You're not alone if you've been feeling the pinch in recent years. A new Statistics NZ report reveals people in the Bay of Plenty are passing up a number of necessities in order to make ends meet. Reporter Jean Bell delves into the data to find where people are cutting costs and asks social agencies what they are seeing and why this might be.
More people in the Bay of Plenty say they are going without fresh vegetables and trips to the doctor, according to a new Statistics NZ report.
The General Social Survey asked Bay of Plenty residents what they had done to cut costs in the past 12 months. The survey was held between April 2016 to April 2017, and again in April 2018 to March 2019.
The latest survey revealed an estimated 8.5 per cent increase in people reporting they did not have enough, or only just enough, money.
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The report also found an estimated 6.2 per cent increase in people going without fresh fruit or vegetables to keep costs down, an 8.9 per cent increase in people postponing or not going to the doctor, and a 16.4 per cent increase in people delaying replacing or repairing broken appliances.
The increase in cost-cutting behaviour matched a national increase but Bay of Plenty people suffered a sharper rise than the national numbers, where 2.8 per cent more people said they had only just enough money.
Tauranga Community Foodbank manager Nicki Goodwin said there had been a noticeable increase in demand for their services from 2016.
This levelled out in 2018 when community and social support services, such as free dinners and housing services, had sprung up in the Bay and eased pressure on the foodbank.
However, the pressure had returned during the past 12 months, despite the additional help and community awareness, she said.
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"We're blowing up again. The extra help has had a positive impact but it hasn't fixed the problem."
Goodwin said high rents were the leading cause of financial hardship in the Bay - and that was if someone could even find a rental.
"We help a lot of people living in motels or their cars. It must be devastating to have no choice. It's a next level of hardship."
Goodwin urged people to seek support sooner rather than later.
"There is never any judgment," she said.
Tauranga Salvation Army community ministries manager Davina Plummer said the report "unfortunately" reflected reality.
"We are approached every day by those needing food support because they have used all their resources to meet pressing bills. There are those who have received parking fines whilst sleeping in cars because they have nowhere else to stay."
The demand for assistance had increased in the past three years. The Salvation Army provided practical or financial assistance 1456 times in 2016 but this year it has already provided help 1869 times.
Plummer said it was common for her to encounter people with accommodation costs taking up 70 per cent of their income.
The challenges people faced included the rising cost of living, repairs to "big-ticket items" like cars and whiteware which could rack up unpayable debt and fines for not having money to pay for registrations and warrants.
Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Shirley McCombe said the service had a "fairly consistent" number of people come through the doors and it was currently arranging between 35 and 45 food parcels each week.
McCombe said everyone felt the impact of the increased cost of food and rent but the people most under the crunch were those who were not eligible for any further government assistance.
She said it was important to note that the issues causing financial hardship were multi-faceted. Aside from increased costs, an increased number of organisations offering deceptive "quick and easy" loans that came at a huge cost added to the financial burden of some people.
"The needs have not changed and the complexity of problems remain," she said.
"Increased cost just makes it even harder for people to get out of the cycle of hardship."
Ministry of Social Development statistics showed a total of 101,327 benefits were given out in 2016, 98,087 in 2017, and in 98,973 in 2018.
Ministry regional commissioner Mike Bryant said the ministry was there to help with a range of supports available to people and families facing immediate hardship, including Special Needs Grants to assist with unexpected bills, and budgeting services to assist with their finances.
"We encourage anyone who is experiencing hardship, or needs assistance, to get in touch to discuss what supports are available."