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State of things . . . Timaru Salvation Army corps officers Emma (left) and Jacob Howan hold copies of the State of the Nation report, released by the Army's Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit last week. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

by Greta Yeoman

The gaps between Maori and non-Maori highlighted in a new Salvation Army report reflect the organisation’s work in Timaru, a spokeswoman says.

Results reflect deciles

About 23% of school-leavers from decile 1 schools left with no NCEA achievements, compared with just 3.2% for decile 10 schools, the State of the Nation report found.

While South Canterbury does not have any schools at decile 4 or below, both Opihi College in Temuka and Waimate High School are decile 5 schools.

In 2017, 88% of Opihi’s pupils sitting NCEA level 1 passed the year, compared with 75% of Waimate High pupils and 98% at decile 9 Craighead Diocesan.

School pupils leaving with qualifications higher than NCEA level 2 had increased to 64% of decile 1 pupils in 2017, according to the report, compared with just under 59% in 2012.

However, by comparison, 93% of decile 10 pupils left school with NCEA level 2 qualifications or higher.

Less than 80% of school pupils in schools of decile 5 or lower achieved level 2 qualifications or higher.

Just 46% of Opihi College school-leavers who sat NCEA level 3 in 2017 achieved the year, compared with 73% at Waimate High and 87% at Craighead.

While more than 70% of school-leavers from decile 10 schools left with University Entrance (UE) in 2017, less than 15% of pupils in decile 1 schools did so.

Only 30% of decile 5 school pupils achieved UE in 2017.

However, 73% of eligible Waimate pupils achieved UE in 2017, compared with a 39% success rate at Opihi, 33% at Mountainview High and 87% at Craighead.

2018 NCEA achievement data is yet to be released.

Timaru Salvation Army corps officer Emma Howan said the Army’s 2019 State of the Nation report, released last Wednesday, included several statistical comparisons between Maori and non-Maori nationwide.

She said while the 2013 Census showed just 7% of the population in the Timaru District were listed as Maori, almost a fifth (19%) of the Salvation Army’s clients in the town were Maori.

“That just kind of starts to . . . [be] one little indicator of the gap.”

The report indicated about 13 in 1000 children who were Maori were in state care, compared with just three in 1000 non-Maori children.

It also showed the average weekly income for non-Maori was $1192 last year, compared with almost $200 less – $994 – for Maori workers.

Mrs Howan said these statistics had prompted her to examine the percentage of Maori residents being supported by the service – which indicated some “fairly big gaps” nationally and locally.

“That, to us, clearly shows a gap.”

Another section of the report highlighted by Mrs Howan was the increasing meth usage nationwide, which was affecting the Timaru community.

The report showed the national number of meth-related drug offences grew from just over 1500 in 2008 to more than 4500 last year.

This was reflected in the growing number of people approaching the service for help with addiction, she said.

Another issue was rising amounts of debt due to predatory loan schemes, where people could get caught in large amounts of debt.

While the initial loan – often for something important, like a new car tyre or repairing a fridge – could be reasonably small, the large interest rates could catch people in debt, Mrs Howan said.

“People can get into that situation quite easily.”

The report also showed the average house price in Timaru has risen by 32% in the past five years.

State of the Nation report cover

While local prices are still far lower than the national average of $682,938, data from the State of the Nation report showed that the 2013 average price of $276,606 had risen to $364,927 last year.

Mrs Howan said housing was an increasing issue for clients contacting the organisation.

She said while the organisation could not definitively say rents in the region were increasing, many clients were struggling to pay their rent due to the rising cost of living.

“[It has] a flow-on effect.”

Because of this many people were in boarding houses or campgrounds or were homeless, Mrs Howan said.

The report also indicated that unemployment was up, despite it hitting a 10-year low in June last year.

While unemployment had climbed slightly again by December to about 240,000, the country’s GDP per capita had also risen.

The GDP had been rising steadily since 2013 and passed more than $60,000 per capita last year.

State of the Nation table of achievement levels per decile of school.

Mrs Howan said another positive for the community had been the introduction of the Government’s Winter Energy Payment.

The payment – aimed at helping those on benefits or superannuation with their power bills over the winter – had launched last year, with good response.

One “blessing” from the scheme had been that several members of the public, often older residents on superannuation who did not feel they needed the supplementary payment, donated their money to others in the community through the Army, she said.

“We see that as a real blessing.”

She said it was just one indicator of the Timaru community’s generosity.

A survey of residents coming into the Salvation Army’s Timaru branch last year showed people were aware of the issues facing the community and wanted to help, Mrs Howan said.

“People are really generous.”