Since I looked at housing policy in 2015, during my post-grad policy paper, I’ve has a lot of conflicting thoughts.

The current housing deficit has its roots in the sell-off of State-owned rental housing, which began under Jim Bolger’s Government in the 1990’s. Not only did we quit building homes for low income families, but we also sold off those homes that were in the best condition.

Leaving the provision of housing solely to ‘the market’ allowed for perverse incentives, and property bubbles. We had a property crash in 1992, off the back of Marac Building Society over-extending their lending capacity, as speculators leveraged equity in one property over a portfolio of 10-20 properties.

(I recall at the time that Real Estate agents were running seminars for middle-class homeowners, explaining how easy it was to leverage equity & build an investment. Exactly as they are doing in 2020/21. People who got into that in 1990, had mortgagee sales forced on them in 1992; as the market rate dropped, many sold their portfolios for less than the mortgage value, ‘negative equity’ becoming the new thing.)

Banks, insurance agents, mortgage brokers & real estate agents all walked away from that crash unharmed – the risk was borne by the failed speculators.

The property bubble we’re experiencing now has been driven by exactly the same forces.

Those making percentage commissions on sales are not going to be putting any brakes on rampant profiteering in house prices; banks in general are still very keen to bring in new mortgages, despite current market values for properties being sold exceeding the average income by a factor of up to 10 times. Affordability is not being questioned, nor the sustainability of making payments on these valuations – which cannot hold, as there is no reason of substance for the inflated prices being asked.

This is the true failure of the ‘market economy’ – whose theory of demand increasing supply of high-demand goods has been subverted by artificial scarcity in the housing market, creating anxious buyers and ever-inflating house prices.

My initial response to my policy research in this area was that NZ needed to bring back State-owned housing, building properties to be rented by those on low incomes who will never be able to own their own home – just as Savage & later Fraser did, during the first Labour Government, developing the State Housing Policy that ran from the 1940’s until it was demolished at the end of the 1980’s.

The policy was very pragmatic about the existence of class barriers to home ownership; the difference today is that we pretend to be a classless society, but many categories of basic work pay the minimum wage (or worse), from which no household can expect to save a deposit enough to buy in these inflated prices.

The slums of the Great Depression brought about the first comprehensive Housing Policy; post-GFC, we need to revisit the ideals of compassion for low income households, to allow a life with some dignity.

The biggest difference between 1935 & 2020 is that our poorest households are now female-headed, whether with children to bring up or as disabled or elderly women. Poverty has become gendered.

I watched in dismay as Kiwibuild was rolled out as a way to ballot houses to first-home buyers, pre-approved and (seemingly) mostly teachers, nurses, police, & so on, who were being priced out of the Auckland housing market. This neither addressed Homelessness, nor took any appreciable heat out of the Auckland property speculation bubble.

At some point, the Minister for Housing and Urban Development is going to need to recognise that ONLY by building housing expressly for the homeless, will that problem be solved; getting our homeless off the streets by hiding them in motels was a shabby answer, dreamt up by National’s cabinet in a moment of delusional rhetoric that assumed a short-term crisis & that there were enough private sector rentals to go around.

One response to this phenomenon has been a move to smaller living – tiny houses that not only cost less to build, but are better insulated, use less energy for running appliances, lighting & heating, and can be obtained without a million-dollar mortgage.

Stepping off the debt treadmill became more attractive during the 2020 Covid Lockdowns, when people saw work vanish or become more precarious, and in extreme cases, entire businesses were put at risk. Re-evaluating one’s debt exposure became the new ‘mindfulness’.

When I first started looking into Tiny Houses seriously in 2020, I found (as I has expected) a lot of hippy, alternative lifestyle types with DIY fitouts they’d done for themselves – You-tube is full of earnest young couples describing their tiny house journeys. There’s a lot of off-the-grid cabins in out of the way places, and not a few farmers who have parked a tiny house near their driveway, as a little side gig on Air B’nB.

What I didn’t expect was the new build out at Hobsonville Point in Auckland – a two-bedroom family home on a small section, built by a couple with two children who decided to become mortgage-free by scaling down their building plans. (The article about this seems to have vanished, annoyingly – probably offensive to property developers!) That was about the most suburban, middle-class setting I found a tiny house in, although I had seen footage of others dotted in locations around Auckland’s Western suburbs, in native bush settings.

When I approached a couple of builders to get quotes, it became apparent that ‘ground leasing’ was a common strategy among tiny home owners. A little more research in my own time led me to a community of long-term ground leasing residents in ‘holiday parks’, or campgrounds.

This is still ‘alternative lifestyle’ by most comparisons, and it obviously wouldn’t suit every household currently renting or in transitional housing. But there is certainly a percentage of people who would rather own a small unit, and be their own landlord, without having the strain of a huge mortgage.

But for those who choose it, this is a viable alternative to the dwindling supply of Council flats available for pensioners; many provincial councils have sold off their social housing, leaving professionals to manage that sector. Retirement Villiages are now big business.

At the very time that demographers have been pointing to the tidal wave of Baby Boomers about to sweep down from big City suburban areas, intending to cash up & move to a small town, the small towns are running out of pensioner-type housing to be bought.

Why is it so difficult?

Our modern housing market runs on a few basic principles which we laughingly call ‘capitalism’, but we should properly name ‘indebtism’ – the banks gate who can acquire housing indebtedness, while at the same time ensuring that ‘property values’ are maintained so that their return on mortgage financing keeps well in the black.

The ancillary industries of real estate & advertising ballast the banks, while also making their own profit margins on every transaction.

There are just too many vested interests involved, for ‘the market’ to self-regulate in any ethical manner; gamblers at least acknowledge that ‘the House always wins’, but our real estate industry is sadly lacking in any insight into the reckless risk that the current property speculation bubble poses to those trying to scrape up sufficient deposit to buy their first home.

If we look back to the 1990’s, a drive around any suburb built in those years is very informative. Left to themselves, builders aimed squarely at mid-life homeowners with equity & built ‘McMansions’ that filled up suburban sections.

