Anyone living in Christchurch couldn’t have missed the build up to the ‘Save the Cathedral’ rally that took place on Saturday 26th May. It had been advertised on the air waves, in the local papers, flyers dropped in our letter box’s and posted on the roadside, the resources behind this project were massive. We were led to believe it would be the mother of all demonstrations since September 4th 2010, that the Minister for the Earthquake Recovery and leaders of the Anglican Church would not be able to ignore the people this time.
An estimated 2000 attended – Gerry Brownlee’s response? Within a matter of hours he simply dismissed any argument the organisers may have had and sided with the Church to demolish the Cathedral. 3 News article here: Cathedral-protests-unrealistic
At the same time as the Cathedral Rally Occupy Christchurch, Social Housing activists and numerous community organisers came together outside of Gerry Brownlee’s National Party Office to remind him that not everyone was wrapped up in the Cathedral frenzy. Around 70 people planted their placards and banners into the front lawn of the property. With messages such as “Freeze the rent”, “Rent is too damn high” and “Homes now business later” people from all walks of life, ages and backgrounds spoke of their disbelief in the Cathedral Rally and the official response to the Earthquakes.
“We can not ignore the fact that 1000’s of people are prepared to take to the streets demanding a greater involvement in the rebuild and planning of private buildings when at the same time we have thousands of people living in red zoned houses, families renting space in garages and individuals calling the car their home? Has it become so hopeless than we are left to vent our frustrations at the Church?” Anonymous protestor
The protest organisers suggested all participants have a korero to air people’s ideas and see what we hoped to achieve. Initially talk took the direction of big picture issues such as how the city was being redesigned and organised but we were reminded that the big scale issues quickly leave us as individuals feeling overwhelmed and powerless. Supporters of Otautahi Solidarity Network put forward the idea that we needed to focus on the issues in our neighbourhoods. If we focused our energies on bad landlords and greedy bosses a group of 70 people armed with banners, flags and passion could really start to make a difference. The idea was received warmly, contact details were shared and links between the various groups were established.
O.S.N has the potential of being a vehicle of change in our broken city – starting off with small-scale victories it may not be long before we start seeing some real change and force CERA and Brownlee to change their course of direction.
In recent days Mike Peters, organiser for Addington Action made a call on social media “We need a real fight over housing in Christchurch.” Mike has achieved incredible feats restoring houses that otherwise would still be ice boxes and potential death traps. When people on the ground getting their hands dirty start making calls like this you now things are getting serious.
Now is the time to start putting the word out – if you or someone you know is facing horrendous rent hikes, being forced out of their home, had their hours cut or being made redundant get in touch. O.S.N doesn’t pretend to have a magic wand but what we do have is experience, ideas and a will to help others help themselves. O.S.N can be contacted here:
facebook: otautahi soldiarity network
twitter: otautahi sol net
We will get back in touch and ask for more information, the O.S.N team will then discuss the issues raised among ourselves and get back in touch once we have an idea of what could be done.
O.S.N is always looking for individuals and groups that want to get involved. If you would like to know more flick us a message.
A Housing Summit follow-up meeting will be held on Friday June 1st at the Knox Church Hall.
“The purpose of the meeting will be to mark progress from the May 9 Housing Summit in the provision of rental accommodation in Christchurch”, says summit organiser, Cr. Glenn Livingstone. “June the 1st is the first day of Winter. It will be critical that we ask ourselves, ‘what are we doing about providing further rental accommodation in Christchurch?’. We are all stakeholders in this and by joining up our ideas and actions, we can make progress”.
Cr. Livingstone says that the main housing providers such as Housing New Zealand and the City Council will be asked to give an update on what they have done since the May 9 meeting to provide further accommodation. A steering group that has met since then will put several proposed action points to the meeting, asking for a mandate to act on them.
This is a public meeting, beginning at 10 am at the Knox Church Hall, corner of Bealey Avenue and Victoria Streets, Christchurch.