West is still struggling

JULIAN RAETHEL
Last updated 05:00 31/01/2014

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Call it a downturn or the realities of the global financial crisis, but the effects are being felt on everyday West Aucklanders.

Data from Statistics New Zealand shows that West Auckland has been going backwards when it comes to employment and income in the past seven years.

The 2013 Census has taken a snapshot to see how society is progressing.

West Auckland's unemployment has grown nearly 2 per cent since 2006, with just over 6 per cent of the eligible population looking for a job.

Auckland as a whole has more than 57,000 people out of work.

Te Atatu Labour MP Phil Twyford says although the financial mood globally has been dim, the National Government has not done enough to create work and West Aucklanders in particular are feeling the pinch.

"If there's one thing that has taken it's toll it's higher unemployment," Mr Twyford says.

"It does the most damage and creates a loss of hope and enormous frustration."

For those who are employed real median income has also suffered, dropping by eight per cent at just short of $27,500 per annum in the west.

The average wage earner in Auckland has also not caught up with inflation, with a 7 per cent fall since 2006.

"What this shows is that on average West Aucklanders have lower incomes and less to cushion themselves," Mr Twyford says.

He cites the boat building industry as an example of the high Kiwi dollar hitting the export market.

Film companies have also suffered in West Auckland from a drop in funding and work drying up.

Waitakere National MP and Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett says although it's been a rough ride things are looking positive.

"There's no denying things have been tough for people over the last few years but our economy is growing, more jobs are being created and benefit numbers are dropping," she says.

"In both West Auckland and the North Shore benefit figures have been falling consistently since 2010 and there were over 1000 fewer people on benefit in Waitakere last year compared to 2012."

But it's not just incomes and unemployment that are hindering progress.

VisionWest Community Trust chief executive Lisa Woolley says affordable housing is also a huge issue, with more than half the people seeing community workers requesting support with accommodation.

"The recent census figures are of interest to us and we have definitely seen some significant changes in how people need our support," she says.

"West Auckland has the longest Housing New Zealand waiting list in the country and, in recent times, our Community Housing service has had to implement a waiting list to manage increased demand," Ms Woolley says.

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VisionWest has seen the cost of accommodation as the biggest deficit in peoples' earnings with at least two-thirds of income spent on accommodation.

- Western Leader

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