A Rotorua housing advocate says there has been an "escalation of poverty" after Covid, as a new report finds 18,000 more New Zealand children have been pushed into poverty in the pandemic.
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) report released last week said Government neglect was partially to blame for the probable increase in child poverty in the first year of Covid-19.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says 43,000 children have been lifted out of poverty by the Government's official measures, but there is more work to be done.
In the Bay of Plenty, those working with people in poverty have flagged low wages and a lack of full-time jobs as major contributors, along with rising living costs.
The CPAG report found poverty, inequity, homelessness and food insecurity were among burdens that increased for children.
Already disadvantaged children faced the most severe effects of the pandemic.
The figures did not take rising housing costs into account.
Māori, Pasifika and disabled children were disproportionately affected by poverty.
In the report, Rotorua's Visions of a Helping Hand chief executive Tiny Deane said the homeless support organisation had seen numbers of people in need rise since Covid-19.
He put this down to tourism-related job losses and rising rents leading to evictions.
"We see the families that have suffered through Covid but they were suffering before
Covid as well. We are seeing the escalation of poverty."
Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency chairwoman and Rotorua Lakes councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said child poverty was family poverty as families could only provide what they could afford.
She said poverty had steadily increased over many years.
Factors playing against the vulnerable included a low wage economy, lack of businesses investment in lifting workplace skills, booming rentals, poor households without savings, and an inability to afford reasonable healthcare.
"Poverty is now a familiar face in our community and both local and central government must play their part in reducing its harmful effects.
"If we give up, say it's too hard, we are consigning a generation to the scrap heap."
Rotorua's Budget Advisory Services manager Pakanui Tuhura said wages and benefits were not keeping up with the cost of living, particularly housing, and more people were turning to credit buying.
While there was a lot of part-time and seasonal work available, the costs of travelling and impacts on family life meant many beneficiaries saw no gain in those jobs.
He said until the housing crisis was sorted, the number of homeless families would grow.
Covid highlighted issues that had been around for decades and the drive to get children out of poverty should start with giving parents and whanau access to support.
He said affordable and suitable accommodation, removing GST on food, and encouraging Kiwis into jobs where wages kept up with the cost of living were options to reduce poverty.
"If we can solve the issue of space travel, quantum physics and putting people on the moon I don't see why we can't do the same for this."
A Salvation Army spokeswoman said poverty lead to social disconnection and feelings of hopelessness, affecting everyone, especially children.
Western Bay of Plenty Child Poverty Action Group spokesman David Riley said the situation was becoming "increasingly dire" for people out of work and on benefits.
"The recent Budget increase in benefit payments has already been swallowed up by housing costs and the status of our most vulnerable children continues to worsen."
The region had a high number of low-income households and more casual and part-time employment due to Covid.
The lack of full-time employment played into worsening poverty, as did a lack of focus on poverty by the Government before the pandemic.
The region also had the second-highest electricity charges in the country, rent increases, a shortage of rental and emergency housing, and expensive internet connections to grapple with, while inflation pushed up food and petrol costs, he said.
"With a decline in purchasing power due to inflation, children are increasingly in hardship. Whānau can buy less for more," he said.
"Had children and whānau in poverty been placed at the centre of government decision-making and policy design prior to the disruption of a pandemic, there may have better protection in place."
Te Tuinga Whanau Social Services executive director Tommy Wilson said housing families was out of reach so the community needed to focus on practical support.
"Housing is just off our radar ... no we haven't got houses, but we're all capable of sharing food."
Ministry of Social Development (MSD) Bay of Plenty commissioner Mike Bryant said the number of people receiving the benefit dropped by 2400 in the first six months of this year.
"In our experience, most people who receive a benefit want to be self-reliant and have the dignity of work."
While seasonal work was not for everyone, thousands of MSD clients filled seasonal roles and there was subsidised travel from Rotorua, Kawerau, Whakatāne and Te Kaha to make this viable.
Other MSD support options included the '$5k to Work' for those who need to move to take up a job, and a 'Transition to Work' grant towards travel and clothing-related expenses.
Ardern, the Minister for Child Poverty Reduction, said the Government knew the economic impact of Covid-19 could affect low-income earners the most.
She said the Government acted to avoid this happening, including increasing benefits by $25 a week last year, and up to $55 a week more in this year's Budget.
Ardern said 109,000 families with children would, on average, be $175 a week better off as a result of all changes to income support since 2017.
The number of state houses to be built had been expanded to 18,000, the food in schools programme extended and the training incentive allowance reintroduced.
She also noted the rent freeze during lockdown and wage subsidies to protect jobs and guarantee income through the lockdown.
By the Government's official measure, 43,000 children had been lifted out of poverty on the after-housing cost measure.
"We know there is more to do and we remain committed to making New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child," Ardern said.