Marama Davidson speaks with NGOs

We need a national strategy to end homelessness now

Long before I entered Parliament, housing and homelessness were issues dear to my heart. I know from personal experience just how hard it is to find an affordable home in Auckland. In my maiden speech, I talked about how when I got priced out of my previous home, it took about 25 viewings for me to able to secure a new place, and I only got that one because it was a house that no-one else wanted. We love our home and are very grateful for it. But I am keenly aware of how many whānau don’t have secure accommodation.

Marama’s Maiden Speech

Since I entered Parliament I have wanted to focus on homelessness, in particular, in my role as the Greens’ spokesperson for Social Housing. As recent media coverage of the issue has highlighted, homelessness is much broader than rough sleeping, it covers all those who are in insecure housing situations. Every night thousands of people are sleeping in garages, cars, in boarding houses and on the streets. That’s not a country that I want to raise my family in.

This week I have been in Auckland visiting organisations and individuals who are all working to end homelessness in Aotearoa. I am very grateful that they gave up their precious time to give me a run-down on their work and their insights into the systemic issues that contribute to homelessness.

Marama Davidson speaks with NGOs
Moira Lawler, General Manager of Lifewise speaks with Marama

The strongest message to come out of all of the meetings was what is needed above anything else is government leadership to initiate a coordinated whole-of-system response to end homelessness. To date, the Government has comprehensively failed to grapple with the systemic issues that result in and perpetuate homelessness.

I was also told that community organisations and volunteers are under huge pressure as their resources are becoming more stretched as they try and help people in desperate need. They are acting as the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff by providing emergency shelter, food, clothes and other essentials. They are providing inspiring leadership but are struggling to stay afloat and meet everyone’s needs when the problem is only getting worse.

What was also reinforced by the sector is that there is not nearly enough data and research for us to know the full extent of the problem. I am grateful for recent studies such as Auckland City Mission’s count which has shown rough sleeping in Auckland’s CBD has almost tripled over the last three years, and the University of Otago research which points to a 25% spike in homelessness since 2006. All of the sector groups agreed that even these are likely conservative estimates.

NZ Coalition to End Homelessness. Dr Shiloh Groot (L) is the chair of their Tangata Whenua caucus, and Corie Haddock (R) is the chair of their Tangata Tiriti caucus.
NZ Coalition to End Homelessness: Dr Shiloh Groot (L) is the chair of their Tangata Whenua caucus, and Corie Haddock (R) is the chair of their Tangata Tiriti caucus.

All of the anecdotal and empirical evidence suggests that wraparound services are needed to ensure people’s needs are met at every step of their path out of homelessness.

Instead of a coordinated approach, the Government has started suggesting half-baked policy ideas such as offering $5000 for people to move out of Auckland. Never mind whether people have a job, home or family for them to go to. Our political leadership is so out touch that John Key thinks going into WINZ will solve all the problems of those who are homeless.

Last weekend I attended the Park Up For Homes event in Māngere, Auckland, a community-driven action to highlight the scourge of homelessness in our communities. I slept in my van and got a small insight into just how terrible it would be to be in this situation. It was freezing and uncomfortable and I basically got no sleep at all.

This weekend I will also be attending the Ōtara event. I wish I didn’t have to. I would much rather snuggle up with my babies on the couch and watch a movie. But it is so important that we continue to put the pressure on the Government. I realise that I have the privilege of choosing to sleep in my car for one measly night as opposed to having to do it for many nights out of desperation.

Marama Davidson and Tom Kingi
Matua Tom Kingi, Te Puea Marae committee chair and trustee


I recently asked parliamentary questions to ministers that prove that they have not done any work to quantify the cost of homelessness for taxpayers, despite acknowledging international evidence suggesting there is a high cost, particularly in the health and justice sectors.

The Government does not fund any dedicated mental health wraparound services for people who are homeless. WINZ does not even record if beneficiaries are homeless. The Minister for Māori Development has not undertaken any research into homelessness among Māori, despite recent reports suggesting Māori are over-represented.

After eight years, the Government denies the problem of homelessness, chooses not to research the extent of the problem, and has does nothing to address the problem.

We need to build more houses, we need a policy framework and we need a national strategy to end homelessness now.

Further reading

6 Comments Posted

  1. The human population expansion has been at cost to the environment, a cost which has increased exponentially with the growth in human numbers.

    It is a brave move to look at changes that may set a path of some restoration of the environment.

    Just slowing and / or continuing environmental degradation in any form is not going to provide a human future as much as it may be seen as a necessary change.

    Energy use, NNR depletion, pollution accumulation are all consequences of technology applied without understanding and necessary restraint.

    You can never change just one thing. There are always consequences, many unseen or ignored.

    The use of wood as fuel saw deforestation of many parts of Europe before use of coal. Coal gave a greater energy access as the atmosphere became a dump site.
    Oil provided even easier energy mobility and again used the same main dumpsite for untreated waste. Our human population expanded as did the demand for more of the same.
    The quest for other energy sources such a nuclear follow a similar path. You can cling onto this quest citing processes such as fission but do take into account a wider view of all the consequences of not only fission but NNR use, pollution and the creating of more demand with an ever more complex fragile infrastructure dominating the environment exploitation and damage.

    As Einstein observed
    “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

    More specifically
    “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. ”

    OL your thoughts are inspirational as they reflect known ways of addressing survival with reversal of the present direction.
    In many poor countries and communities little energy or resource is used to sustain human life. Energy required beyond that of human toil is harvested by using animals. Apart from the ethics or beats of burden ( which is an important mindset), the cycle of plant life providing energy and wastes providing soil is sustainable if well managed and understood. It can even be restorative.

