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

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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!

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.

I’ve been thinking about the future of work, a policy area Labour have focussed on for some months now.
This area has received a lot of heat from union groups particularly, due to the predictions about automation resulting in the loss of whole categories of boring, minimum wage jobs. Great! Say the utopianists, they can all retrain as computer coders and analysts!

Not so fast, say the working classes themselves.
We already have a situation where female-dominated industries are lowest-paid, and where ‘women’s work’ type jobs (service, caring), while understood to be essential to society, are remunerated at starvation levels (we do these tasks for free in our homes, any woman does, thus the skills are ubiquitous and female; not skills at all, really, so why pay highly for them? – thus goes the sexist reasoning.)
Men are suddenly coming to terms with the élitism that tells them ‘some traditionally male-dominated skills and industries are not worth protecting’, that they are on the lowest rung of the employment hierarchy ladder, so please jump off now, you’re being a drag on the rest of us.
The furore, then, is driven by men suddenly being treated the way women have been, for decades – as expendable, as temporary additions to the workforce, to be laid off on a whim, to be hidden unemployed within households, and to be kept in society under sufferance, because the traditional rôle of the father in the family is sacrosanct.
That grates, right? When I call upon traditional family roles to explain why unemployed men are being denied assistance of even the most basic kind, if they have a working wife/partner.
Because those ‘gender neutral’ welfare rules were designed to maintain a reserve army of female labour, in case of need (eg: another WW2 situation, when women were called into employment to keep the country running, while the men served in uniform.)
If we have driverless cars/buses, an Internet of things running our computerised households, automated industry – where does that leave the poor, the working classes who are currently the precariate, living on random rostered hours, struggling to pay the rent, food, power and other household costs?

We have hollowed out society at our peril.
The insouciant disregard of our PM to the issue of child poverty is a symptom of the disease – an élite who are setting up systems to privilege themselves further, and destroy the ‘unnecessary’ workers in their new world order.
At a recent conference I attended in Wellington last month, a call for a Universal Basic Income was bookended around the launch of a new left wing think-tank, ESRA – Economic & Social Research Aotearoa – and the keynote speaker, Nick Srnicek, who has recently published “Inventing the Future – Postcapitalism and a World Without Work” through Verso Books. 

The book is well worth obtaining, imho, and I read it while struggling with a dose of the ‘flu, so I reckon it’s pretty accessible. I’m not going to give a potted plot, go look it up at Verso Books for yourself.


(Gratuitous pic of Srinicek from the launch. Excuse grainy image, the lights were low for the PowerPoint. )
The main takeaway from that week, for me anyway, is that employers have pushed precarity in casual roster employment to the brink of killing their workforce, have shaved worker allowances to the bone, and capitalism is still losing ground; doing away with human workers is the next step. 

Welfare systems worldwide have responded to the GFC with ‘austerity measures’, governments have cried poor, bailed out banks, and generally given licence to corporations to carry on extracting profits as usual. Ministers and CEO’s are doing ok, but the general population are now more impoverished, the indebted and insecure than they were in 2008, at the height of the Recession.
If that’s not a textbook description of the conditions for revolution (à la Paris, 1789), then I don’t know what is, anymore. There is a movement back to a neo-feudal arrangement of landed gentry (or corporations), and a mass of peasants scrabbling for a living, which can’t possibly work because the population is an order of magnitude higher now than it was in the 18thC. 

The potential for Internet surveillance, demonisation of ‘out-groups’, the criminalisation of dissent, all are factors in the mix of society today, to be considered when any form of ‘activism from below’ is being developed.
Time to #changethegovernment

Today is very special for me. I’m a random tourist, doing some post-post-grad research in Dunedin currently, so I’ve been on Otago University campus a bit lately. Hocken Library is a national treasure, btw.

Today, OUSA Welfare exec Bryn Jenkins managed the Otago Uni re-launch of Thursdays in Black, the anti-violence campaign dating back to the 1990’s, formerly managed by the Tertiary Women’s Focus Group of NZUSA. It’s been in abeyance for a few years, due to funding shortfalls at NZUSA. Call that an outcome of the intersection between the incoming National Government in 2008, and the passing of the VSM legislation through Parliament, supported by ACT.

Violence, gendered and aimed at both biological sexes and most of the LGBTI+ spectrum, has not abated at the same rate as the funding to counter it. If anything, DV rates and alcohol-fuelled aggression have increased in proportion to the funding cuts announced in the devilish detail of every Bill English Budget since 2009.

I rant on about this stuff incessantly, offline and face-to-face with my feminist friends. I’ve written about issues around violence a lot. Seeing a fresh bunch of young people taking up the task of challenging NZ’s culture of violence inspires and energises me. 

There are many other initiatives out there as well – Shama in the Waikato, Shakti in Auckland & Wellington, to specifically address ethnic violence within their own cultures, youth support programs, Queer DV support networks; we need all of these groups. Getting TIB back up again on campus is a major win, though – because for many young people, this is their entry into thinking about consent, violence, social culture in NZ, the whole bowl of spaghetti.

  
Here’s Bryn, on the far right of the picture, with his fantastic vollie crew. Naww, aren’t they lovely!

Last night in Karori, the Wellington Central electorate had one of its first public meetings of the campaign period.

Sue Kedgley MC'ing

Sue Kedgley MC'ing


Outgoing MP Sue Kedgley, who has stood in Wellington Central for four consecutive terms of Parliament, hosted new Candidate James Shaw and sitting MP Dr Kennedy Graham, from Christchurch, for an evening of presentations and discussion about sustainable options for our economy, a smart green economic plan which has been rolling out in stages over the past couple of months.

Dr Kennedy Graham in mid-flight

Dr Kennedy Graham in mid-flight


Dr Graham spoke first, detailing the development of global policy initiatives developed during his time with UNDP – from the 1992 Rio Summit on Climate Change forwards, he has been in the vanguard of those trying to quantify, and provide a matrix of solutions for, a range of climate issues. He was our Green MP at Copenhagen 2010, and gave a sobering presentation on the changes that have occurred since that first conference in 1992. The win over ozone depletion of atmosphere was the best outcome of those years, but we have lost biodiversity, and seen global CO2 emissions rise far outside the protocols first discussed, then reviewed at each subsequent Climate Conference. The time is now at hand to be bold and bring our country into the possibility of a bright green future; it is not a time to sit on our hands and continue to say, ‘We’re so small, our emissions don’t rate against the big economies of China or the USA’, which is a cop-out taken by too many local commenters.

James Shaw making a point

James Shaw making a point


James Shaw then took the floor, and delivered an impressive presentation of the three key policies that the Greens are working on this election, to alleviate the pressures on kiwis that have been exacerbated by the global recession – Addressing Child Poverty in NZ, launched by Metiria Turei in West Auckland, Cleaning up NZ’s Rivers, launched by Dr Russel Norman in Wellington’s Waitangi Park just ten days ago, and a sneak peek at the next policy around energy sustainability, which I won’t go into here because it’s being launched on the 21st September, a mere three weeks away, so look out for the media on that when it happens.
Best one-line of the evening to James – “as Clinton said, ‘It’s the economy, stupid!’, or as Kennedy put it, ‘It’s the stupid economy!'”; which followed on from Dr Graham’s rather sobering facts and figures very well, as the discussion turned to ways of improving both our economy and our sustainability.

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