Extrapolate that through to 2020, and what we have is suburbs full of large middle-class family homes, but very little that could be sold to a young couple or young family, looking for their first home.

Those big houses are still selling, of course – to mid-life families returning to NZ after decades overseas, or to economic migrants coming here from overseas, who have cashed up & can afford Auckland prices. And property investors are buying the former family homes, because they know that families are renting for longer now (… because they can’t buy into the inflated market….)

For under $100.000, a one bedroom unit, with a full kitchen, bathroom, & small living/dining space, can be built as a Tiny House. A fancy one for $150,000, with a few extras – and these variables can be seen on the websites of Tiny House builders.

Some offer modular units that can be combined to give more space (say, for a larger family).

I didn’t see any on offer that came up to $500, 000, which is a ‘modest budget’ according to Craig Moller, the Wellington architect who shows off extravagant house building in the Grand Designs NZ TV show.

These truly modest units could be built quickly (about five months per unit), and grouped on SHA’s that already exist in most municipal areas – except for that shibboleth, ‘market values’, or ‘rateable values’ – because local government also has a vested interest in higher house prices – residents pay rates based not on the cost of services, but on the perceived valuation of their property.

The solution to building clusters of small units for single person households (as most of the homeless who currently sleep in night shelters would be) devolves down to whether such housing would be permitted by Councils, many of whom dislike pensioner flats already in existence.

My contention is that central Government legislation needs to lead local government to the provision of such housing – my investigation into where one might build a ‘tiny house’ unit with a full Building Consent granted by Council surprised me with the fact that such consents are not easily obtained in urban locations.

Some Councils are more forward-looking than others – HBRC sets the ‘gold standard’, & the Hawkes’ Bay region boasts many tiny houses, some in permanent habitation, some as holiday homes or weekend-getaway b’n’b rentals.

I’ve mentioned building consents, and I understand that the RMA is about to be severely pruned & overhauled, so my gripes about how much this slows down conventional property developers are probably redundant (& I expect they are completely capable of representing themselves in that argument, too.)

I do want to note that where I looked at building a tiny house, the relevant District Council was accepting an ‘exemption from Building Consent’ certificate, which took about six weeks to acquire; last I heard, a full Building Consent can take up to a year (in Hamilton; may vary in other centres). Many tiny houses are built with an obvious trailer deck, and as such are defined as ‘vehicles’ rather than ‘dwellings’, although some councils still dispute this.

There has been collaboration on a piece of draft legislation around tiny house regulations, which began under Gareth Hughes’ oversight. He informed me that the work was returned to the Tiny House Association when he left Parliament, and is still being considered by their members.

Sorting out one set of regulations to guide all Councils would be useful to forestall the amount of time being wasted in Court proceedings against tiny home owners, some examples are included in the resources section.

Nelson woman builds her own tiny house for $25,000 using recycled building supplies.

RESOURCES

https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/homed/housing-affordability/123491794/tiny-homes-an-obvious-answer-to-our-housing-crisis

Riverhead, Auckland Tiny House DIY build https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/homed/latest/123042012/couple-build-their-own-tiny-house-helped-by-friends-strangers-and-youtube

Tiny house cluster in Pt England, Auckland, being used for housing homeless https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/homed/latest/122999865/tiny-house-village-gives-hope-to-homeless-when-they-need-it-most

Sleepout cabins as described in Pt England article https://www.tinylifestyle.co.nz/

https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/homed/houses/117016871/takaka-tiny-house-builders-use-traditional-techniques

https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/homed/housing-affordability/123585946/tiny-housing-projects-100year-plan-to-build-homes-that-dont-poison-the-earth

NZ Tiny House Association – advocating for builders & owners of tiny houses. https://www.nztha.org/

Example of District Council requirements for tiny house builders/owners https://www.waimakariri.govt.nz/building-services/i-want-to-build-a-…/tiny-house

Example of exemption criteria, for building consents, which many tiny houses fit https://www.hastingsdc.govt.nz/services/building-consents-information/building-consents/exemptions/

Developer in South Wairarapa changed plan to build 120 tiny houses after consent denied. Featherston tiny homes developer wants red tape cut

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12408135

Vehicle or building? Tiny house on wheels faces big legal test

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12256611

Canterbury man proves in court his tiny house is a vehicle, not building

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12312526

Tiny home at centre of complex court dispute in Marlborough

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=12336599

Whakapapa is complex.

May 1, 2019

Prior to engaging in this year’s study, I have done a little background research into the whakapapa of my father’s maternal antecedents, who appear to descend from an Iwi in Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka.

It has been frustrating at times, as I have used many varied research strategies to attempt to unearth early generations of our family. My grandmother’s great-grandfather was an early settler in the Cook Strait/Wellington region, and it appears that his wife Annie was the offspring of a Maaori mother and a whaler.

Details are sketchy that far back in our history, so I have moved on to trying to locate the whakapapa that I have been told exists in a Blenheim archive; a piece of information relayed to me by Teremoana Sparks, who was at the time working on the Treaty Settlement claim for Te Tau Ihu, in Wellington. (This was over a decade ago…)

 

Reading Angela Wanhella’s detailed histories of inter-racial communities in Ootakou and Murihiku has been a very useful exercise.
Her scholarship in this area is impeccable, and grounded in her own whakapapa, explored adroitly in her first book In/visible Sight, including a photo identifying her grandmother. (Wanhella, 2009, p.139)

This book details the gradual loss of community suffered by the descendants of Ngaai Tahu whaanau living at Maitapapa, on the Taieri River plains. The earliest contact these communities had with paakeha was with shore whalers, from 1820’s onwards; the ongoing intermarriage between whalers and Ngaai Tahu led to assimilation of hapuu and whaanau into paakeha society, particularly with regard to the official censuses, which recorded “Maaori living as Maaori” vs “Maaori living as Europeans” when describing half-caste individuals. (p.107)

The official Government policy of the mid-19th century was to promote assimilation; for South Island Maaori, this became a self-fulfilling prophecy as inter-racial marriages continued in the second and third generation whaling families – who mostly switched to subsistence farming on Iwi and hapuu lands, after the collapse of the whaling industry in the Southern Oceans. (p.117)

“The colonial process of erasure, at work in the National Census, led to Ngaai Tahu being ‘assimilated’ into the general census on the basis of their similarity to their European counterparts…Yet this scenario is undermined by oral histories, which demonstrate that ‘invisibility’ was a strategy of survival, and it was only ever partial.” (p.143)

Wanhella’s second book, Matters of the Heart, expands her discussion of inter-racial marriage to the rest of Aotearoa New Zealand and documents a multitude of successful cross-cultural marriages that underpinned the colonial hinterlands, outside the main cities founded on mass migration of settlers post-1840.

