Ewen Coker: Poor Peoples Embassy, Christchurch, New Zealand
A task force to look into ways of relieving poverty in Christchurch has
been set up by the Christchurch City Council.
During a presentation by the Poor Peoples Embassy, councillors heard
that over the past 20 years the number of Christchurch residents living
in poverty has increased from one in five to one in three. That
represents over 100,000 people without adequate income. The Embassy
asked the Council to "roll up its sleeves and become proactive" in
finding ways to alleviate poverty in the city.
An accompanying report prepared by Council staff stated that "high
accommodation costs as a proportion of limited incomes play a critical
role in poverty and hardship in Christchurch." The report also said that
"one of the most insidious and destructive components of modern urban
poverty in Christchurch is social isolation and alienation." Hardship is
also a contributing factor to the high level of health problems
experienced by low-income people.
A Council policy adviser has expressed her optimism to the response of
the councillors. She said that every councillor attending the
presentation had agreed there was poverty in the city. Three years ago
some would have denied the fact.