    The Western way of thinking is self destructive, a path that has little merit if pursued and a lot of disastrous consequences. Not being able to see them is not new and minds not open to change are seldom open to imagining the consequences of continuing on our present path.

    Another quote I think point to this problem.
    “I never think of the future – it comes soon enough.”

    This sort of blindness is one of convenience and never a basis for reason.

    A society that can use little energy, grow its own food locally, carefully fostering good soil accumulation, conserves water, facilitates healthy wild lands and animal life, keeps a balance of numbers and fosters cooperation, education and health as main priorities; may have a chance to further evolve a future. The wisdom of following what worked in principle for millennia. must include constraints on competitive over riding of basic principles.

    Man kind developed a crude ability to imagine things beyond the observable. This probably helped survival in a world full of unexplained or unpredicted events. It may be the cause of religion arising, which has shifted focus from the real world to one of a rigid dogma surrounding fear with accumulation of power over others.

    With our accumulation of scientific thinking and technological understanding, the consequences of our actions are much less mystical giving humans a better chance to shape a future with greater understanding of consequences of life style.

    But if we don’t respond to that opportunity and instead choose more of the same, then the opportunity will be lost as we change the world to one that is hostile.

  2. There are two problems running simultaneous, population success as a species because we have had fossil fuels to carry the excesses, the resources we do have are stretched and especially the healthy food producing infrastructure. With populations of many developed nations levelling in the next 15 years it is mainly a matter of redistribution and reorganising, without fossil fuel as a key ingrediant. This means:

    Localised distribution and consumption – village markets. Fewer salespeople and distributers.

    A reemphasis in business decisions about employing people and not equipment in long term planing.

    Reestablishing social/financial planning to prioritise local resources as opposed imports.

    Set town planning and economic tools to transition this way. Rates are a brilliant land tax but should be rejigged to recognise productive value, not capital excesses. Income taxes need to be minimised to encourage the use of effort, maybe depreciation and advertising could be more discouraged in tax claiming systems. Rates could be tax rebated to give local priority over planning, more funds to local infrastructure, less to central infrastructure.

    Sort financial processes to be more directed by local democracy, to minimise the financial agendas of foreign interests to control local resources.

    This way we get a fairly free market to tweek as the resource issues eventuate.

  3. +100%

    Population expansion has been directly linked with technology in harvesting energy and so allowed excess food to support survival and population growth.

    But technology has not stopped there. Energy harvesting and food production have called on greater consumption of non renewable natural resources (NNR) an so our future along this path is finite and disappearing.

    Our planning and politics seek more of the same and those who hold power chase more wealth in a world with a ceiling falling. More for some has to means less for others in the bigger picture. As consumption expands then the cake shrinks compounding the difficulty to continue, and inequity grows.

    Technology is difficult to manage as so many options arising that can be applied to perusing or attempting to maintainan impossible lifestyles with all its inequities and consumptions. Important Human values become victims of convenience incrementally then fundamentally.

    Should NZ seek to promote larger population.

    Most arguments for an expanding population are based on some idea that better economics will result.

    The notion is promoted by business as is a push for greater consumerism with a plethora of rationale that ignore the bigger picture. This is an extremely short sighted position.

    Business forums, stock markets, value of our dollar, level of debt, economic forecasts, political changes and the like are very much isolated from the bigger picture in the short term and usually run by sectarian self interests.

    World population flow allows a safety valve for stressed environments and peoples frustrated ambitions. So escape rather than change can becomes the agenda. We get a lot of people with the financial means, coming to NZ to escape from elsewhere or to further their ambitions. Also we get a few refugees.

    Each population group surely is responsible for their own numbers yet only one country has implemented a plan for controlling their population. Such an example of common sense is derided by those who don’t subscribe to curbing of selfish wants. NZ should support population constraint both in principle and practice. Our economy does need reorganising towards restoring environment and drastically reduced consumerism.

    As we pass through peak food and a number of other constraining consequences, population pressure will become more acute but reactions to this do not seem to include intelligent planning.

    It is absolutely nuts to foster population growth no matter what the concentration is in any area. Constraint is an intelligent response while escape is a desperate measure with many consequences including weak justification of not applying constraint.

    It is surely the long term that matters unless we find a way of postponing operations as the last generation.

    The global human population will decline and the greater the peak the more rapid that decline will be, and the less there will be left for a residual surviving human remnants.

  4. We don’t have a housing or homelessness problem. These situation with housing and homelessness are visible symptoms of a real problem.

    Of course, we do have a problem with housing and homelessness, and we really should do something to address this problem, but we’re just putting a sticky plaster over a festering sore, and eventually, the festering will spread until we need to chop that leg off.

    The underlying problem is population. We have too many people, and in particular, a growing cohort of people who will not be able to find gainful employment, and not find it ever.

    We can’t fix the lack of jobs situation. Jobs disappearing permanently is a mega trend, and will continue. Its driven by progress, and progress is the hallmark of humanity. This will not change. Sure, new jobs are being created, but, generally, the number of newly appearing jobs is less than the disappearing jobs, and unfortunately, many of the newer jobs that are being created are not able to be filled by those of disappearing jobs, this situation being so unbalanced we need to import people to fill these jobs.

    So the elephant in the room that absolutely no-one will talk about is management of population. This is the biggest issue facing New Zealand, and much of the rest of the world. This is a more pressing and immediate problem than climate change. Yet not a word from anyone.

    The Brexit situation shows what happens when pissed-off people with no future (though they don’t really know it yet, they just think they are victims of austerity and The Elites) get to have their say.

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