“For new colonists, marrying into a world where former whalers were now established hoteliers, shopkeepers, millers and shipbuilders offered economic and social opportunities. Marriages to mixed-race daughters of traders helped newly arrived colonists establish themselves in the service trades in small communities, as shopkeepers, publicans & hoteliers well into the 1870’s.” (Wanhella, 2013, p.78)

 

This early advantage was quietly forgotten, further down the generations, as the land wars created bitterly divided townships.

“By 1864, six thousand military settlers were living on land confiscated from ‘rebel’ Maaori in Waikato and Taranaki. During the decades of conflict, ‘marriages between young officers and Maaori maidens were not infrequent’.”(p.85)

‘Passing as white’ became the norm, especially for fairer mixed-race women, who married ‘advantageously’ and became ‘civilised’ by the process, living in suburban areas and sending their children to schools in the cities.

“…the assimilative function of interracial marriage also relied on the man being able to bring the ‘native wife’ up to ‘civilised standards’, which was judged on her ability to speak English, her manner of dress, the cleanliness of her home and morality of her conduct.”(p.107)

Characterisations of ‘half-castes’ in the New Zealand census were integral to the ‘proving’ of the assimilation policy, especially from 1877 onwards. This was finally dropped after 1936, during the first Labour Government, who were focussing more on raising the entire nation out of poverty, than any eugenicist ideology. (p.128)

 

After the Second World War, social science revisited interracial marriage between the 1940’s-70’s, uncovering interpersonal racial discrimination in New Zealand society. After the publication of the Mazengarb Report in 1954, social scientists actively advised against cross-cultural marriages; there was a philosophy of encouraging stable family formation in the wake of the War, based on assumptions about race and identity. (pp.142-4)

 

Sociologist John Harre was a leading figure in the post-WW2 research into interracial marriage, noting a rise in interracial marriage among the Maaori population, which he attributed to economic and social policy shifts fostering Maori urbanisation “which brought increased opportunity for interracial contact, rather than a simple change of attitude alone.” (p.147)
The Hunn Report of 1960 also advocated integration of Maaori into New Zealand paakeha society; by 1964, Harre’s research was being published in the Department of Maaori Affairs Te Ao Hou magazine, and Hunn was one of his chief supporters. (p.161)

 

Along the way, many Maaori lost contact with their whakapapa, hapuu and Iwi affliations. By the heyday of Waitangi Tribunal Settlements Claim lodgements, most Iwi were researching their ancestors, and compiling lists of descendants who would be counted as beneficiaries of any claims; there was also an imperative to enumerate the exact level of population loss incurred due to colonisation and alienation from traditional lands and food sources.

 

Wanhella’s work in these books, and in her many Journal articles, helps to reclaim the whakapapa of many Maaori who became ‘hidden in plain sight’, with European names and loss of language and culture compounding their erasure from the public record.
She describes in detail sources and information retrieved to build up her picture of thriving interracial communities of the mid-19th Century in the South; much of her data comes from oral histories conducted with elder informants, listed in the bibliography of In/visible Sight. It is an invaluable resource as a template for how to do thorough research with a community of inter-related informants, using a kaupapa maaori research methodology.

 

Select Bibliography

Paterson, L., & Wanhalla, A. (2017). He Reo Wāhine: Māori women’s voices from the nineteenth century. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland University Press, 372p.

Wanhalla, A. (2013). Matters of the heart: A history of interracial marriage in New Zealand. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland University Press, 231p.

Wanhalla, A. (2009). In/visible sight: The mixed-descent families of southern New Zealand. Wellington, New Zealand: Bridget Williams Books, 208p.

Stevens, K., & Wanhalla, A. (2017). Intimate relations: Kinship and the economics of shore whaling in southern New Zealand, 1820-1860. Journal of Pacific History52(2), 135-155. doi: 10.1080/00223344.2017.1366820

Full bibliography available on her University of Otago staff profile:
https://www.otago.ac.nz/history/staff/otago036857.html

ANZAC day, redux.

April 25, 2019

White poppies for peace

I’ve written about my great-uncles on my mother’s side before, in relation to the NZ obsession with glorifying the massive military defeat at Gallipoli.
Some years, notably during 2014-2018, I have just re-posted those old articles (the earliest sits in my archive here on November 11, 2008) but this year I thought I’d add to the narrative.

I’ve been doing research, off and on, into family history since around 1978, after my grandfather died. That was when I first heard the stories of his two older brothers, Jack and Bob, who went off to fight in France in 1917 & never returned. My mother’s eldest brother is named John Robert in their memory; he was born over a decade after their deaths.

Due to the massive amount of funding the Ministry of Culture and Heritage poured into WW1 commemorations, all of the files from deceased soldiers have been digitised, and sit in the Archway collections of the National Archives. As a peripatetic researcher, I troop through there occasionally during visits to Wellington, so I went looking for Jack & Bob Stevenson a couple of years ago. Yes, their entire military files were available to view; and I looked.

I have no images of these two, the brothers of my grandfather.
They were country boys, educated in a rural school up to age 12, then put to work on the family farm, Blackburn, which was at Alfredton – a location variously described as ‘Pahiatua’ or ‘Kaitawa, Pahiatua’, on their NZDF signup forms.
They were the two eldest, of nine offspring of Alexander and Jeannie Stevenson.
Aunt Margaret became the family housekeeper after her mother’s death; Aunt Jean married and moved to Palmerston North. The men stayed on the farm, gradually being permitted to take wives and have children. My grandfather waited until his 30th birthday in 1928, for that permission.
Bob and Jack were thus single when they went to France, in 1917.

