Lifewise Big Sleepout event in Auckland

Quick plug for one of our Auckland MP’s, Denise Roche, who is going to participate in the Lifewise Big Sleepout, to raise funds for homeless accommodation and services.

The event happens on the 28th June in downtown Auckland, there’s more info and a pledge link at the Big Sleepout page.

This is the second year this event has occurred, and it’s even more needed as a fundraising mechanism than last year.

With social housing in Auckland having fallen victim to Key’s ‘flog it off to me mates’ programme to re-house wealthy Aucklanders near to St Heliers on the former State Housing estate at Glen Innes, there are a whole lot more newly homeless in Auckland’s already housing-stressed landscape.

Glenn Innes is a place I’ve stayed in, temporarily as a guest of Te Tii Marae in Glenn Innes; the last vestige of the former Tuuhoe land that was ceded to State Housing to provide for low income families moving from rural areas to the city in the 50’s and 60’s.
Perhaps John Key needs a history lesson from those who represent the interests of Treaty Settlements – if the State takes land from Iwi to procure state assets, surely it’s only polite to ask the original owners if they wish to re-purchase, before you sell it off to your property-speculating mates?

Asset Sales, CIR Referendum Petition, Keep Our Assets!

This has been a busy fortnight, and I’ve been ‘doing’ more than ‘writing’.

The second reading of the Bill to sell off our energy companies passed through last Thursday, there’s Hansard on it here if you want to find out who voted which way.

It has now moved through to the Third Reading; there was a scandalous one hour of Select Committee deliberation of submissions received before it was passed back to the House for the Second Reading debates. This is an abrogation of democratic process to a degree hitherto unequalled by this Parliament.

There are anti-sales protests happening all over the place, with Peter Dunne’s Ohariu electorate coming out in arms, placards and puppets.

There's even a puppet ...

There’s even a puppet …

People’s Power Ohariu‘s John Maynard has had quite a bit of media coverage in the past week, to the dismay of the PM, who is beginning to suggest that he may agree that the economy is tanking faster than his advisers told him it would, and that maybe we need the income from our assets more than we need to keep campaign promises to National Party backers.
Funny, Russel’s been saying that for months … and this, most recently.

Russel spoke at the protest last Thursday, and Gareth Hughes has also met with representatives of People’s Power when they first aired their placards and the new puppet (just after Dunne’s effigy in the Back Bencher pub was scorched by their unfortunate kitchen fire.)

Gareth Hughes at Parliament Rally

Gareth Hughes at Parliament Rally

There are bigger protests happening every few days, I recommend Thursday this week outside Parliament, from 12 noon. There’s even a FB event here, if you want to see how People’s Power roll currently.

Then, of course, there’s the Keep Our Assets Campaign, a coalition of interested groups including CTU, NZUSA, Labour, Greens, Grey Power, and many interested individuals.
These folk are collecting Citizen’s Initiated Referendum petition signatures, which I’ve mentioned before when it launched in May.
There will be KOA blitzes happening around the region, but may I draw your attention to one coming up this weekend in the eastern suburbs of Wellington.
FB event page here.

Transport Heavyweight Championship: Julie Anne v Gerry

Julie Anne Genter is a transport heavyweight. She’s got all the academic qualifications and consultancy  experience to know what she’s talking about as far as transport is concerned. Gerry Brownlee is a heavyweight too, although his most admirable qualification in that regard appears to be his loyalty to the National Party and his being prepared to take one (or two, or three) for the team.

So here’s how they shaped up in 3 rounds of sparring in Parliament last week:

Round 1:

Round 2:

Round 3:

Big points win to Julie Anne.  We have the long Easter recess for Parliament now, but I suspect when it resumes Julie Anne will win by TKO.

We Greens support non-violence, so however big and ignorant the opponent is, we still need to leave him or her with some respect. So no KO leaving Gerry convulsing on the canvas – although I’m sure you could do that, metaphorically, should you choose, Julie Anne.

Travel soothes the mind

Well, that was an optimistic title, really.

I had some time on the West Coast over the New Year break, and while absolutely enjoying the hospitality of my various hosts, visiting friends and family of my son-in-law, I also had some opportunities to explore some of the less satisfactory side of life on the Coast.

But first: the good bits.

