NZ's poorest getting left behind, report

Strong economic and job growth has failed to provide for all New Zealanders, the Salvation Army says.

Its 10th annual State of the Nation report, released on Wednesday, says the number of food parcels it provided to families has increased by 12 per cent - the biggest increase since the Global Financial Crisis.

The high cost of housing and slow wage growth are behind the increase in food bank access, says social policy analyst Alan Johnson.

Housing costs have been a major factor in poverty as house prices rise and rents across New Zealand rose by 15-20 per cent in the last four years.

"New Zealand cannot separate out its poorest people and pretend they don't matter. New Zealand is us - all of us who see ourselves as Kiwi. So when some of us miss out, the responsibility for correcting it belong to us all," Mr Johnson said.

The report also highlighted concerns about youth unemployment, the growing prison population and methamphetamine-related offences.

Youth offending and teen pregnancy had reduced, and NCEA pass rates increased, but youth unemployment was at 20 per cent and youth suicide rates remain persistently high.

The prison population continued to grow despite growing falling crime rates as a result of more jail time being given for violent offences, Mr Johnson said.

He believed the public debate around crime and punishment had at times been ill-informed and occasionally vengeful.

"Public sentiment towards offenders should perhaps matter less than the needs and expectations of victims."

The report noted rising methamphetamine use was now beginning to shape drug crime. Meth convictions had increased by 80 per cent in the last three years.

SALVATION ARMY NUMBERS:

- 63,000 food parcels delivered - up 12 per cent

- Prison population last year was 10,470, or 210 per 100,000 people, up from 184 in the last decade

- Youth unemployment remains at 20 per cent

- Methamphetamine offences rose 160 per cent to 4339 in 10 years