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Saturday, 23 March 2019 02:17 am

Sallies encouraging New Zealanders to think before they vote

Commissioner Andy Westrupp of The Salvation Army welcomes people to this year’s State of the Nation report launch in Wellington.

The Salvation Army’s latest State of the Nation Report has been released with an election on the horizon.

About one hundred representatives from local and central government, NGO’s, churches and members of the public were at the Wellington launch today.

The report highlights New Zealand’s entrenched child abuse and poverty, alarming housing conditions and an exploding prison population.

These are in stark contrast to New Zealand’s strong economy according to the report.

Politicians, organisations and members of the public NewsWire spoke to said this is an important document in an election year.

Marama Davidson from the Green Party says the report is essential.

Alan Johnson, author of the report highlights key findings to those present

“This year, this is going to be a fight for the values that we want to believe in as a country,” says Davidson.

Child poverty and homelessness were issues that stood out to her in the report.

“But more importantly, the call from Salvation Army that we continue this debate and actually really thrash out the issues.

“At the heart of it is, how do we make sure we are caring for everybody?” says Davidson.

Chester Borrows was there representing National but has not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

The report shows that what has been difficult in our communities is still difficult says City Missioner Rev Tric Malcolm.

“But one of the things that really stood out for me around that is the opportunity to use our imaginations differently about what the solutions might be,” says Malcolm.

Malcolm says the longevity of the report, now in its 10th year gives the nation a really good picture of where we are at.

“I think going into this election it becomes things to look to, to know what issues we really need to be looking at, as a collective society  rather than picking out the issues that might personally resound for us,” says Malcolm.

The Salvation Army hopes that New Zealanders will embrace the ideas and concerns the report raises and it does form some of what they think about as they make a decision on who to vote for says Alan Johnson, social policy analyst and author of the report.

“There are some good indicators and they can think about the things that are important to them and what indicators relate to the issue that they are concerned about.

“Clearly we don’t want to lead people to vote a certain way but we certainly ask them to ask those difficult questions, both of themselves and their friends, says Johnson.

Wellington’s Deputy Mayor Paul Eagle was not surprised by what he saw in the report and it reinforces that New Zealand is not addressing poverty.

“I knew by the title itself it was going to swing one way and that’s to give the government and other political parties a real beat-up around poverty and say ‘you guys have to address this.’

“It’s a wakeup call the government shouldn’t need and it’s about prioritising some of the drivers in here,” says Eagle.

Councillor Brian Dawson believes the report is a catalyst for asking some key questions.

“If wages are going up so much and if employment’s going up so much, why isn’t the bottom line rising as well?

“I think it was made clear that we can’t lay all the blame at the current government.

“It’s successive governments, so the question has to be asked ‘what practical, specific things are you going to do to make changes?’” says Dawson.

Chester Borrows was at the launch representing National and provided an email response to NewsWire questions.

“The Salvation Army State of the Nation report is always a worthwhile comment on how NZ is doing in the social sector and everyone pays attention,” Borrows said.

“This year the most salient points for me are around the justice space though all five comment pieces relate to results in justice, education, housing, incomes and poverty in an integrated way because failure or success in any will impact on the rest.”

Asked about the relevance of the election year, Borrows took the opportunity to attack opposition policies as over-policing, despite last week’s Government announcement of an extra 1125 police.

“As a justice specialist I find it very sad that cross Party agreement on justice policy is falling apart as Opposition parties are confronted with another three years out of government respond with overblown, un-costed and ill-considered promises to over-police, over-charge, and over-sentence to win the race to be toughest on crime.

“The government has responded in a calculated way but the window of reason on law and order is shutting fast and it is a sad situation,” says Borrows.

The report’s analysis of crime statistics suggests levels of offending are falling.

The full report is available for download here.

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