There have been a lot of very interesting workshops and discussion groups facilitated by the campers at Occupy Wellington, with many outside speakers coming down to share an hour or two with those interested.

On Wednesday, despite afternoon rain that left the campsite soggy and some spirits dampened, former Green MP Jeanette Fitzsimons stopped by the campsite with some of the crew from Generation Zero, to talk in an informal open discussion about climate change, activism, and her own personal political history.
She was only in Wellington for a day for meetings, and graciously added a visit to Occupy Wellington to her schedule. The discussion began around 4.30pm, and needed to finish promptly at ten to six, as she was part of a panel on MMP speaking at Te Papa, just across on the waterfront from the campsite.
Despite much tent-shifting and space-changing that had gone on in the previous two days of wind and rain, one useable space was ‘floor-cleared’, and the talk began with a carpet of young people closely snugged-up in the largest water-tight tent available. Jeanette took this all in her stride, joking that her plastic chair made her look enthroned amongst the cross-legged throng seated on the canvas floor.

The cosy tent workshop

The cosy tent workshop

The spare floor-space seen in this photo was quickly filled up by late-comers, and the discussions were intelligent and humourous as Jeanette responded to questions about what got her into activism, some practical details about how groups were organised back in the 70’s and 80’s before the internet came along, and some personal reminiscences about her days in the Values party during the long campaign against nuclear shop visits to Aotearoa, which culminated in the passing of the Nuclear-free legislation that we all take so much for granted these days.

This is how the campsite was looking on the day:

Jack Illott Green showing it's swampy derivation

Jack Illott Green showing it's swampy derivation

Note the larger puddly bits – it has been getting very muddy and boggy in places around the campsites, which are beginning to be referred to as ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ – there has been some movement of tents to allow the grass to air again where yellowing is taking place, so don’t think that all those yellow patches refer to campers who have left – it’s just some grounds management going on.

Next up for the camp is another weekend of workshops and speakers 29-30th October, and then some hijinks for Halloween, as Capital E puts on events for children after-school and early evening, which may encourage some halloween dressups by the locals of Occupy Wellington. There’s also a critical mass bike ride on the 28th October, 5pm from Civic Square, with a Halloween costume theme.

Lots to see and do, pop by if you’re in town and at a loose end, looks like the weather is clearing up in time for the weekend events.

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

Gig poster

Gig poster


Tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of the raids in Ruatoki and other places, so there’s a few events to mark the passage of this time.

14th October – Solidarity gig in Wellington

An amazing line-up of musicians including Riki Gooch, Imon Starr, Mara TK, and Bennie Tones will play a free gig at the Southern Cross on Friday, October 14th to celebrate the solidarity and support given to the many people involved in the Urewera case over the past four years.

FREE Gig to commemorate the four-year anniversary of the State Terror Raids on communities throughout Aotearoa, and to celebrate the on-going solidarity and support for the defendants.

Featuring Riki Gooch, Mara TK, Imon Starr, Vanessa Stacey, DJ Hammondhead, Mikki D, Sheeq n La, and Benny Tones.

Venue: Southern Cross, Abel Smith Street, Wellington
Date: 14th October 2011
Time: from 9pm

Operation 8: Deep in the forest

There are opportunities around the country to see the ‘Operation 8’ documentary. The film is now also available on DVD. Have a look in your local DVD store for a copy. For more information see
http://cutcutcut.com/Operation8.html

Waiheke – Waiheke Cinema
Friday, 14 Oct, 8pm

Devenport – Victoria Picture Palace
Thursday, 13 Oct, 3pm
Friday, 14 Oct, 3pm
Saturday, 15 Oct, 3pm
Sunday, 16 Oct, 3pm
Monday, 17 Oct, 3pm
Tuesday, 18 Oct, 3pm
Wednesday, 19 Oct, 3pm

Auckland – Academy Cinema
Thursday, 13 Oct, 12.30pm
Friday, 14 Oct, 12.30pm
Saturday, 15 Oct, 3.45pm
Sunday, 16 Oct, 3.45pm
Monday, 17 Oct, 12.30pm
Tuesday, 18 Oct, 12.30pm
Wednesday, 19 Oct, 12.30pm

Raglan – The Old School
Friday, 14 Oct, 7.30pm

Whakatane – Cinema 5
15 Oct – time tbc

New Plymouth – Arthouse Cinema
17 Oct – time tbc

Wellington – The Paramount
Saturday, 15 Oct, 11.45am
Saturday, 15 Oct, 6.15pm

Dunedin – Metro Cinema
Screenings start 15 Oct

Tonite's panel. Oops, couldn't get Heather Roy into the frame ...

Tonite's panel. Oops, couldn't get Heather Roy into the frame ...


