Mosque attack victim donations system too slow, unfair to families - Pakistan Association NZ

1:03 pm on 16 April 2019

Money donated is taking too long to reach mosque shooting victims, and the system used to split it risks shortchanging those most in need, the Pakistan Association says.

Tributes and flowers left outside Al-Noor Mosque in Christchurch after the terror attacks.

Tributes and flowers left outside Al-Noor Mosque in Christchurch after the terror attacks. Photo: RNZ / Isra'a Emhail

So far, of the $18.7 million raised by three different groups, only $1.7 million - 9 percent of the total amount - has been passed on to the families by Victim Support.

Pakistan Association of New Zealand general secretary Asim Mukhtar said he admired Victim Support's commitment, but more than four weeks on from the shootings families that had lost their main breadwinner were struggling to pay for their groceries and going into debt to meet their everyday needs.

The money paid out so far has been divided up on a per injured or deceased person basis, but Mr Mukhtar said that was not always the fairest system.

He gave the example of a family that had lost just one person but where that person was the main bread winner.

A family that had lost two members but whose main income earner had survived would still get more money, despite the impact on the family's income being less.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Morning Report that it was established early on that central government would not be involved in the distribution of funds, as it may not actually quicken the pace.

"But if we can any offer support or any help, we stand ready to do so. Those are funds primarily at the moment held by others and distributed by others."

Ms Ardern said she received a breakdown of what support had been given on a daily basis, and the government still played a role via agencies like ACC, the Ministry of Social Development and Housing NZ.

"One of the things I know we need to, as central government, do better is coordinate ourselves - we've got Immigration [NZ], ACC, MSD, even Housing New Zealand, all involved in various different forms.

"I want to make sure families aren't having to deal with multiple agencies, we do need to do better at that, it has not been perfect, but we are trying to case manage just to ease the pressure on families having to go to multiple agencies for support."

That was a view earlier shared by community leader Aliya Danzeisen, who called for a one-stop service to ease the burden on families in need of support.

"At times, some of the [victims and families] have felt like they're being sent from one place to the next, there should be one location where things are approved and clarified so that they're not getting the run around or getting different information."

Mr Mukhtar said every dollar that went to the wrong place was a dollar those most in need would not get.

"If you keep on paying to the wider community ... you are actually putting your hand in the pockets of the families [and] kids ... who should be paid that money."

When the Pakistan Association handed out the $60,000 it had raised, money went to each family group regardless of how many members were affected, he said.

While this was not the perfect system, it did a better job of getting the money to where it was needed most and getting it there quickly - in the Association's case, taking just one day.

"This has allowed them to pay their quick needs ... and I believe the $7000 is good enough to survive for almost a month for a family."

Victim Support's Cam Cotter said the three main fundraisers - themselves, the Christchurch Foundation and the Islamic Information Centre - were co-ordinating their approach as to how the remainder of the money should be spent and consulting with the Muslim community on the best approach to take.

He could not provide a timeframe for when the money would be given out.

"We're four weeks into this so, you know, we've spent $1.7 million in four weeks. It's a reasonably large amount out of a response that's going to take a very long time," he said.

"So it's not necessarily as simple as saying 'get it all out quickly'. We've got to make sure that we are doing it in a responsible and measured way."

The formula used to allocate the first tranche of funding was developed quickly and was now under review, he added.

"There's a really wide variety of different needs. You know - some people have permanently lost a breadwinner or suffered some permanent disablement.

"We've got to make sure that when we do provide support from limited funds that we're able to ensure it goes towards the greatest need."

In the meantime, Victim Support was willing to provide extra money for families that approached it on a case-by-case basis, he said.

Some of the money being raised for the mosque shooting victims could be spent on the educational needs of the children left behind.

The Christchurch Foundation had raised about $6 million of the total of the $18.7 million.

Chief executive Amy Carter said the money would be aimed at meeting the medium to long-term needs of the families.

"One of the conversations that has come up is how do we support the education costs of future generations where they may have lost a father or a family member. So there is a possibility that we could potentially establish an endowment fund."

She said there was a high degree of co-ordination between the three big funds to make sure the money got to where it was most needed.

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