Social Hazards | The Salvation Army

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Social Hazards



There are four areas that we monitor in the ‘Social Hazards’ section: alcohol use, illicit drug convictions and use, gambling and problem debt. Most of the actions associated with these areas are legal, but heavily regulated. Some are illegal. But all these activities (drinking alcohol, taking illicit drugs and gambling) have an addictive element that can create serious harm for the person engaging with it, as well as for their whānau and other people around them. Problem debt can also create serious harm for the person directly affected and their wider whānau. These four areas are also hazards for which The Salvation Army provides various social and Christian spiritual support services across the country. 

As with previous years, the ‘Social Hazards’ section often paints a myriad of pictures in relation to the changes seen in addictions or problem debt. Whilst some areas have seen improvement—such as alcohol availability, hazardous drinking and meth use—there remains significant concerns around the availability and accessibility of spirit-based alcohol drinks, the social harm caused by illicit drugs and the increase in gambling expenditure, among other things. 

Number of pokie machines in New Zealand and gaming machine profits (GMP)—2016–2023 (September years)

Hazardous drinking is declining across all groups, but disparities for Māori, Pacific and poorer communities continue to persist. Regarding illicit drugs, the number of charges and convictions have increased in the past year, particularly for those who possess and use illicit drugs which make up 60 percent of charges. The police’s ongoing emphasis on addressing methamphetamine is evident, as 52 percent of illicit drug charges are related to meth. Conversely, wastewater monitoring by the police indicates a reduction in nationwide weekly meth use to 13 kilograms. Despite this decline being viewed as a positive trend, the corresponding social harm remains significant, amounting to $14.4 million each week.

National use of illicit drugs—2014–2023

The cost of living continues to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind—the amount of consumer lending has remained relatively unchanged this past year but more of this type of lending has moved towards non-banking institutions. The Salvation Army provides financial mentors, and this trend poses concerns for vulnerable borrowers who often access third-tier lending because of the lack of affordability assessments and rigorous checks to ensure consumers can afford lending. In addition, the number of people withdrawing KiwiSaver for financial hardship reasons has also increased 42 percent in the past year. This highlights the struggles and challenges that families are facing to make ends meet; they must make difficult decisions between long-term benefits, such a first home and retirement savings, and alleviating the financial pressures today. 

KiwiSaver withdrawals by reason—2012–2023

There are significant challenges to be addressed in this space. The wider cost of living and inflation pressures shape these results. The Salvation Army remains convinced that political courage and urgent changes are needed in many of these areas, particularly around alcohol law reform, greater support around illicit drug abuse and stronger regulation around gambling-related harm, given the quickly rising gambling figures.


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