now seeing in this dividing nation is a huge chasm opening up right at the boundary between two suburbs formerly close in type. It is happening because for a group of New Zealanders, they are getting poorer and poorer, disenfranchised, marginalised, and more separated from that part of New Zealand where decisions are made," Capt Walker said.
He believed the Government lacked a balanced view on the issues which "create such devastation in Second World New Zealand".
"Few, if any, of us would deny the importance of the Government's financial deficit, but what is disheartening in recent political speeches is the implication that this is the only deficit which matters. Other deficits are not actually discounted, they are simply not mentioned. The emphasis is on reducing debt, easing taxation, roads and transport productivity, and flexible labour."
The Salvation Army wanted to provide a balancing focus through its latest report and highlight such needs for politicians and public policymakers.
The report also provided a focus for the army itself, with Capt Walker saying the organisation would concentrate on helping to find solutions for the nation's social problems and provide help through its own services.
This would include building and advocating for more affordable social housing; increasing support for drug and alcohol abuse treatment; fighting for tougher laws on alcohol purchase and tax; advocating for welfare reform to reduce child poverty; and helping turn around the offending and recidivism rate.
"In the reported real world there are groups implementing plans for national roading and transport that deals with overcrowding and hindering the transportation of goods to market. Similarly, we must have a plan of actions that will lead to the abolition of child poverty in 10 years. We need deliverable plans and total New Zealand effort."
The growing divide
• As many as 10% of children may face violence and material hardship in their daily lives.There were more than 20,000 confirmed cases of child abuse or neglect in 2010-11.
• New Zealand's teen pregnancy rate is twice that of Australia.
• 30% of all 12 to 24-year-olds binge drink.
• The average prison population was 8715 in 2010-11, a 3.6% increase on the previous year.
• 97,000 jobs were created in the five years to December 2011, but the number of working-age people grew by 242,000.
• 150,700 people were unemployed at the end of December 2011, 3% less than the previous year, but 91% more than five years earlier.
• 12 million more litres of alcohol were available in New Zealand in the year to September, than the previous year.
• 20 million extra RTDs were consumed in 2010-11.
• $2 billion was spent on legal forms of gambling in 2010-11.
• The infant mortality was 4.77 deaths per 1000 live births in 2010-11, an 8% drop from 2009-10.
• Live birth and abortions for teenage mothers fell 20% and 12% respectively between 2009 and 2010.
• The NCEA achievement gap between high and low decile schools is closing.
• 416,324 offences were reported to police in 2010-11, a 5.8% drop from the previous year.
• Adults identifying themselves as non-drinkers rose from 13% in 2008-09 to 16% in 2009-10.
• Average household debt fell 4% in 2011.
Source: The Salvation Army