A guest post from Alwyn Poole:
After working with John Campbell on the Western Park Village articles this week the most astonishing thing, Minister, is just how much you already knew. Since you became Te Atatu MP in 2008 people like Bernie Smith from Monte Cecilia Housing Trust has more than kept you informed and implored you to help. “Vision West”, and others, have done the same and worked tirelessly for change. You were also well aware of the 2017 article on the place. Then; your admitted that you had been there and talked to the residents (well – according to the law they are only supposed to be temporary residents) and the owners – who admit to raking in $1 million a year of profit from this misery pit. And yet it remains.
I know a little bit about difficult beginnings. My maternal grand-parents had 13 kids and lived in a State House at 13 Lewis Avenue, Aramoho. That house was brick, with a fire-place, 4 bed-rooms, a toilet and bath and they had space outside for a garden and chickens. They were poor (something called the Great Depression did not help) but they had a safe, warm, dry place and a genuine neighbourhood. Those kids, including my mum, had hope and grew-up to live productive lives. It was gradual and even I had to live in a bus in the backyard of a relative while when my parents went through some tough times. I have travelled and seen the trailer parks of Florida and Hurricane damaged New Orleans. My wife and daughter have spent time in Haiti and visiting the tough areas of Las Vegas. None of that prepared me for what I saw in Ranui on Tuesday last week.
We saw people with no light in their eyes. We saw accommodation that does not belong in our country and heard of people having been there for over 10 years. We saw units squashed together and no hope of privacy. We saw people squeezed into living spaces where you can’t swing a kitten. We saw locked toilets, an unfenced and filthy creek, an unfenced deadly electric train track. We heard of prices that came very close to matching two-bedroom rent in Epsom. We heard of fear and despair.
Here is what I understand the least. You have known about this at least since 2008. These people – especially the children there – are examples of NZ’s most needy. Why wasn’t this your highest priority? In Parliament on May 29th you boasted about having contracted and committed to $5 billion for 10,356 Kiwibuild homes (for people such a trainee doctors) but acknowledged that you haven’t even started to look at legislated standards for those in camp grounds. Your government has put $1.2 billion in the vote buying middle-class welfare of fees free tertiary education but leave children and young people in these conditions of despair.
When asked in the House about people living in these circumstances you stated: “We don’t like it. We don’t approve of it.” Well, last time I checked, you are the Minister of Housing; if not you – then who? Maybe some of the $6.2 billion mentioned above could go the way of the most needy. It seems to me that your government started in the wrong place; i.e. “middle New Zealand” to try and ensure re-election in 2020. Please re-prioritise fast. These people need you and plenty of others will come out and help. Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. (Proverbs 3:27)