Hone Harawira has vowed to fight for better public
housing at every court appearance he makes over his arrest at a
protest last month.
The Mana Party leader was met with cheers of support as he
recounted his arrest to about 100 housing protesters who
marched on Parliament today.
The protesters from as far as Auckland and Napier are calling
on the Government deal with a public housing crisis which
they say is being deepened by the closure of Housing New
Zealand properties in Glen Innes in Auckland, Pomare in Lower
Hutt and Maraenui in Napier.
Mr Harawira, who was arrested after allegedly refusing to
move his car during a protest over the Glen Innes closures
last month, vowed to use the publicity to fight for better
''... Not just in Glen Innes but right around the country,
every single time I go to court.''
Mr Harawira said he was embarrassed the charge of failing to
comply with a police order was "not even imprisonable - it's
only a fineable offence''.
He said housing was not privilege but a right and Mana would
aim to build 20,000 new state homes in three years.
Veteran protester John Minto said the Government's housing
policies were "absolutely appalling''.
"It's a disgrace. There is a housing crisis in this country
and it has been buried for a long time, but people in
communities all around the country now are saying, 'no,
enough is enough - we needed decent housing.'''
Labour MP Annette King said there were 3358 vacant state
houses in New Zealand while people lived in cars, overcrowded
houses and on the streets.
In Maraenui, there were 274 vacant houses but people on
waiting lists could not get into them.
"When I visited there, they were demolishing houses - houses
that they had just painted and they had just carpeted. They
are demolishing houses for no reason,'' she said.
"We are now seeing evictions, we are seeing destruction, we
are seeing empty houses.''
Ms King said many state houses were cold, damp and in poor
state, but very little was being done about it.
Green MP Holly Walker said housing vacancies and demolitions
were tearing apart communities and disrupting families.
"And what is worst about this is that there are no plans to
replace those homes with affordable social housing.''
Ms Walker said only 20 per cent of the houses being
demolished in Pomare would be rebuilt as social housing,
while the rest would be sold on the market for an
unaffordable $350,000 each.
She said there had to be minimum standards for social housing
and more houses needed to be built.
The protesters presented a petition with more than 1000
signatures calling for seven areas of change:
* End state housing demolitions and sales
* Withdraw 90-day eviction notices to tenants of properties
slated for demolition
* Make vacant state houses available to families in crisis
* Loosen the eligibility criteria for state housing
* Disestablish the company overseeing the redevelopment of
the Glen Innes properties
* Reopen shuttered Housing New Zealand offices which were
replaced by call centres
* Build 20,000 new state houses within two years
Neither Housing Minister Phil Heatley nor Associate Minister
Tariana Turia met the protesters.