Minimum wage increase will make 'big difference' for families with 'nothing left' after Christmas - Auckland City Mission CEO

The Auckland City Missioner says people can donate cash, toys or food to help.
The Auckland City Missioner says people can donate cash, toys or food to help. Photo credit: Left - Chris Farrelly / LinkedIn; Right - File

Next year's minimum wage increase will make a "big difference" for families who struggle to earn "what is needed to live" in New Zealand,  according to Auckland City Mission CEO Chris Farrelly.

Farrelly has praised the Government's announcement that minimum wage will increase by $1.20 to $18.90 on April 1, 2020, saying it's imperative for families who have "literally nothing left" after Christmas.

"I think when the minimum wage rises, that makes a big difference. For some of these families, [an extra] $48 [per week] is huge," he said on MagicTalk on Thursday morning.

"I heard someone say this morning, 'it's going to impact on businesses, it's going to impact on the least in our country'. Well, the least in our country are the people who are queuing all night, who can't afford food this week after they've paid the [bills] - there is literally nothing left."

Farrelly also noted New Zealand's well-documented issue of child poverty, saying "no child should be excluded from what other children are having".

"In terms of emergency food demand, numbers have increased significantly - about 40 percent over the course of this year.  That increase then gets reflected at this time of year, so we see a similar increase in numbers."

He said many families' incomes are "not matching" what is needed to live in New Zealand. 

"The work needs to be done around issues of minimum wage, benefit reform and housing... we have seen the Government starting to take action on all of these three - but it's still got a long way to go."

People have been queuing through the night outside the City Mission's Auckland distribution centres, just to ensure they can get Christmas food and presents for their families.

"People will be coming during the night, these are families who don't have enough to get Christmas food and presents. People queue up every night, over the last week and this week. During the day we will be assessing and processing families, enabling them to go away with something for Christmas," Farrelly said.

Auckland City Mission has opened four additional distribution sites for this time of year, including Papakura Marae, Ngā Whare Waatea Marae in Manukau, Eden Park and VisionWest Community Trust in Glen Eden.

For those wanting to help the Auckland City Mission just in time for Christmas, Farrelly asks Aucklanders to make cash donations on their website to get the organisation "over the hump", or to make non-perishable food donations to their Distribution Centre at 15 Auburn St, Grafton. 

Farrelly said toys are always welcomed, but particularly toys for the teenage demographic as older children are often "overlooked".

Around 1800 people will be attending the City Mission's Christmas lunch, which will be held at The Cloud on Auckland's waterfront. Six-hundred volunteers will be helping to cook and serve the lunch on Christmas Day.

"Things are given to us in incredible generosity, Auckland is full of compassion and kindness," Farrelly said.

"It's all symbolic of a real care running through our community."

Following the Government's announcement on the minimum wage increase on Wednesday, ACT leader David Seymour criticised the "breathtaking disregard" for small businesses, saying the Government "can't force businesses to pay workers more than they are worth".

"New Zealand has the highest minimum wage in the OECD relative to the average wage... according to MBIE, the last two minimum wage hikes cost the economy 8000 jobs. This increase will do even more damage," Seymour said.