Beneficiary fighting on in court

Dunedin unemployment beneficiary Gordon Holmes is ploughing through the latest set of documents in his court case against Work and Income New Zealand and the Ministry of Social Development. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Dunedin unemployment beneficiary Gordon Holmes is ploughing through the latest set of documents in his court case against Work and Income New Zealand and the Ministry of Social Development. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Biting the hand that feeds him is a daily struggle for Dunedin unemployment beneficiary Gordon Holmes, who is embroiled in a legal dispute with Work and Income New Zealand (Winz) and the Ministry of Social Development.

Mr Holmes (58) has been awarded $17,000 in damages by the Human Rights Review Tribunal, to be paid by Winz for twice breaching the Privacy Act 1993 in respect of Mr Holmes' requests for personal information. The tribunal also ordered Winz to undertake a thorough review of its processes.

But its decision, dated August 30, has been appealed by the social development ministry.

The appeal was first called in the High Court at Dunedin yesterday, when Justice Graham Lang set a hearing date of February 7 next year.

Dunedin crown counsel Craig Power appeared for the ministry, Mr Holmes represented himself and Dunedin lawyer Taryn Gudmanz appeared for the Office of Human Rights Proceedings, which wished to be heard in respect of the case. All parties were given two weeks to file documents for a second court appearance in Dunedin on November 8, when further deadlines would be set for the February hearing.

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times outside court, Mr Holmes said he had "no end of trouble" with Winz since becoming a beneficiary years ago.

He moved to New Zealand in 1997 from England, where he was a self-employed painter.

But just two weeks shy of his 59th birthday, Mr Holmes doubted he would find work.

His vision was not good and he could not afford glasses.

"I just keep on fighting and they [Winz] don't like it," he said.

He asked Winz for personal information in August and October 2010, in an effort to understand why his benefit payments had changed by about $3 a week.

Mr Holmes complained to the Privacy Commissioner, claiming Winz did not take his requests seriously and did not respond to him in the time required by the Privacy Act.

The Human Rights Review Tribunal heard Mr Holmes' case last December and found in his favour, awarding him $17,000 in damages for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.

It ordered the ministry to review its processes to ensure full compliance with the Privacy Act and its own objectives and purposes.

Yesterday, Justice Lang made an order temporarily staying the review and payment of damages.

He also suggested a lawyer be instructed to provide legal advice to the court on points of appeal raised by the ministry, as Mr Holmes planned to represent himself and was not legally trained.

"I think it's important I have the benefit of legal input into your side of the case and I have it in mind to appoint a lawyer. The state would meet that cost," Justice Lang said.

But Mr Homes strongly opposed the suggestion, saying the court system was supposed to be user-friendly and he did not need a lawyer.

Justice Lang left the matter for further consideration.

 

They just don't tell us

Te jackle observes, regarding the Mr Holmes who is taking on WINZ after they not only treated him badly, consistently, but were found to have done so on appeal, "nowhere in the article does it say he didn't arrive here and go straight on the benefit either."  An astute observation.

The article was in fact appallingly shallow.  Did it tell us his star sign? No.  Did it mention whether he is or ever has been a vegan, or his opinion of Lay Gaga?

Blaming the shocking state of journalism in this country, I sympathise with Te jackle from the bottom of my heart. There is so much more we could know about this man, in addition to that which is relevant as news. [Abridged]

How do we know?

Sceptical: And nowhere in the article does it say he didn't arrive here and go straight on the benefit either. [Abridged]

Poor eyesight?

@bahrain expat: If you read the story properly rather than rushing to comment, Mr Holmes shifted here in 1997, when he was 43 years old. Only now that he is 58 is he having issues with his eyesight and being unable to afford glasses.

Nowhere in the story does it say that he came to NZ and pretty much went straight on to a benefit, which is what you are implying. It only states that in 2010 he made an enquiry to WINZ about his benefit being reduced, so you can deduce that at that time and at least shortly before that time he was on a benefit. From 1997 he may have been in work for a decade paying taxes before going on a benefit. Who knows?

Maths

Hmmm. My reading of that story is that he is currently 58 and moved here in 1997.

General

Before we go passing judgement, maybe one should read the article. He moved here in 1997. In 2010 he requested information from Work and Income NZ. We have not been given the timeframe or information at which he applied for financial assistance, for obvious reasons. Just shy of his birthday he noticed a change in his vision, which any person would; it doesn't matter how old you are.

My opinion - Mr Holmes has clearly contributed to the welfare of our community. Look up his work. We shouldn't dog a person for having creative flair. An artist myself, I feel quite offended. We all love driving and adoring precision wheels. But we never look for the artist behind it.

Trouble

Mr
Holmes said he had "no end of trouble" with Winz since
becoming a beneficiary years ago.

So how long have you been living off the taxpayer?

If you have no end of trouble with the handouts you are receiving why don't you get gainful employment and cut the apron strings? I'm sure WINZ will be able to fund glasses for you without too much hassle and you will be responsible and repay the poor old taxpayer who has faithfully supported you all this time.

 

 

Hang on a minute

According to Mr Holmes's own comments he moved here just shy of turning 59, with bad eyesight and unable to afford glasses.  Unable to find work he went onto a benefit.
I'm sorry, but why was he allowed to emigrate here in the first place?  I know for a fact that I wouldn't be allowed to emigrate to the UK under the same circumstances. [Abridged]

 

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