TODAY |

John Campbell sits next to sleeping child at food bank, livid at state of poverty in NZ

As hundreds of people slept on concrete overnight in the hopes of getting some donated food or gifts for Christmas, TVNZ1 Breakfast host John Campbell reflected today on the state of poverty in New Zealand.

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Hundreds of families are showing up at Auckland City Mission’s distribution centres as the pressures of the festive season bite. Source: 1 NEWS

Campbell was at Eden Park, where the Auckland City Mission is hosting one of four distribution centres set up in Auckland today. They are Papakura Marae and Ngā Whare Waatea Marae in south Auckland, VisionWest in Glen Eden and Eden Park in Auckland central. 

Thousands of people are expected at the centres, where Christmas goods have been donated for those in need.

"Even though this is a story of desperate need it is also a story of celebration and humanity and kindness," Campbell said.

However, it is also a stark reminder of poverty in New Zealand.

"People are sleeping on concrete outside and they are sleeping to get food and presents for Christmas. Imagine having to do that," Campbell said, estimating 30 to 40 of the 200 people at Eden Park were children.

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General manager for social services Helen Robinson said there hasn’t been a measure for 10 years. Source: Breakfast

"We talk about this all the time and usually we talk to adults and we leave children out of this because whatever is going on it's never a child's responsibility," he said, crouching next to a sleeping child on the ground who had been waiting overnight with her family.

"This is our country and there's no point pretending this isn't our country because it is, and those of us who are journalist's see it quite often. Those of us who work in this sector see it all the time.

"There are many children here and they are waiting for food that their families might run short of and they are waiting for presents that they might not otherwise get, and this is the reality of life for some of us in New Zealand at the moment," Campbell said.

Also waiting at the centre, a struggling mum told Campbell she was there for food and Christmas presents, as well as aroha and people's spirit.

She caught the bus before 6am, carrying two suitcases to bring back kai for her whānau, because otherwise they wouldn't have enough.

"Needing it every week," she said of running out of money. "Just to be honest and real, it's happening here in New Zealand.

"We struggle, we really struggle. We reach out to agencies that are willing to give aroha from their hearts."

The mother-of-one said she goes without power most weekends, telling her family it's "like camping".

"We've got to tell the kids something instead of them going out and telling everybody that we've got no power - that's when you get social services on site and we don't want them on site. We just want people to know we're struggling."

Agencies like City Mission and The Salvation Army are asking for donations of money, food and new presents for babies to teenagers.