I will illustrate the service of a young farmer in France, with Robert’s record.
Robert Stevenson, aged 21 years. Height – 5’11”, weight – 172lb, complexion – fair, colour of eyes – bluish-grey, colour of hair – brown.
My mother, Beth, was 5’10 at 19 years old, when she married my father. In all other respects, apart frrom gender, Robert matches my mother. My sister also carried the brown hair, but is of shorter stature. We all carried the bluish-grey eyes.

Robert signed up on the 30th May, 1916, at Trentham Army Camp, as a private #26197,  in F Company 17th Regiment.
On 21st November 1916, he was promoted to Rifleman, and moved to 4th Battallion of 3rd NZ Rifle Brigade, and it was with that status that he arrived ‘in field’ in France in March, 1917.
He had sailed from Devonport to Sling Camp, that huge staging post of ANZAC soldiers; and then crossed to France after the New Year, being staged at Etaples on 9 January, then St Omer from 8 March 1917.
The rest of the details of his service are slight.
He was wounded in battle in October 1917, and died of his wounds 13th Ocober 1917, the death certificate signed at ‘No 47 Casualty Clearing Station, France or Belgium’; buried at Dosinghem British Cemetary, Western, north of Poperinghe.
The Field Service Report of the Death of a Soldier was signed by a superior officer at Rouen, France, 27 December, 1917.

The official records continue to show bureaucratic action right up to October 1923, when ‘Medal Action Complete’ is noted on 8 October – almost a full six years after his death.
He was posthumously awarded the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal, which were sent to his father as next of kin, at Kaitawa, Pahiatua.
Prior to the delivery of medals, there would have been ‘the telegram’, followed by the dispatch of a Scroll of honour in 21 July 1921, a Plaque on 18 November 1921, and a Certificate (of service, presumably) on 10 November 1922.
The dates are significant – the 11 November 1918 was the date of the signing of the Armistace, and in 1919, the Treaty of Versailles, which awarded such huge damages to France & Belgium, to be paid by the German State. The bureacrats of the NZDF seemd to have been at pains to close off documentation before those significant anniversaries rolled around each year.
The seeds of WW2 were sown in those years of the 1920’s, when rampant inflation hit Europe as the war rebuild carried on. The Black Friday of 31st October 1929 happened just as the nations of Europe were begining to think the worst of the recovery was over.
In NZ, our farmers slowly went to the wall; despite my great-grandfather Alexander Stevenson forbidding any more sons to go to war, their efforts were not enough to survive the downturn.
Other, better historians than I have chronicled those years – I recommend Tony Simpsopn’s The Sugarbag Years, or anything by Keith Sinclair on that period.
John A Lee wrote during the 40’s about the privations of the working classes during the late 20’s and the Great Depression; my grandfather had all of his works on the bookshelf, a fact I should have noticed as a teenager. I collected the volumes again, in my forties, from second-hand bookshops in Wellington.

For our family, the patriarch decided, in his fervent Calvinism, that he would not be mortgaged. The produce of the farm was not selling for enough to cover the seasonal purchases of seed, and there were issues of getting produce to market, so he sold the farm out from under his remaining five sons and their families, around 1933. All were sent down the road, except for Aunt Margaret, who accompanied him to a small bungalow in Palmerston North, where they lived near Aunty Jean & Uncle Reg Forbes.

My grandparents functionally separated, my grandmother taking their two toddlers & becoming the unqualified teacher at Kaitawa School; my grandfather went swagging, begging work and a roof over his head wherever he might find it.
They were both so ashamed that this had been their reality, that when WW2 began, and younger men were conscripted into the Armed Forces, they never spoke about the years apart, after my grandfather obtained a position managing a farm at Motea, near Dannevirke. They lived there well into the 1960’s, raising four children in total – two born before the Great Depression, and two born after they reconciled in 1939.

These stories came painfully into the light of day after my grandfather died in 1978, just shy of his 80th birthday & Golden Wedding anniversary. My teenage years were bookended by school holiday visits to my grandmother, retired and living in Hastings, and the gradual teasing out of those stories.

We are a family of war resisters – Uncle Bob was withdrawn from high school in Dannevirke & put to work on the farm during WW2, lest he be press-ganged into service.
He was 16 years old when my mother was born in 1944; quite recently, we had a chat about that, and he said it was dreadful – all of the siblings were the height of adults at 12 years old, so he was perceived as a young man shirking his duty, and presented with white feathers if he was seen in town with his mother.
At my mother’s funeral in 2015, he was still resentful of his father’s attitude, which had caused him to be questioned about his lack of war service throughout his adult life.
Both of my mother’s brothers are still alive; and there are still conversations to be had.
Uncle Bob left the farm after the war, going to live in Auckland and becoming a mechanic, later owning a small fleet of courrier vans and a property of ten acres at Waimauku, where we visited as ‘country cousins come to town’ in the 1970’s.
He was always a gentle man, and despite his lack of education, a sensitive and knowing person. His sister June had training as a hairdresser, Mum went to Teacher’s College at Ardmore in the early 60’s, and only my younger Uncle Dave stayed in farming, being one of the first to take up deer farming in earnest in Waipukurau in the 1970’s.

In my generation, there are Accountants, Nurses, a cousin with a PhD in Maths, a Pharmacist, along with a few of the cohort without tertiary degrees who are mechanics, truck drivers, an airhostess, an IT professional. My own trajectory through academia is neither unusual nor taken for granted. These days, we meet at family funerals more often than at weddings, and we acknowledge that our connections are waning as my generation welcome grandchildren, and farewell our parents.

I’m slowly writing versions of the family histories, for each of the major branches of my family, both maternal and paternal. Archives and Museums are slowly giving up their records to my searches, sometimes finding truths that dismay my relatives, who have a rosy view of the past, based on several kinds of elisions of the depressing realities our forbears survived.

