The Salvation Army State of the Nation report findings are grim, and advocates say the report is a fair overview of the situation in Tauranga.

The report highlighted soaring methamphetamine crime, a surging prison population and rents strangling stagnant incomes in New Zealand.

Report author Alan Johnson said it was clear strong economic growth in New Zealand had not been shared around.

Read more: Opinion: Tauranga a big city with a small-city mentality, and it shows


The impact could be seen in a "frightening" rise in the number of families falling into food poverty, Johnson said.

After five years of steady demand, the number of families seeking food parcels from The Salvation Army's 65 foodbanks jumped 12 per cent - the biggest increase in since the recession.

Nicki Goodwin Manager of Tauranga Community Foodbank said she was starting to see more and more middle-class wage-earning families needing food parcels.

"There's definitely new families in different situations, where a lot of families are wage earners but aren't able to stretch their dollars far enough to meet their everyday costs," she said.

"We've definitely seen an increase in need, overall in the last twelve months there's been a 15 per cent increase," Goodwin said.

In 2017, the foodbank issued 5679 food parcels to 17,000 people - 10,000 of which were children under 18.

Each week at least 60 volunteers help out at the foodbank, and the volunteer base has almost doubled in the past four years.

"When they come to us they're devastated, it's very hard."


Between 2013 and 2017, the New Zealand economy grew by 14 per cent, the number of jobs increased 15 per cent, and per-capita GDP grew 13 per cent in inflation-adjusted terms.

However, average weekly incomes, in inflation-adjusted terms, grew by 6 per cent over this time.

There were no substantial changes in child poverty rates, and youth unemployment remained at around 20 per cent.

Goodwin said she thought the government is missing middle New Zealand.

"I think we're really good at looking at either extreme but when middle New Zealand starts sliding down into needing charitable services, that's concerning," she said.

"Fixing the problems all comes back to money, and if you've got a limited amount of money then it's no different from the people that we're helping, you have to decide where to spend it," Goodwin said.

"I think being aware and listening and gathering the real information that's out there is vital."

Tauranga Salvation Army Manager of Community Industries Davina Plummer said the cost of rents in Tauranga was the main issue.

"One of the things we are noticing is that rent prices are really impacting on the ability to budget, it's very difficult for people to manage the rest of their living costs as rent goes up," Plummer said.

Plummer said the housing crisis would be no easy or quick fix.

"Considering it took quite a long time for the housing crisis to build up, it is going to take a long time to rectify it."

"I think the fact that more support is being offered for people in need now, it has brought more people out of the woodwork," Plummer said.

The annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey released in January this year showed Tauranga was the most expensive city to buy a home in New Zealand, ahead of Auckland.

Auckland Action Against Poverty co-ordinator Ricardo Menendez said the report highlighted that the people who were creating the wealth were not benefiting.

"Wage growth is not keeping up with the high cost of rent, and a record number of people need food grants as they don't have enough left after bills.

"The Labour Government has its job cut out for them. It's time the Government listened to the people in poverty," Menendez said.