Frontline social housing worker Bernie Smith will examine how to restore secure housing for all New Zealanders in this year’s Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture on October 23.
Smith, the chief executive of Māngere-based Monte Cecilia Housing Trust, will argue that the Labour-led government is not doing enough to meet the housing needs of low-income families, and seems to be putting all its efforts into KiwiBuild houses that will cost up to $650,000 each.
“Why does the government believe it can solve the housing crisis by itself using the KiwiBuild programme, instead of proactively and creatively working with community housing providers to reduce the increasing gap between homelessness and home ownership?” Smith will ask.
“The government position is creating further poverty and a greater sense of hopelessness among New Zealand families, who only seek a warm, dry, affordable, long-term, sustainable rental home in which to raise their children.”
In an address titled “Housing crisis: A smoking gun with no silver bullet”, Smith will say that New Zealanders were initially excited by the new Labour-led government’s plans to tackle the crisis.
“But all we’ve ended up with is KiwiBuild,” he says.
“There is no silver bullet to solve the housing crisis, but this talk considers how together we might build strong healthy and safe communities and provide creative housing solutions for our people.
“Every man, women and child, once housed in a secure, warm, safe, affordable and sustainable home, can then stand tall in their culture, faith and gender, and only at that point can their dreams and aspirations begin to transpire and they become self-sufficient.”
With over 40 years in social services in New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Australia, Smith has extensive experience of child protection and foster care, disabilities, seniors and now homelessness and poverty.
On returning to New Zealand in 2016, he was shocked to find that in South Auckland there were 100,000 people living in overcrowded and substandard housing, and appalled to see his own people living in garages, parks, cars and lodges.
He will deliver the 2018 Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture in the Old Government House Lecture Theatre (102-G36) at the University of Auckland at 6pm on Tuesday 23 October.
About Monte Cecilia Housing Trust
Monte Cecilia Housing Trust was one of the first charities established to respond to the new phenomenon of homelessness in New Zealand in the 1980s. It was established by four other Catholic charities in 1982 and initially provided emergency housing in what is now called the Pah Homestead in Hillsborough Rd. The Church sold the Hillsborough site and moved the housing service to Māngere in 1982.
The trust now provides emergency housing for 40 families in South Auckland, 80 plus social housing in South & West Auckland, and provides social work support to homeless families in the Western Park motor camp at Rānui.
Wraparound services provided by Monte to support homeless families include: financial literacy, parenting programmes, household management, cooking classes, family goal setting and job seeking.
About the Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture
The annual Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture was established by the Bruce Jesson Foundation in 2000 to honour the journalist and politician Bruce Jesson, who died in 1999.
Jesson wrote and edited some of the most original, important and challenging journalism in New Zealand in The Republican, which he published on a hand-to-mouth basis from 1974 to 1995, as a columnist for Metro magazine, and in a series of books including The Fletcher Challenge: Wealth and Power in New Zealand (1980), Behind the Mirror Glass: The Growth of Wealth and Power in New Zealand in the Eighties (1987) andOnly Their Purpose is Mad: The Money Men Take Over New Zealand (1999).
He was elected to the Auckland Regional Council as an Alliance candidate in 1991 and chaired the Auckland Regional Services Trust from 1992 to 1995, keeping key assets such as the Auckland port in public ownership in the face of massive pressure by the National Government of the time to privatise them. He was also a research fellow in the Political Science Department at the University of Auckland, which co-sponsors the Jesson Lecture.
Past Bruce Jesson Lectures have been delivered by: David Lange (2000), Brian Easton (2001), Chris Trotter (2002), Jane Kelsey (2003), Ani Mikaere (2004), Colin James (2005), Gordon Campbell (2006), Laila Harre (2007), Mike Lee (2008), Robert Wade (2009), Annette Sykes (2010), Paul Dalziel (2011), Nicky Hager (2012), Ted Thomas (2013), Mike Joy (2014), Rod Oram (2015), Lisa Marriott (2016) and Tāmati Kruger (2017).