This week’s line-up included ACT MP Heather Roy’s last attendance, supported by Labour MP Lianne Dalziel from Christchurch East, National MP Todd McClay from Rotorua and Green MP Kevin Hague, who although a list MP lives on the West Coast, and maintains a strong interest in the affairs of the local constituents.

The ‘Double-downgrade’, as it’s being called (‘a fiscal fact you can choke on’?) was the headline topic as Wallace and Damian rolled into a wet and windy Wellington show.

Most of the pub tables were taken up by members of PRINZ, the professional body for PR people, so it was a very different crowd than usual, despite an influx of young Labour supporters right before the show started. I lucked into a seat just before the filming began, but had to rely on the screens for a view as the wall of student shoulders clustered around the bar and the stage manager’s taped white line on the floor totally obscured the panel!

‘Teh News’ roundup focused, not surprisingly, on Dan Carter’s groin strain, and we were apprised of Wallace’s degree of compassion on this issue as he castigated Damian for his frivolity and told us all that he’d experienced groin strain and it was no laughing matter. Cue Damian heading off-screen to recover as Wallace went on with the script.
Ahem, Wallace, if you’re reading – TMI, darling, only your lovely girlfriend needs to know the state of your groin, mm hmm, ‘kay?
The rest of us would have been happy to have remained in ignorance of the depth of your experience in the matter under discussion ….

Back to politics again, Wallace went round the panel asking them how serious the Standard & Poors and Fitch downgrades are for the NZ economy. Fascinating, I could almost hear Sir Roger’s teeth grinding somewhere in Wellington by telepathy as Heather answered. The rest went through their paces, with Kevin making very good points about the cost of rebuilding Christchurch having had a strong effect on the decision to downgrade.
Then Damian spoke to NZIER principal economist Shamubeel Eaqub, who must be one of the smartest of the young crop of economists in NZ. He gave us all a good perspective on how much difference there is between an AA+ and an AA rating, and Damian quipped that he’d have been happy with either grade on any of his university papers, which got a solid laugh from the wall of students. The short version of what the effects of this downgrade might be was not looking good for property speculators, exporters, or even just those running businesses in NZ.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for mortgages to get more accessible, those who aspire to get into their first home any time in the next five years. (I’m getting déjà-vu from the late 80’s, am I the only one?)

Then Heather Roy got the topic of her choice and completely shot herself in the foot by saying that women are less engaged in politics than men, in her opinion, and that it’s not good enough … curiously, Damian couldn’t find anyone willing to support Heather in this view, and did find several members of the audience (male and female) who roundly contradicted that point, which was then carried on further by the other panel members. The overwhelming conclusion was that women are large-scale participators in NZ democracy, but maybe just not in the ACT party. Lolz all round.

Peter McCaffrey managed to win a book prize for answering a patsy question on ‘Who am I?’ which was engineered to find the young ACT supporters in the room, who’d been pretty silent while Heather was speaking. (The politician described was Sir Roger Douglas ….) I wonder if he’s ever read a short story by Katherine Mansfield, or knows anything about her? Perhaps it will make a good gift for his mother ….

PRINZ then got their moment in the sun, during a panel round on the importance of public relations in politics. Damian spoke to Daniel Paul, the MD at Four Winds Communication Ltd, who gave a very smooth, ‘Mad Men’ performance in support of the PR industry. Todd McClay professed ignorance of which PR company the National Party uses, which only made him look like an uninformed/disingenuous twat as it appeared most of the room, and indeed all the other politicians, knew the answer to that one. This segued into a discussion around the use of social media, and some vox pop’s on internet privacy issues with specific relevance to FB. Lolz, school holidays bring out the best in crowd-sourced opinion!

Todd did however win the Quiz round, and has a lovely book to take home, ‘The Great Crash ahead: strategies for a world turned upside down.‘ Let’s hope he hands it on to his esteemed leader when he’s finished dealing with his insomnia.

The final round up included Kevin Hague’s strong statement about the need for better safety for miners in the wake of the Royal Commission on the Pike River disaster, which has seen truly damning evidence produced by mines safety experts and the Pike River Mine management. Lianne Dalziel made an impassioned plea for further support for Christchurch from the rest of us, after thanking everyone for all the support given so far. Todd McClay thanked all the valedictorians for their service in Parliament, and Heather Roy thanked Wallace and Damian for ‘telling the story of politics’ and ‘having her on’. Can only say roflmao…

The full episode can be viewed here, if you want more detail than this post has provided.
There’s one more Back Benches in Wellington before they set off for their Summer Tour around the country, so if you’re local get down to Back Benches next week and if you’re out in the provinces, watch out, they’re coming your way soon.

BTW, if anyone thinks I’m being a little harsh on Heather, at least I’m not an ACT member with a politics blog who regularly has a go at her – see here for Cactus Kate’s view of the blonde mother-of-five. Friends like these, as they say.

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