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Annually produced each year, this report provides a marker of how New Zealand is doing as a nation.

This is the 10th State of the Nation report from The Salvation Army’s Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit. The report is produced each year to provide a marker of how New Zealand is doing as a nation. It is intended to stand alongside other oft-referenced indicators that serve to identify how our nation is doing economically. Economic reports are important in identifying one measure of how well we are doing as a country, but they cannot fully capture what is happening in the lives of ordinary New Zealanders at a social and personal level.

In measuring data around the five key areas of Our Children, Crime and Punishment, Work and Incomes, Social Hazards, and Housing, the State of the Nation report gives an indication of how we are progressing socially—and how this relates to economic trends.

The title of this year’s report is Off the Track . It draws on the picture of the tramping tracks so familiar to many Kiwis. Walking these tracks requires frequent checking of maps and track markers to ensure the trail is not lost. Failure to do so in the New Zealand bush can carry significant and sometimes tragic consequences.

In the context of this report, ‘off the track’ reflects a sense that many of the markers routinely analysed for the State of the Nation report currently suggest we are not heading in the best direction for New Zealand as a whole. There are some undeniably positive signs, such as rising employment and wage growth, reduction in youth offending and a falling teenage pregnancy rate. However, in some of our most critical areas the nation appears to have stalled or even gone backwards. In publishing this report, The Salvation Army wishes to particularly highlight the following areas:

  • seemingly entrenched rates of child poverty and child abuse
  • the burgeoning incarceration rates of prisoners, along with high recidivism rates
  • an alarming lack of safe, affordable housing that has resulted in a level of homelessness not seen in New Zealand in the lifetime of most Kiwis.

These concerns alone seem sufficient reason to ask the question: Are we off the track?

In an election year, it is timely to challenge all who would aspire to govern—and, in fact, all New Zealanders who are part of the fabric of Aotearoa New Zealand—to think deeply about the social progress we want to achieve for ourselves and our children. Are we heading off the track in a way that benefits only a few (and perhaps only in the short term), while leaving others at risk? Or will we work together to establish a track leading to a New Zealand where all children and families are able to live, grow and be supported to flourish in a nation we might gladly call ‘God’s own’.

The question all voting citizens will consider this year is: Who has the insight, the imagination and the courage to identify a path that might lead to such a country?

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