Money worries are high on the list of concerns that people contact Community Networks Wanaka about, as living in our beautiful town comes with a high price tag. The mountains and the lake may be priceless but housing is expensive to rent or buy (and to keep warm in winter), it can be difficult to get about without maintaining a private car and food is not cheap (forget limes and avocados!).
Wanaka is a desirable boomtown but the cost of living is high and wages tend to be low in the service, construction and tourism industries, with precarious security. For example, the slow start to the ski season has been tough for seasonal workers, so it is fantastic to see initiatives running such as ‘the ski workers dinner series’ with the Presbyterian Church, offering free hot suppers every other Tuesday.
Financial stress is widespread in NZ — the Commission for Financial Capability and Wellbeing (CFFC.org.nz) reported last year that 69 percent of Kiwis were concerned about money, with 44 percent stressed, 30 percent losing sleep and 25 percent embarrassed about their situation.
Help is at hand, assures Kate Murray, CNW Manager: “If you are worried about your finances please do reach out to Community Networks, we’ll help you to connect with organisations which offer guidance and benefits. We can also offer a range of practical support such as food parcels, GP vouchers and subsidised counselling.”
Family Works financial mentors are available to meet people at the Community Networks office or at their homes, to support families to build their financial capability and life skills. Team Leader Stewart Hawkins explains: ‘Our role as financial mentors is to help people make good choices so that in the future they will not be going to high-interest lenders or running up the credit card and paying only the minimum each week. We want people to become confident about their money, and learn to plan how to use their money each week, with good debt, like a mortgage or an interest-free loan, and not be financially stressed each payday. We don’t want people wondering how they are going to pay that large electricity bill that just came last week.’
The Central Otago Budgeting Service (COBS) is another local support service that provides a free and confidential financial management service with information, guidance, and support. COBS also has speakers available to give talks or run workshops for community organisations or schools.
It may be worth checking out benefits offered by Work and Income, which range from help with rent and board to child and preschool care, health services, disability support, prescriptions and transport.
Perhaps tax is your biggest financial concern? If so take advantage of the monthly Inland Revenue Department (IRD) visits to Community Networks on Wednesdays mornings. Make an appointment for help to understand your tax situation, fill out IRD forms, manage your student loan or to see if you are eligible for benefits such as Family Tax Credit. Tradies might want to seek guidance on being self-employed; for example, if you accept cash for a job and are injured you might not be eligible for sick pay, which can then trigger money and debt problems.
Can you help? If you are in the fortunate position of not relying on your Winter Energy Payment you might want to consider donating it to the Community Networks Heating Fund to help local families in need stay warm throughout the winter, or perhaps you could donate foodstuffs or toiletries to the Food Bank? ‘Above all’, says Kate Murray: ‘Do reach out if you are stressed about money, seek support to help stop the debt and stress spiral, a problem shared is most definitely a problem halved.’
Further information: Community Networks Wanaka: 03 443 7799, 73 Brownston Street. Family Works: 0508 392 5392. COBS: 03 448 8072. Department of Work and Income: 0800 559 009. Ski workers dinner series, tickets from Cardrona/TC/Snow Farm offices.