A social impact report detailing the hardship that has befallen the country has praised amazing Kiwi generosity but says there has not been enough effective action from the Government to fight financial hardship.
People losing their income, housing, and jobs as a result of Covid-19 will be the new face of social need in New Zealand, says the latest Salvation Army monitoring report.
In a rally of support people have donated more than $1.7 million to the Salvation Army's Foodbank Project, which is poured into food parcels as foodbanks work flat out to keep up with overwhelming demand.
In the past week, the organisation delivered 5895 food parcels, a 346 per cent rise from the week before the Covid-19 lockdown.
Many foodbank hubs across the country reported having first-time users, adding concern that new groups of people are entering financial hardship and vulnerability due to the pandemic.
The charity's monitoring report said that the Ministry of Social Development paid out just under 70,000 Special Needs Grants for food in the week to April 10.
"This is more than three times the weekly average during January and February of around 23,000. This means around 85,000 additional food hardship grants were paid out in the first three weeks of the level 4 lockdown."
While those at the coalface are seeing a huge need for food, some of the community services that help have come under pressure to even operate.
According to the report, in Waikato a phone call survey was made to about 100 community organisations that provide food/food parcels and, while not all responded, of those that did 70 per cent were either not able to operate at all or at greatly reduced capacity.
For many it was because their volunteers are older.
The monitoring report was critical of lack a Government intervention in combating personal debt in the plan to fight hardship.
"There is not enough effective action from Government in terms of financial hardship, particularly around personal loans, car loans, credit cards and payday lenders," the report said.
"These types of debts can, coupled with uncertain economic times, compound and cause increased stress and hardship. Banks and finance companies are responding in various ways to the financial hardship their clients are facing.
"But the products and responses they are offering are disjointed and are essentially a scatter-gun approach to assistance with huge variation."
In a statement the Salvation Army said the country cannot rely as it has in the past on Government and charitable supported, community-based food banks to meet this new food demand.
"The opportunity of this crisis is to break out of the cycle of food poverty and create a society where no one goes hungry, based on social, economic and welfare responses that are sustainable, structural and mana enhancing. "
The charity was also concerned by the plight of workers from abroad who were here on temporary work visas to contribute to New Zealand's hospitality and agricultural workforce and productivity.
"These workers have lost their employment and are not eligible for welfare assistance."
The charity said it encouraged the Government to enable people to return to their countries of origin or to provide income support during the forced closure of their workplaces.
Covid-19 has also deepened the housing crisis.
"People unable to pay their rent or mortgage could soon add to an already out of control need for social housing," the statement said.
"At present, 15,495 are on the waiting list for social housing with more than 5000 households isolated in transitional or emergency housing."
The current outbreak provided a unique opportunity for the Government to resolve New Zealand's housing crisis.
"With an economy requiring massive stimulation and the need for the widespread creation of many new jobs, opportunities to fix the housing crisis abound."
The Salvation Army believes conditions are right for a multi-billion investment in housing to address the housing crisis in New Zealand.
A cash injection alone would not do it as the report stated there would need to be a comprehensive range of Government housing policies which address over the next five years supply and affordability issues.
However, it noted the Government had already responded to the housing pressure created by Covid-19 through several measures including:
• Obtaining 962 extra motel units, 496 of which now house those formerly homeless or sleeping rough.
• Introducing a six-month mortgage and interest holiday for homeowners.
• Placing a freeze on residential rent increases and introducing protection against having their tenancies terminated during Covid-19.