Thursday, 25 August 2011

Time to take up placards?

"How r u supposd 2 deal with EQC when their systems aren't showing correct info. I can see my claim online & c info they can't & won't! #eqnz" - @sherdooce on Twitter

Christchurch, I'm tired. I'm tired of seeing the stress people are under, I'm tired of feeling the stress myself, I'm tired of being abused because I'm the most accessible person who'll actually talk to people over the phone. Coming out of winter people have power bills in the hundreds or thousands that they don't know how to pay - WINZ are telling them to apply for a Red Cross grant that closed a month ago. The plight of those in the residential red zone who are waiting for (often inadequate) payments has been documented and reported on, but I wonder how many people know that repair work on houses in the orange and white zones stopped as soon as came out? I've come across families that are hoping to be lucky enough that when half their house is knocked down they'll be able to sling a tarpaulin up and live in the other half. I've had people tell me that the damage to their home isn't too bad now that the wall has been propped up to keep it from collapsing. I've talked to at least one person who came down with pneumonia while living in a barely-heated house.

It's easy to say there's help available, it's easy to say people can leave, it's easy to say that living without plumbing isn't that bad. But the information government offices have is out of date or just plain wrong, WINZ turns people down for emergency funds because they earn too much or they've already had their meagre allotment or they haven't exhausted other options, even though no one knows what those options are - either because they can't afford the methods of seeking them out (eg internet, daily newspapers) or because they're poorly advertised. Other people know they'd be able to manage their costs if they moved away, but it's impossible to find the money for transport, moving trucks, somewhere to stay while they find a new home, bond, rent in advance. Some decided early on that they could manage without help, but now are realising they hadn't anticipated how costly things were going to be - and many sources of assistance have dried up several months down the track. And anyone who lives in several particular suburbs in the east knows about the stench of human filth, the effort it takes to carry chemical toilet tanks to a septic station, the frequent trips to arrange around small children or availability of home help, the feeling that you're never quite clean enough.

The fact is that financially things are only getting worse for a lot of people, and it's falling upon private charity to help keep people's heads above the rising tide. And private charity can't do it all.

On September 5, Cabinet are meeting at the Copthorne Hotel in the Christchurch city centre. If I recall correctly, this is the first time they've met outside Wellington in well over a decade - it's clearly supposed to be some kind of symbolic gesture rather than pure coincidence, especially given the date. Unfortunately, symbolic gestures are not what we need. We need help. If we can't get it from government helplines, we still have the right to peaceful protest, and this seems like the perfect opportunity. I want pickets. I want placards. I want our government to see that we're not going to go away. I want to hear what they have to say about their complete failure to protect the people they're supposed to represent. Am I the only one?



  2. Thanks stephen - considering I'm late posting I can't have been far behind them in thinking about this. Already planning to take that day off work. For other readers, there's a further link there to the Action for Christchurch East blog.