Lifeline forced to close in the north

By Alexandra Newlove

1 comment
Northland's Lifeline branch has closed for the foreseeable future as it struggles to stay afloat.
Northland's Lifeline branch has closed for the foreseeable future as it struggles to stay afloat.

Northland's Lifeline branch is gone for the foreseeable future as the charity struggles to stay afloat.

"It's just not financially possible for us," said Lifeline board chairman Ben Palmer. "The unfortunate thing is that Whangarei is not the only area where we've had to look at the continuity of a branch operation."

Northland's Kamo Rd branch, which formerly offered a face-to-face counselling service as well as answering local calls, shut in August last year.

At the time, a Lifeline representative said the closure was temporary. However, as Lifeline nationally faces shutting completely in a year's time if its funding situation does not change, Mr Palmer said there would be no Northland site.

"I think our branch offices are a fundamental part of who we are. It's crucial we have a presence in the community where the people who phone us are from. But the sad reality is that money rules," he said.

Lifeline had operated in Northland since 1971 as a 24-hour telephone counselling service. Volunteers are trained to support people through psychological and emotional distress; financial and work issues; marriage and family problems; those who were lonely, ill, depressed or the victims of abuse.

Mr Palmer said the Government had thus far turned down pleas for help. He said the charity would run out of money in about a year if it could not find another funding source.

Public Service Association national secretary Erin Polaczuk said the Government should intervene to help.

Lifeline has had to restructure, including redundancies and having its chief executive work part-time, in a bid to stay afloat. By June 30 next year, all the company's reserves from a new mortgage on its Auckland property will be exhausted. "I've got nowhere else to go," Mr Palmer said. "To run a clinically safe and effective service, we need money."

He said that meanwhile, New Zealand's suicide rate continued to reach "epidemic proportions".

In Northland, the number of males and people aged 40 and over committing suicide is at its highest since provisional suicide statistics were first recorded in 2007/08.

Twenty-eight people committed suicide in Northland in 2014/15 compared to 21 in the prior year. To support Lifeline go to www.lifeline.org.nz.

- Northern Advocate

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