Here’s a lovely picture of natural beauty, the Hokitika Gorge (I’ll leave out the pix with people scattered through them, you’re just getting the unadulterated glacier-fed river and bush-clad gorge).

Hokitika Gorge from the swingbridge

Hokitika Gorge from the swingbridge

Then we wandered along towards Greymouth, and discovered Shantytown, which has gone up in price 500% since my son-in-law last visited a couple of years ago. As we weren’t a busload of asian tourists, we had a quick look, used the conveniences and left. It seemed like a good business, and the gift shop was doing a roaring trade in the smallest pieces of gold-flake I’ve ever seen in my life, but there you are, to each his or her own. The working small-guage gold-fields train from Kaitangata looked cute.

Kaitangata engine steaming towards the station, Shantytown

Kaitangata engine steaming towards the station, Shantytown

Further down the road, on our way to have a look at Lake Brunner, we stopped at the roadside info for the Brunner Mine disaster, the big news of 1896, and the reason we have any mining legislation at all, really. I popped across on the bridge that spans the Grey River, to check out the site remains and the memorial to the 65 miners who died in that incident, and found that there were also memorials to the 19 miners who died in the Strongman mine disaster in 1967, and the very recent Pike River disaster in November 2010.

Pike River Miners Memorial at Brunner Mine Disaster Memorial

Pike River Miners Memorial at Brunner Mine Disaster Memorial

In conversation with a local woman who was also by the memorial that day, I wondered whether the choice to work in the mines was not as real as she posited, due to the lack of other industry investment in the region. We discussed that one from opposing angles for a few minutes, before both coming to agreement on the fact that Pike River Coal had distinctly transgressed current mining legislation around safety, and that they would have to answer for that in Court in the remainder of the Commission of Inquiry. Meanwhile, there is at least one little boy born since the accident who has never met his dad, and many more family members who still grieve the loss of their brothers, sons, husbands and workmates and want an answer to why it was allowed to happen. Mr Whittall still has some actions to account for.

Greymouth is a pretty town, if prone to ground-level fog for much of the winter, according to my hosts. We had a late-afternoon lovo, the fijian version of hangi, but with a chilli-basted twist to satisfy the spicy palates of my relatives and their friends. With the afternoon sun glinting off the children’s paddling pool, and the surf crashing in the distance, I could fully appreciate why families would come to this part of New Zealand and relish the life it offers them. I left small-town New Zealand behind me when I moved to the city to study in my early adulthood, but I often find myself looking at provincial towns and seeing the beauty in their simplicity, their proximity to recreational areas, the unspoilt compact urban areas, and thinking ‘What if?’. Even the local newspaper had an attractive air to it!

Carpark wall mural at the Greymouth Evening Star

Carpark wall mural at the Greymouth Evening Star

Two days on the West Coast was hardly enough to satisfy me, and my traveller’s bug wants to be sated with a trip to Karamea, a look at Punakaiki Rocks, maybe an expedition to see the Denniston mine historic site before too much longer – there’s a lot to see in this area, and I can see myself coming back again.
Perhaps that is a fitting way to give some help to the Coasters, too – building tourism and art/craft enterprises, showing off the history without degrading the lives of those who remain engaged in local industries, making a sustainable future for those who live in this beautiful but often harsh environment.

Last Thoughts for 2011, Climate Change on top.

There have been some insights into the issue of global responses to Climate Change during this year. The Durban round has highlighted that the rich nations, particularly the USA, want to keep denying reality, denying science, and continue with ‘business as usual’ until their activities constitute genocide for those who live in ‘less favoured’ nations. Good roundup at Hot Topic shows the inconsistency in the NZ Government position.

The resource wars have been going for nearly a decade now.
If there’s anyone left out there who thinks there really were WMD in Iraq when Bush invaded, now would be the time to check into that hostel for the delusional, and settle into the nice padded room with abundant security staffing and food service.
Iraq was a genocidal war to control oil resources, as is Afghanistan/Pakistan currently, as have been the insurgencies in the whole ME region.

We sit on our hands and ignore the rapacious and genocidal mania of the USA at our peril.
They have sunk, by means of their own economic policy of stealing from the poor, killing foreigners to gain resources, and lying to their own countrymen (and women) in order to extract the greatest profit from every human being within their sphere of influence, from being the great hegemony of the 20th Century to being a genocidal, imperialist facist state for whom surveillance and control of their own citizens is becoming a higher priority than any of the many wars they have engaged in on many fronts in the 21st C.

