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New horizons . . . Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group president Hana Halalele says Pasifika people are more vulnerable to the economic impacts of Covid-19, but it could be the catalyst for long-term change. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

The rising cost of living in Waitaki is having a disproportionate impact on Pasifika people, a recent housing survey shows.

In June, the Safer Waitaki housing taskforce surveyed residents to get a handle on housing and wellbeing issues in the district. The results highlighted Pasifika respondents as being significantly more likely than non-Pasifika to be struggling to pay for everyday needs.

Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group president Hana Halalele said the impact of Covid-19 had put some families under increased financial pressure.

Many Pasifika families worked seasonally, so at some times of year there was less money, and many people had reduced hours after the Covid-19 lockdown.

“We are relatively new in terms of our migration to New Zealand; we are still building that economic capability to go with our social capability,” Mrs Halalele said.

“Our hope is that our children become better educated, progress to better jobs with better pay and overall better outcomes for our families – this cycle takes time to cultivate.”

Pasifika culture was collective, which meant the needs and expectations of extended families and communities superseded individual needs, she said.

“Respect, love, service and humility – these are the fundamentals of our Pacific values and it is hard to become individualised.

“We have cultural obligations to our families back in the islands, tithing responsibilities to churches.

“When you have that responsibility, and you have your own, it makes it quite hard.

“Because it’s always a sharing culture, there is not always enough left over.”

Covid-19 provided an opportunity to re-evaluate those priorities she said.

“It can take a generation or two to shift that mindset, but we have to make those hard choices,” she said.

Tupu Aotearoa and Talanga ‘a Waitaki Talanoa Ako, formerly known as PowerUp, were two initiatives being rolled out to assist Pasifika in education and further job opportunities in different fields.

Those projects had become more important since Covid-19, and finding year-round employment would lead to more financial security, she said.

Mrs Halalele said the housing survey provided hard data to go with anecdotal evidence, and was a good starting point on which to base initiatives.

“We know there is hardship within our community and we need to acknowledge it as it impacts our overall wellbeing and community outcomes we are trying to achieve,” Mrs Halalele said.

“Pasifika have experienced significant and long-standing inequities, particularly when it comes to health, education and employment outcomes.

“As migrants in a new country, many of us are first generation migrants and have first generation New Zealand-born children.

“We work hard to improve our lives, provide for our families, often working hard with low hourly rates.”

The Oamaru Mail reported last week that house prices in the Waitaki district had increased 39.4% over the the past three years, which meant higher rents and a bigger barrier to home ownership.

It was having a flow-on affect to not just Pasifika people, but other residents who were now struggling to pay bills, Mrs Halalele said.

More than half of the 559 people who responded to the survey reported compromising their health by going without fresh fruit or vegetables, postponing doctors’ visits or not filling prescriptions, to keep household costs down, and 53.6% of Pasifika survey respondents said they did not have enough, or had only just enough, money to meet their family’s basic needs.