My committment to pacifism continues, despite recent events in my own life that were not of the best outcomes. Again, others have written while I was incapacitated, so I’ll link to that rather than repeating the work.

This was a think-piece I put up on Twitter, which caught on in a way most of my writing really doesn’t. So, I thought I’d stash a version of it here, with a few corrections that were happily crowd-sourced from readers.

I’ve seen a lot of confusion around the ‘alt-right’, ‘white supremacy’, ‘neonazi’ labels in recent weeks. So, as an historian, I’m going to do a little facism 101 thread to disambiguate for the confused.

Facism did not begin with Adolf Hitler, he just exploited xenophobia & economic stresses that were already present in Germany after WW1. Yep, the roots of the Waffen SS begin with the Treaty of Versailles, which accorded massive penalty payments to Germany in 1918.

Aristocrats drove WW1, after the assassination of Prussian Arch-duke Ferdinand by a Serbian national. (Serbia’s simmering resentments led to the 1990’s breakup of Yugoslavia, but we’ll get to that later…)
WW1 was really the last war where British aristocracy told peasants to fight.

Colonial forces, made up of generally ‘lower classes’, were used as cannon fodder in wildly misplanned engagements that ignored modern weapons technology. German machine guns mowed down Allied troops. We in New Zealand celebrate ANZAC day, a complete debacle.
Aristocratic supremacy was maintained, however.
The Military higher ranks are second sons of the landed aristocracy, of course.

WW2 followed a decade of Depression, and widespread economic failure in Europe. The British facists like Lord Moseley (whose family are F1 owners) were some of the first to trot over to Berlin & congratulate Adolf Hitler when he became Chancellor of the Exchequer (German PM). The British National Front is funded (through a few cutouts) by the Moseleys & their allies, some of the old aristocracy of England.

The Mitford daughters, a selection of well-bred beauties, were frontline fans of Hitler & Goering. Diana Mitford married Oswald Mosely who founded the British Union of Facists; Unity Mitford died after an unsuccessful suicide attempt, which caused ongoing health problems due to a bullet lodged in her brain, after having been part of the inner circle around Hitler. Deborah Mitford became the Duchess of Devonshire, and lived into her 80’s.
Propaganda, the dark art we now call ‘marketing’, was developed by Goebbels, Goering & Leni Riefenstahl, their cinematographer. WW2 was a modern psy-ops war, the first of the 20thC.

Now we’re 70 years on from the Nazi exploits. This is about the period when history repeats – my grandfather fought in Egypt, was captured by Rommel’s armies & incarcerated in Germany for most of the war. I’m the generation that has the last memories of direct transmission.

This is the dangerous decade (or two) that we are entering. Facism has been repackaged for the 21stC, & it comes with some fancy new propaganda tools that Goebbels would have loved. Ayn Rand, a right-wing libertarian, is popular again. Algorithms are being tailored to push neonazi ideas.

Eugenics as an ideology is rising again – a deplorable (yes, I’m using that term…) belief in racial purity that was the foundation of the KKK in the Southern USA, and was even used in NZ by Dr Truby King, who founded Plunket.
It deifies white supremacist ideals & norms. There are also troubling attacks on the disabled & those who suffer illnesses of old age, within eugenics.
Hitler’s ‘death list’ of ‘types’ of human to eliminate came from eugenicist thinking – Roma, disabled, homosexuals, Jews, & political dissidents for good measure.

In a modern liberal state, there are checks & balances to protect the most vulnerable. Trump is removing those checks, by the simple expedient of not appointing Chiefs of Staff to some White House positions, causing logjams. He’s gamed the US Constitution. This is facist.

Pastor Martin Niemöller gave us the 20thC’s most often-quoted mea culpa; which I will paraphrase here:
‘When they came for the others, I said nothing… Then there was no-one left to speak up when they came for me.’

Speak up now, while you still have a voice to use against facists.

 

I was also asked by a commenter to address why Facism is being re-positioned as ‘Socialism’ by those on the alt-right who want to distance themselves from accusations of neonazism. So here’s that part of the thread:

Well, they’re doing that for people who know zip about German history.
Short answer, look up the Weimar Republic.
The use of ‘Nationalist Socialism’ in Germany, soon shortened to Nazi, was about capturing the impoverished working classes who were heavily taxed to pay for WW1.

Trump has been playing on the leftover impoverishment (which is real) after the GFC. That trillions of dollars ‘market correction’ came out of ordinary people’s mortgages.
The banks got bailed out. Socialism for capital, but not for workers.
Fear of ‘the Reds’ in USA goes back to McCarthyism in the 1950’s, during the biggest increase of citizen surveillance in the 20thC.
Current fears about another crash (because banks haven’t changed their lending practices in the USA), and a political desire to scapegoat are seeing a repeat of 1930’s tropes. A Cold War, if you will.

So, Trump may not be the smartest tool in the shed, but he buys expertise.
There are many right-wing think-tanks selling their policies whole. Using data analytics, as happened in the 2016 elections in the USA, allows modelling from polling results.
It’s government by marketing.
Using ‘Socialism’ as a hand-wave for Nazi ideology allows the alt-right to claim theirs is a new philosophy of politics, not just a rehash of the usual suspects in the pantheon of dictatorships.

 

I had a short camping break with my son at Whaingaroa/Raglan on the west coast, which involved some of our fave simple treats – fish’n’chips from Raglan Wharf, a long walk on the beach & some paddling in the surf for me, a chance to read a fave author for my son. We relaxed & refreshed together.

My other New Year’s Day activity was picking up empty bottles along the beach/estuary, with the Xtreme Zero Waste Whaingaroa crew, at first light. Two cellphones, some car keys, & a lovely little pounamu necklace were among our finds.

The cellphones were returned easily to their owners, the rest went to the local Police station, where they joined a growing pile of lost property.