So as we roll towards NYE 2011, and New Years’ Day 2012, here’s my New Year’s plea:

To our neighbours in the Pacific Ocean, I pledge that we as citizens of NZ, and myself personally as a member of the Green Party, will do our utmost to reverse the decisions being made by selfish, greedy, over-consuming rich people in our country.

We will fight to get climate refugees from Tokelau, the outer islands of Fiji, Samoa, Rarotonga, Tonga, Kiribati (and other Pasifika nations who were not historically under the protection of NZ) some justice, some recompense, and above all, a safe haven to come to.

We in New Zealand have benefitted for decades from the willingness of our pasifika neighbours to come to our country, to work in our factories and fields, to do the jobs that our nice, pakeha, middle-class and educated children don’t want to do [because they’re ‘worth more’ to us working in corporations overseas, paying back their student loans] which is why we need a brown underclass to clean office buildings, work in biscuit factories, and pick fruit and vegetables during our harvest season while our office workers holiday at the beach.

In short, for all the racism and class warfare we have inflicted on our pasifika neighbours (and I’m speaking here as a university-educated pakeha, a seventh-generation NZ’er of predominantly UK extraction, so there’s a large ‘we’ who identify in that category, you know who you are!), we owe a future to those who have not been driving SUV’s and European sports cars around the car-obsessed suburbs of our major cities.

In 2012, when the argument comes up about bringing the inhabitants of Tokelau to NZ in one big block, I don’t want to hear about your petty racism. I don’t want to hear you say that it’s a huge drain on our country to allow in the elderly grandparents of Tokelauans who have worked here for decades.

Have some compassion, the islands are salinating to the point where food cannot grow, and even the racist fiction that keeping the old people in the islands where they are ‘comfortable’ and have ‘familiar routines of life’ isn’t going to wash any more.
Remittances from their children and grandchildren who work here in NZ for minimum wages are not going to compensate for the inability to grow food that has been engendered by our carbon-rich, resource-greedy lifestyles.

Why am I getting rude and angry about this now, you ask?

Because christmas in my extended family has been about these issues, as my son-in-law’s father has flown back to Fiji to visit the old folk who remain, while his wife stays here and works through the christmas period, caring for elderly white folk in a provincial NZ town.
She can’t get her own mother into the country to look after her, because our immigration laws are so strict for brown people with the normal conditions of infirmity of aging.

Before you ask, every member of my extended family who has moved here from Fiji is in work, as is my daughter.
It’s all minimum wage or deeply working-class work, but it’s work.
They are exemplary citizens, plugging their way through the paperwork loops from work visas to residency, and eventually to citizenship, and they are the most uncomplaining, grateful, and apolitical members of my family, including my blood relatives who are much better off materially!

So as you pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly this New Year, listen to music at a festival, or just relax on a beach with family and loved ones, count your privileges and acknowledge them, and consider the possibilities:

1) that a small reduction in your life consumption over the next twelve months might be achievable,

2) that sustainability in business and personal life is not only acceptable but necessary, and

3) that Labour wasn’t just stealing policy points from the Greens in the run-up to the election to score media points, but because the time has come when these things have to be faced, and the Greens have already thought it through, in excruciating detail, driven by members with a conscious and conscientious input to policy development.

Firstly, to all my paid and unpaid colleagues in the Green Party around Aotearoa/NZ, let’s leave behind the many tragedies of 2011, and work towards a better year in 2012. Because we’re worth it, and so is every single citizen of our country, and every single worker who is here propping up our low-wage economy without the benefits of citizenship that we so blithely bestow upon our children at birth.

Secondly, to the fourteen Green MP’s who were sworn in before christmas, thank-you for standing, for campaigning so strongly, and for stepping up to serve us for the next three years. I’ll try not to be on your office threshold every week, but you may be seeing more of me, lol.

Thirdly, thank-you to every candidate who stood, campaigned, and contributed to this historic rise in our representation in Parliament, your efforts all around Aotearoa lifted the water-level for everyone who got in. Some of you are now my especial friends, we will work together in the future on issues of importance, arohanui a koutou, you also know who you are.

Arohatinonui ki a koutou katoa.

