Marama Puhirere has returned from a spell in Australia to discover an overwhelming increase in day-to-day living costs in her homeland.
"Times are tough," she said.
"Just when you think you're getting on top of things, you get slammed down again."
The 58-year-old spent 12 years in Australia, where she found it easier to manage her finances.
"In Australia, I could cover my bills, rent and groceries. Here, it's much harder."
On her return late last year, she was particularly shocked by supermarket food prices.
"The cost of vegetables in shops is ridiculous. There's been a horrendous mark-up on food. It's unbelievable."
Ms Puhirere said growing her own vegetables "really helped" with her grocery costs.
She is doing a course in horticulture at Te Awanga Marae in Flaxmere and her ultimate goal is to teach gardening to children.
She believes local communities need to come together to grow vegetables, rather than buy them.
"When we were growing up, we had a vegetable garden in our backyard, and when we got home from school we had to go and tend it.
"These days, my grandchildren are more interested in technology."
Ms Puhirere said she could not work while studying full-time and was on a benefit, receiving $220 from Winz per week. However, the money was not enough to pay her rent, which was her biggest expense at $250 per week.
A mother of five, two of her children live at her Flaxmere house and help with rent, power and groceries.
Her son is employed but her daughter, a chronic asthmatic, is on a sickness benefit.
Ms Puhirere cannot afford a car and has resorted to walking, which has aggravated her allergies, necessitating doctor's visits. She said she was angered to learn taxpayers had forked out $36 million for New Zealand to participate in the America's Cup. "Why couldn't that money be invested back into the country?"

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