Gratuitous image of beautiful west coast beach:

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Of course, I found cool places to shop:

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After a week-ish back home, I set off for a sustainability Wananga at Parihaka, focussed on how we integrate kaitiakitanga into our interactions with te Taiao, through mara Kai (food gardens) & mara raakau (food forests), as well as protecting the tai Moana (sea shores).
We gardened, harvested & tested water quality at the Marae, and also did a beach cleanup. So much rubbish! We were just along the beach from the historic Egmont Lighthouse, which has become a ‘freedom camper’ hangout.
So, this is what we found:

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Please, don’t do this when you visit beaches in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Either bury your wastes, or pooper-scoop them, but don’t just leave poo behind, it’s gross.

I stayed at the Marae, where we had delicious meals, short showers, plumbed toilets and a large & well-ventilated wharemoe to sleep in. We had great conversations, and some awesome teaching, mixed in with the practical care of Papatuanuku, our Mother Earth.
I wish more people would take the opportunity to get amongst the communities running Marae & see how waste reduction (Para Kore) and stewardship of resources was being done in such an holistic and creative way.

A late evening shot of the Marae at Parihaka, where a real renaissance is happening:

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My thanks to friends who organised that weekend, & to the greater Taranaki Iwi who attended & drove the conversations around caring for the region.

So this year, I didn’t post much about campaigning. Find me on Twitter @anarkatie if you want to see what went on. The outcome is still volatile, as was most of the campaign period. Parliament still TBC.

2017 NaNoWriMo

My next endeavour is NaNoWriMo, a writing challenge that several of my friends have participated in. You can find out more about that at NaNoWriMo

Uh-oh

April 24, 2017

Frequent fliers visiting this page will have noticed my summer flush of posts going dead.

Yep, I caught the ‘flu from some virus-laden person at a public event I attended & then spent a good six weeks enduring a chronic fatigue syndrome flare-up as a post-viral complication. Goodbye, February and most of March.

Another family member became hospitalised just after I recovered; April has been a blur of hospital visiting, but now I can hand-on-heart confirm that some parts of Waikato DHB’s facilities are working extremely well, and every single nurse I met was worth his or her weight in gold. Hearing that aged-care workers in hospitals and retirement homes had succeeded in getting a long-campaigned-for pay rise was the best news I heard during the three weeks and counting of my relative’s hospital stay.
#Green2017  has kicked off without me, and in jolly good form too, I must say.

I’m slowly dipping my toes back in the campaign terrain, and as with other active branch members all over the country, I’ll be out door-knocking, doing leaflet drops, supporting candidates at public meetings and generally wearing out my Greens campaign t-shirts.

One pic from last weekend: Kirikiroroa Hamilton Greens, about to inaugurate our door-knocking campaign for 2017. Candidates Sam Taylor (East) on left in blue skirt, and Jo Wrigley (West) with glasses and blue skinny jeans (but no sunhat!), accompanied by local crew.

We’ll be out somewhere in town most weekends, and potentially wearing the new Great Greens t-shirts at some future point in time, too!

(Original post July 2013, for some unidentified reason WP re-dated this post when I edited a couple of typo’s during the summer.)

I realise that many readers of this blog will think that I am merely an artsy, stroppy feminist with too many opinions traversing policy areas across the spectrum. This is a deliberate strategy that I have undertaken for this stream of publication.

So to ‘break the fourth wall’, I am now going to give you a little of my IRL specifics, in order that what I say about the GCSB Bill now before the House in New Zealand, has a little more validity.

I have been around the IT industry in our country since my early university days. Yep, I failed Comp 101, because it bored me rigid, rather than not understanding how to write binary code. I didn’t want to end up working with those kinda people, doing that kinda work. My sister is of a different personality type, and she loved it, and has had a twenty-five-year career (and counting) in IT, as has my ex-husband. It was during my marriage that I learned most of what I know about the internet, due to contracts my then-husband was working on for his employer, a major MNC which operates in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

Don’t kid yourselves that there is anything ‘private’ about what you do on the net.

Don’t buy into the idea that you are ‘a consumer’, the internet is ‘a product’, nor that it is there to entertain you.

What we now call the internet began as Arpanet and DArpanet, projects of the USA Department of Defense, in collaboration with research projects at hand-picked Universities in the USA. It was originally an IT research program to create a secure way of transmitting and collecting data for the DOD. These days, we’d call that an intranet, similar to the kind of WAN that operates inside most corporations for administrative purposes.

The Bill going through our Parliament at the moment is a stage of DOD ‘taking back’ the internet from public use. Surveillance and transmission of surveilled data was always the primary purpose of the net; the Patriot Act in 2001, followed by Terrorism Suppression legislation in most global jurisdictions, was a first attempt to ‘plug the holes’. Creating crimes of knowledge, of dissemination of information, was the beginning of a global campaign by DOD to regain domination of the medium of internet traffic.

It is obvious in the trial of Chelsea Manning, the attempts to smear and discredit Julian Assange of Wikileaks, the hunting down of Edward Snowden (still on-going), that the DOD is very serious about extending its’ capacities to control activities outside the borders of the USA.

This is a breach of the sovereignty of every other nation on earth, and most people are just going to sit by and watch as it happens, not making the connections to totalitarian control of their own lives.

So, on these grounds, I urge every thinking citizen of Aotearoa/New Zealand to join in the protests against the GCSB Bill that is before the House. There is a nationwide protest organised for Saturday 27th July 2013, all events beginning at 2pm.
Because this is only the thin end of a wedge that will see a totalitarian surveillance society established in every nation in the world, if we, the people, do not stop it. It’s too late to make submissions, but this is something anyone can do.
Events in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Dunedin, Napier are listed on FB and there is also a general group for discussion. (outlinks)

Our MP’s have spoken out against this Bill – here on frogblog and here and here on the main Greens website.

If you want to access the submissions that went to the Select Committee hearings, they can be found here (pdf to download).

If you want to view the submissions made during the hearings, video has been uploaded to You-tube. (outlinks)
Submitters Thomas Beagle, from Tech Liberty, Susan Chalmers and Jordan Carter from Internet NZ, Micheal Koziarski, Vikram Kumar, Simon Terry, all made submissions as working professionals contracting in the IT industry.
Keith Locke and Kate Dewes and Robert Green (nuclear disarmament activists) made submissions on the political aspects of the Bill.