See ya in the other side in January 2012, I’m going bush, don’t expect replies to comments. 😉

Occupy Wellington

I’ve held off from commenting on this affair until now, as I wanted to get a feel of how the media was handling it, whether facts were being published, and how the Occupy Aotearoa project was coming along.

There have been some interesting things going on. Occupy Wellington has a distributed leadership consensus decision-making group, which holds twice daily general assemblies of all attending the occupation, and is generally allowing allcomers to participate, discuss, vent, and help put plans together.

There have been a few issues, at first mainly weather related (one structure was re-assembled three times in as many days…), but as time has gone by a few personalities have become problems. There are sufficient skills in facilitation within the group that such issues have been quietly and firmly dealt with, although one disruptive visitor has been identified by Police as someone they want to remove from Wellington environs, so reluctantly an agreement was made that they would be contacted if he showed up again; when he did this was communicated to him and he went away immediately after yelling abuse at the ‘hospitality’ team, shouting that it was all lies. But the fact that he wasn’t keen to hang around and dispute the topic (his usual behaviour) gives the lie to his protestations, and to my knowledge he hasn’t been seen since.

Liason with Police and City Council has been positive and open from early days. A ‘hospitality’ roster keeps the camping area safe from random pillaging, whilst also functioning as a meet’n’greet point for visitors, media, and those who are staying overnight but have jobs or study to go to during the day. Organisation of food, waste disposal, recycling and workshops is happening in an organically fluid way, as people volunteer to work on various tasks and rotate as they become interested in different aspects of keeping this kind of action going.

Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA) principles are being followed in planning any kind of satellite action and with the discussion group structure working well, there is sufficient input to utilise all available skillsets, whilst also having critical oversight from those campers who have more extensive experience in running demo’s, marches, protests or occupations.

There are also Occupy groups running in Auckland/Tamaki Makaurau, New Plymouth/Taranaki, Christchurch/Otautahi, Dunedin/Otepoti, and a satellite of the Christchurch occupation at Nelson.
Some of these groups are in contact with each other, due to affinity group connections between individual campers.

There’s a lot of chatter on FB, Twitter, and mainstream media, not all of it accurate or positive about the events or meanings of these actions. Occupy Wellington has its own webpage here, which is being updated sporadically by various people. There are some workshops planned for Labour Day (monday) with a schedule here, and there’s a ‘blogroll’ of media reports here.

In the interests of fair and unbiased reporting, I have to state that I spent 3 nights camping at the Occupy Wellington site; my tent is still there, in someone else’s use, as I’ve slunk home to try to cure a dose of ‘flu. I admit to being closely linked to quite a few of those who are core to this occupation action, and I 100% support what they are doing.

As usual, here’s a few pix to finish off with. Not sweary at all, totally SFW.

Green Mana electorate candidate Jan Logie with supporters on day one.

Green Mana electorate candidate Jan Logie with supporters on day one.

General Assembly on the warm bricks, late afternoon, day one

General Assembly on the warm bricks, late afternoon, day one

70's retro peace and love... day two

70's retro peace and love... day two

placard, day two

placard, day two

the growing campsite, day two

the growing campsite, day two

Loaned tent, replacing storm-damaged wharenui tarp, day three

Loaned tent, replacing storm-damaged wharenui tarp, day three

A dry blackboard, workshops notices day three

A dry blackboard, workshops notices day three

golden clouds as dusk falls over the encampment, day three

golden clouds as dusk falls over the encampment, day three

sunshine after rain, laundry out to dry, day four

sunshine after rain, laundry out to dry, day four

donations of fruit were placed on the open table, compost bin at the ready, day four

donations of fruit were placed on the open table, compost bin at the ready, day four

PM Key completely loses plot on Rena business support

Here’s our esteemed Prime Minister, the Right Honourable John Key, on the Rena disaster:

Prime Minister John Key says a compensation package for businesses affected by a stricken ship off Tauranga may not be necessary if the problem is resolved by Christmas.

Sorry, Your Right Honourableness, Mr Key, but business needs time to plan.

What John Key is saying is that businesses in Tauranga will wait for over two months before the Government decides whether they get any Government assistance to deal with the ramifications of the Rena disaster. By which time it is far too late for them to make sensible business decisions. Businesses in Tauranga hoping to gear up for the summer season need to make decisions now. They need some guarantee of Government backing if everything turns to the brown smelly stuff.