15 Oct 2018

Low-income earners in Whangārei struggle with petrol prices

1:55 pm on 15 October 2018

The cost of petrol is forcing a number of rural beneficiaries in Northland to move into town.

Carol Peters at the Whangarei homeless day shelter.

Community support worker Carol Peters at the homeless shelter in Whangārei. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Community workers in Whangārei say it has become too expensive for low-income people to drive in from the country for supplies and appointments. But because rents are so high many are ending up in camp grounds or are homeless.

Meanwhile experts continue to warn motorists that the dollar is expected to keep falling until at least after Christmas, pushing up petrol prices even further.

One man who spoke to RNZ said he and his partner did not want to leave their rural home, but moved to a cabin in a caravan park to keep up with price hikes.

"We've only just moved here because we are staying a place that was uneconomical for me to drive in town from a rural area, to come into town and do shopping and what have you. The power prices are going up, the rates are going up, but the dole ain't."

The Whangārei couple say they are paying $200 a week for their cabin, including electricity.

Community support worker Carol Peters is the organiser of a new homeless centre in Whangārei set to open next month.

Ms Peters told Morning Report that a systemic approach was needed to help people who are suffering under the increases of prices - in tax and on petrol.

"We are not looking at transport in a systemic way, we're talking about petrol taxes, what about talking about an effective rural bus system - which we don't have in tai tokerau and this impacts a lot on the rural people," she said.

"Now if there was a rural bus system of, for example, electric mini buses that ran to the places of the people that you're talking with, four times a day, once in the morning and evening in the workers and possibly an integration with the bus service to take elder people in and out to do their shopping, you would start to address systematically the problem.

She said the set up of the homeless centre was an important step in housing people on low-income or those who were homeless, but not the answer.

"It's primarly set up for people to come in and have a shower, wash their clothes, connect with other services, and get health services, for example, but primarily the role of people there is to connect people to housing.

As well as working with tai tokerau emergency housing to help people, she said they were focused on trying to get people into permenant houses for the sake of people's wellbeing.

"Ideally, we should be getting them into rent-to-buy or their own houses. That is what we're collectively looking at - how we can actually increase the number of really good communities in Whangārei where people can get mixed housing," she said.

"It's really in the planning stage at the moment, but we all are interested in improving this... because of course it's unhealthy for people to be living in overcrowded situations or insecure situations.

"Their mental health, it's a strain on children and families, if they don't know where they're going to be sleeping. Also, it's a strain on families if they are moving and moving schools."

Last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the government is moving to prioritise the passing of an amendment to the Commerce Act that would allow the Commerce Commission, the country's competition watchdog, to investigate the price of fuel and margins.

Auckland truck convey protests high fuel prices

The organiser of an Auckland truckie convoy, protesting high fuel prices, says truck drivers will continue to rally until the government listens.

More than 50 trucks were driven bumper-to-bumper towards Auckland's CBD this morning.

Last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the government will prioritise passing an amendment that would allow the Commerce Commission to investigate the price of fuel and margins.

Rob Ryan, who owns RNB Transport, said drivers were rallying to get the government's attention.

"People don't want these rises and everything. It's hard enough as it is trying to make a dollar and yet if they're not going to listen to us then we'll do it again and then we'll do it again and we'll do it again until people start listening. That's what it is about, not listening to the general population of New Zealand."

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