Tuesday, March 29, 2016

President's Report December 2015

 President's Report     12 December 2015                             Janet Robin

Tēnā kōutou katoa, Greetings everyone.

The lack of affordable housing, and the government's attack on state housing, has been a major issue this year.  Deaths of State Housing tenants, including a small girl, due to poor housing conditions such as mould and lack of insulation, hit the headlines early in the year. Increasing numbers of individuals and families are becoming homeless, living on the streets or in cars, garages etc.  And yet the government continues to sell off state housing.

Several of our members attended a meeting in Glen Innes in February, which had been called to set up a national network of housing activists. A new organisation was formed called the State Housing Action Network.

Around this time the National Party Minister, Nick Smith was addressing a public meeting in Henderson, and some of our members picketed this meeting.

Keith and myself became the delegates for West Auckland for SHAN. Unite Waitemata gave its full support to SHAN and to this West Auckland branch.   As West Auckland SHAN and Unite Waitemata  we worked hard to distribute flyers, petitions, and posters, contacting the local media, and calling a public meeting in Henderson. The meeting was well attended, with a large contingent from Glen Innes present, and some people from local housing and community organisations,  political parties, and  community boards. Despite this initial burst of energy and enthusiasm, the level of energy and commitment to this type of activism was not sustained throughout the year. I planned to do a screening of the film "A Place to Call Home", at one of our branch meetings; but not many people attended and the video player didn't work.

Unite Waitemata renewed its action around housing towards the end of the year, when some of our members participated in the hikoi for housing, organised by   the Child Poverty Action Group, Auckland Action Against Poverty, and others.

Attacks upon beneficiaries have escalated, with many reports of appalling treatment of beneficiaries at WINZ offices. Since the shooting at a WINZ office in Ashburton at the end of2014, WINZ offices now have security guards at every door.

The extra $25 per week for families on benefits, included in this year's budget, came after strong public pressure to do something about poverty, poor housing, and homelessness. Most beneficiaries see it as being too little too late.

For much of this year we have met at a room on the grounds of the St Lukes Church, in Mt Albert, because of a large increase in the cost of hiring a room at the Avondale Community Centre. The Mt Albert room was much cheaper, and quite comfortable, but some people found it difficult to get there, and attendance dropped off. Some of our members are currently looking for another room for 2016.

After the Australian Government passed draconian laws preventing people from getting welfare benefits or tax concessions if they didn't vaccinate their children, our branch voted to oppose this, and to oppose our government doing anything similar here, should it wish to do in the future.

Our members have attended several rallies and demonstrations about the TPPA, Climate Change, Refugees and other issues.

I have continued to help people with issues with WINZ.

Our two facebook groups are still going reasonably strong- the Waitemata Unite Group, and the Unite Waitemata Community Page. Not much has been posted on our website http://waitemataunite.blogspot.co.nz   however I recently edited the page slightly and changed some of the colours. We can still be contacted at unitewaitemata@gmail.com.

 I recently attended the 2015 Unite National Conference. Some of the security guards at WINZ offices are members of Unite. A delegate reported that they work under poor working conditions and don't feel safe.  Gerard Heihir , the Secretary of Unite, reported that he had spoken to the PSA, as instructed  by a remit introduced by Unite Waitemata to the 2014 Unite  National Conference, and   passed at that conference. The remit asked him to talk to the PSA about  supporting  the rights of beneficiaries, and opposing the welfare cuts;  in order to create safety for both beneficiaries and case managers at WINZ. However, apparently the PSA told him that their focus was on security, rather than prevention of problems by creating good relationships and supporting people's human rights.

Recently it was revealed that Work and Income had been wrongly starting the payment of people's benefits a day late whenever they enrolled for a benefit since 1998.  So some people have applied for a refund of their missing days' pay, and are starting to get paid for this. It is still possible to get some money back up till January 8th 2016, but the Government has now passed a law preventing people getting their money back after that.  More information is on the Waitemata Unite Group page  on Facebook, and on the page Claim Your Missing  Day  from W@I.

Some of us recently attended a picket of the National Party end of year party , in Te Atatu, organised by Auckland Action Against Poverty.

Our activism reduced a little in the second part of the year. Our core group remains committed and we will continue to meet in 2016.