Housing policies, again.

January 14, 2017


(Image from Schrader, p161)

In my 2016 roundup post at the end of December, I mentioned housing policy, which  is a ‘wicked problem’ that currently fills a lot of newspaper column inches, policy research reports, and is increasingly the most criticised area of Government inaction over this term of Government. 

National Ministers are not having an easy ride on this one. Since assuming power after the 2008 elections, John Key showed himself to be a populist PM, who despite starting out with an agenda of neoliberal policy changes (State-Owned Enterprise sales, privatisation of HNZ, reduction of public services across a whole range of Ministries, mining in our National Parks, etc…), proved to be guided more by frequent polling of voters’ opinions than by his more ideologically bound Party stalwarts or coalition government partners.

After the rather smooth, but startling, transfer of power from Key to Bill English in the final Sitting week of the House in December 2016, there have been rumblings of a sea-change in a variety of policy areas. 

Housing is one of those areas, where Minister Nick Smith found himself in hot water many times; the SHA’s, which turned out NOT to be Crown-acquired land, after a PR stunt involving bussing journalists around to look at sites in Auckland, and the strange case of the thousand-year old stonefields site in Ihumatao, a fomer quarry and traditional kainga of Tainui, which is now deemed a profitable location by Fletchers with the closure of the Puketutu Island sewage treatment ponds. 

It is close to Mangere Bridge, where Te Puea Marae kick-started a major project to help the homeless by opening their doors in the winter of 2016. Ihumatao is also right beside Auckland International airport, and has been considered reserve land, managed by the local Hapu for generations – one of the last sites of traditional occupation left in the Auckland isthmus.

Since the initial protests around redevelopment at Glenn Innes, where HNZ properties were originally to have been trucked off for resale (being, as they are, completely sound houses), there has been a lot of resistance by HNZ tenants to being evicted on spurious grounds from tenancies they have upheld to the letter. 

Attempts to demonise tenants by using dodgy American meth-testing franchises, who have moved into NZ in a ‘business expansion’ exercise reminiscent of Amway, have been exposed by the media during 2016, and yet the powers that be in MBIE, the Ministry that has acquired most of the former Ministry of Housing (one of the first casualties of English’s ascension to leadership) are still keen to gain clear, untenanted possession of those properties in Glenn Innes, where the attractively-named Tamaki Development Corporation (owned on paper by Minister Joyce, English and a consortium of private investors whose names stay in the shadows…) are quietly seeding stories in the media of a potential big overseas corporate buyer.

This selloff of land that was acquired specifically to bring Tūhoe Iwi into the city in the 1940’s and ’50’s, which contains in one of it’s pleasant streets with a view over the estuary, Te Tī Marae, dedicated to the Tūhoe ancestors, is nothing but a 21st century land grab of magnificent proportions. The land at Glenn Innes was acquired as a swap with the Crown, in recompense for refusing to allow replacement of papakainga housing on land that went into Crown management in the Ureweras in the early part of the 20th century, after the raids on Mangapohatu in 1916 which were intended to stifle the growing popularity of the Ringatu sect and their prophet Rua Kenana.

Tamaki Development Corporation have quietly elided over this history, and proclaim themselves the fit and proper entity to pursue the sale of this lucrative piece of land – whose property values have increased since the demise of the meatworks in Panmure that used to discharge effluent into the Tamaki estuary, leaving a taint of offal smell wafting up the banks of the slope as far as Te Tī Marae. Of course, many of the inhabitants of those HNZ properties were workers at the meatworks, and other industrial sites in Panmure, Mt Wellington and further afield. 

History is a funny old thing. There are many good and beautifully produced histories of Government Ministries and their major policies; we have a Ministry of Culture and Heritage that commissions such work, and in the past, it was done under the aegis of the Historical Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs.

My researches recently have brought me to some fine publications descending from those official government historians.

Of note are the works of Ben Schrader, We call it Home – A history of State Housing in New Zealand, published by Reed in 2005, and Gael Ferguson’s Building the New Zealand Dream, published by DIA in Wellington in conjunction with Dunmore Press in Palmerston North, 1994.
These two texts, both produced with full assistance of the National Archives and funded by the relevant Ministries, elaborate on the 1990’s sale of HNZ properties, and the ideological build-up to those sales. 

I was surprised to discover that the incoming National Government began the policy of selling State Houses (initially with low-interest loans & low deposits) to their tenants immediately upon gaining office in 1950, even as State Housing was still being built in huge quantities during the post-War baby boom. The policies hinged on selecting working class tenants of ‘good character’, during those years of full employment, and converting them into suburban, middle-class families by the simple expedient of allowing them to gain home ownership.

The glaring cognitive dissonance of this policy came to fruition in the ’90’s under Bolger’s leadership of that National Government. By then, State Housing had morphed into the Housing Corporation, built a few eyesore office buildings which still pepper the regions’ CBD’s, and begun a program of market-rate renting which saw HNZ properties vacated by the working poor, the disabled and pensioners, who could no longer afford to rent them on their fixed incomes. 

This was lauded as a policy success, and the best-built examples of State Housing stock were promptly sold off to private speculators, some of whom developed extensive rental property portfolios; some just held the property long enough to make a good capital gain & then flicked it on to new owners, often young couples who wanted a first home in an established area – these were mostly the ‘pepper-potted’ integrated housing areas, and in desirable suburbs like Woburn in Lower Hutt.
Thus in the 90’s, Bolger and Shipley’s Governments oversaw the largest net removal of social housing units in our history, and concurrently increased homelessness by returning HNZ tenants to the slums that State Housing had been initiated to destroy. Not bad for a King Country farmer and a former GM of Playcentre New Zealand.

