Leaders from Aotearoa New Zealand’s mainstream churches entreated bold responses from Government at their annual meeting with the Prime Minister.
The meeting began with an acknowledgement of the challenge facing all leaders in difficult times, but especially, the Prime Minister. The Church Leaders commended the Government’s courage and leadership in tackling the complex issues of the times. But they asked that it go further in serving the marginalised, in order to see Aotearoa New Zealand move forward. They urged that more fundamental and creative initiatives are needed to reduce inequality, grow social cohesion and enhance inter-generational wellbeing:
“We are in the midst of a generation-defining transfer of wealth—largely expressed through housing. Something needs to shift to give effect to the bold vision your Government holds.”
Specifically, the Church Leaders maintained that a lack of affordable housing is at the heart of the poverty crisis borne by families/whānau and communities. Building on the housing focus of the previous two years, they see three areas for priority:
- rangatahi (young people) homelessness – not just response measures but prevention
- shifting, with urgency, from investment in transitional housing to supporting people into stable long-term rentals
- scaling up progressive home ownership initiatives, including shared-equity home ownership and rent-to-buy schemes.
The Prime Minister brought with her to discuss these issues her Minister of Social Development Hon. Carmel Sepuloni, Minister of Housing Hon. Megan Woods and Minister for our Community and Voluntary Sector, Hon. Priyanca Radhakrishnan. The Church Leaders pressed in both briefing papers and at the meeting that to achieve measurable change for the complex issues of the times, democracy and public policy processes must evolve and be inclusive of marginalised groups and communities. A range of recommendations aimed at strengthening a participatory decision-making approach was put forward. Among them the Church Leaders highlighted Te Tiriti O Waitangi as a taonga on which to base this work. They also affirmed the wellbeing budget framework as key to balancing competing interests while factoring in future generations.
The Church leaders meeting with the Prime Minister is an annual meeting, this year attended by:
- Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, Moderator Right Reverend Hamish Galloway. To advise him Dr Prudence Stone, NEO of Presbyterian Support NZ was also in attendance.
- Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Archbishop Philip Richardson, with his advisor.
- Baptist Churches of New Zealand, National Leader Charles Hewlett, with his advisor.
- Catholic Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, Archbishop of Wellington, Cardinal John A Dew, with his advisor.
- Methodist Churches of New Zealand, President Rev Andrew Doubleday, with his advisor
- Salvation Army was represented by Lieutenant Colonel Ian Hutson
- The annual hui is facilitated by the NZ Christian Council of Social Services, with representative Nikki Hurst, Executive Director, in attendance