“David Thorns, sociologist, argues that the market didn’t respond the way the Government predicted: “It appears that the supplement may have simply raised rents and thus landlord’s profits … there has not been a large increase in low-cost units of accommodation.” (P78, Schrader)

The roots of the current Housing Crisis, therefore, sit within the privatisation ideology and policies of the 1990’s, and the dogged determination of the current National Caucus to continue with the privatisation agenda. A thirty-year lag in producing low-income housing, at which the market has truly failed, has seen low-waged working families, and all other categories of unwaged households, suffer from the incredibly short-sighted policies that only looked to the profits to be made from private financial speculation in housing, and did not consider the national need for housing across all demographic and occupational classes.

Time to #ChangeTheGovernment

2016 is coming to an end.

December 24, 2016

Firstly, Happy Holidays to everyone who is getting time to spend with their loved ones.


Now that I’ve caught your attention, spare a thought for those who are working through the seasonal festivities – in hospitals, driving ambulances, keeping petrol stations and call centres and other emergency services running, so that all of us keep our first-world privileges if anything goes wrong.
It’s been a rough year for a lot of people. A multi-party inquiry into Homelessness in Aotearoa/New Zealand produced this Report on Homelessness, and in July in the U.K., David Cameron resigned as PM after a Brexit result to his Referendum on Membership of the EU, not quite what he was expecting. Teresa May stepped into the vacancy as the next Tory PM, and the country as a whole began ticking off the similarities with Baroness Thatcher, who is so recently deceased as not to have left the battered consciousness of those who lived through the 1980’s.

Two months after the Homelessness Inquiry was completed, our own PM John Key resigned one Monday morning, having apparently woken up & decided he couldn’t be arsed any more, and Bronagh agreed with him. When The National caucus agreed with his estimation of Bill English as the best man for the job, they swore in the new PM at Gov House on December 12th, the first State Function performed by an equally startled Dame Patsy Reddy, whose inauguration as Governor-General was still in very recent memory.

Across the Atlantic, Trump won the US Presidential elections in November, startling most of the pundits, journalists and political insiders, including those inside his own Republican Party hierarchy. Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton still won the popular vote by over 3 million votes, but it’s the Electoral College that counts, and the votes in the big Republican states confirmed Trump’s win. Odd system, American ‘democracy’.

President Obama has provided a few good internet memes on the subject of ‘How to train a trump to be President’, go look for yourself on Twitter before @Potus is taken over by the orange menace.
I spent a lot of 2015 writing about Housing policy failures, and neglecting this blog. Some day, I may get bored enough to upload those research essays, but don’t hold your breath.

Much of 2016 has been about researching early settler/colonisation history, mostly in Otago as My O-week posts in February attest. 

I can highly recommend the Hocken Library to anyone wanting a great, supportive atmosphere in which to research NZ history. #DunedinIsGreat became a fav hashtag for a while. The Otago Museum, the Heritage Room at Dunedin Public Library, the Knox College Archives, Tōitu Settlers Museum and the Otago Regional Archives all served to augment my research journey. I did trace one loose end down in Auckland Public Library Heritage Room, as well. Librarians are awesome, I’m such a fan of professional archivists and librarians!

I also managed to squeeze in attending Prof Barbara Brooks’ launch of The Hisory of NZ Women, a text that will reverberate for the next generation of feminist historians, and catch a little of the conference her book launch was associated with, in February. Then on my way through Wellington on the way home, I caught up with friends and colleagues at the Proud Conference on Human Rights and Health at Otago Med School, Wellington campus, in March.

In May, I was present for the launch of the Neglect and Nurture Report, by Poverty Action Waikato researchers Dr Anna Casey & Dr Rose Black. This report came out at a pre-Budget function, which was well-attended by representatives of local NGO’s working hard to address housing and inequality issues in our region. That report can be found here.

My next conference was the Greens’ AGM in Lincoln, Canterbury, followed by my second short trip to Dunedin. Fortuitously, my friend Nicky Hager was speaking at the Foreign Policy School during the mid-year break, so I snuck into that conference to hear him, and stayed to listen to a few stunned British Professors speak about ForPol in the wake of Brexit. Well worth pulling my post-grad researcher privileges to get into that one, and sponsorship by MFAT meant the catering was somewhat awesome! 

On my way back through Wellington, I stopped long enough to do a quick oral presentation to the Social Services Select Committee, with a couple of days of hot-desk support from the Greens’ National Office, which was much appreciated.

 This was a foretaste of the second half of the year, as my travels took me to Wellington twice more: for the Social Movements, Resistance & Social Change III 2016 conference, held at VUW in early September (and my first conference presentation on my thesis research area, Anarchist Feminist Herstory in Aotearoa NZ), and then back again in October for a week beginning with the release of The Homelessness Inquiry Report in the Legislative chamber of Parliament. 


L-R: Andrew Little speaking; panel at table MP’s Marama Fox (M), Metiria Turei (G), PHIL Twyford (L), Marama Davidson (G), and guest speaker Hurimoana Dennis from Te Puea Marae, Mangere, Auckland.

Then to Barry Coates’ Maiden Speech in the House later in the week, and in between, another Select Committee oral submission, this time with one I’d fully prepared at home before I travelled.
I couldn’t have done so much without family and friends who let me sleep on couches and spare beds, all over the country. It was truly a very busy year, and there is a lot of ‘shut up and write’ still to do, and coincidentally, there will be a lot to do locally for Kirikiriroa-Hamilton branch in the leadup to #Green2017 campaigning for the General Election.

I’m going to chill out a bit, do some swimming and maybe some cycling, after I get through Xmas Day; my family are all ‘adult children’ now, with their own plans this year, so I am spending tomorrow prepping & cooking some vegetables, then serving Xmas Dinner with the Hamilton Homeless Trust; a practical counterpoint to the intellectual writing and research I have spent so much time on over the past two years. Sometimes you just need to roll up your sleeves & get stuck in. I have the hugest respect for the crews who are cooking a hot meal every week night at Attitude in Hood St, some of whom I know. It gives me great pleasure to step in and give a hand, to let the regulars have a break.

Have a safe and happy festive season, seeya on the flip side in 2017.

Le Matt Juste

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