Current local struggles

Police shootings, brutality cases in Rotorua

Police brutality was in the spotlight again in early April after it was admitted that police shot Napier man Lachlan Kelly-Tumarae not once as was originally asserted, but at least eight and as many as fifteen times, fatally wounding the 19-year old.  Questions were also asked of another case where opened fire on Auckland’s Southern Motorway, shooting two bystanders and killing one.  In another case, a Rotorua police officer was convicted after bashing a man with a torch.

National Party Vetoes Extending paid parental leave

The National government plans to veto a bill before Parliament to extend the period of paid parental leave from 14 weeks to six months.  A veto would prevent the bill from passing into law, despite the support of a majority in Parliament.  The government says undemocratic measures are needed to prevent budget blowouts – despite the fact that the estimated cost of the legislation is $700 million compared with the more than $2 billion National has doled out to the richest New Zealanders in tax cuts.

Nazis march in Christchurch

Over 100 white supremacist skinheads and their supporters marched in public through the streets of Christchurch for the first time in years on March 28.  They were led by the neo-Nazi “Right Wing Resistance” and supported by groups from around the country.  The march comes after a racist leafleting campaign from the group, targeting Asians, and accompanies a spate of violent attacks on Asian immigrants.

Pike River Inquiry

Hearings in the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Pike River mining disaster which claimed the lives of 29 miners in November 2010 finished on April 4.  The inquiry was told of the dysfunctional at the mine, the pressures put on staff to meet production targets which resulted in short cuts around health and safety and deliberate tampering with equipment meant to monitor the levels of methane, an explosive gas, in the mine.  Attention was also drawn to the lack of mine inspectors at the department of Labour, which made outside monitoring of health and safety compliance impossible.  The commission is due to present its final report on September 28.

Striking workers seize the headlines

Workers’ struggles took the headlines in February as wharfies, aged care workers and meat workers struck during February and March.  In the most high-profile struggle, wharfies in Auckland struck to stop casualisation at the Ports of Auckland, which would see the minimum shift length reduced and rostered weekends off a thing of the past.  Meat workers at the Talley’s-owned AFFCO plants were locked out after they refused to bow to management demands to speed-up production with no extra pay.  At Oceania Rest Homes, care workers struck after management offered only a paltry 1% pay increase.  On some days, more than 2,000 workers fought back as bosses around the country took to the offensive against unionised workers.

Urewera 4 in court

The trial of the four remaining defendants of the Urewera “terror raids” case began on the 13th of February.  Charges against 13 of the original defendants were dropped after it was revealed police had used illegal surveillance to obtain “evidence”.  When the trial ended on March 20, the police had failed to secure convictions on the most serious charges of “belonging to a criminal group”.  But the police officer responsible for the case says he “was not hung up” on the jury’s decision.  Despite their failure, police gained sweeping new powers as a result of the Search and Surveillance bill passed two days after the trial.

But the assault on democracy is international too.  Only a day before the Urewera 4’s trial concluded, courts in Zimbabwe convicted 5 socialists on trumped up charges after they were arrested more than a year ago at a film screening about the Egyptian revolution.

Hospital budgets squeezed

District Health Boards are facing funding shortfalls as the government has steadily reduced the amount of money available for them to meet rising costs.  Budget shortfalls have already led to pressure on hospital staffing levels.  The Auckland District Health Board froze all hiring activity for two days in March.  35 jobs are to be cut at Hawke’s’ Bay DHB and the Bay of Plenty DHB has also been instructed by the government to cut staff.  Short staffing – such as the extra shifts required of Middlemore Hospital staff to deal with the winter flu season – contribute to poorer health outcomes and a growing gap in wellbeing between rich and poor in Aotearoa, described by the UK medical journal Lancet as a “sad indictment of the powerful”.

5,000 march in support of Auckland wharfies

5,000 unionists from dozens of unions marched on March 10 in support of striking wharfies.  Meat workers and fire fighters, fresh from their own struggles, lent some of the most vocal support.  Marchers called on Len Brown, the “left-leaning” Mayor of Auckland to side with workers in the dispute, a demand he has so far refused, despite the fact that wharfies contributed $2,000 to his election campaign. See more on the Ports of Auckland struggle on page 12.

State Housing tenants fight eviction

Over 150 Housing NZ tenants in Glen Innes and nearby Auckland suburbs are fighting to keep their homes after Housing NZ announced that state housing land in the area had been sold to developers.  Protestors and residents angry at the decision staged a sit-in and occupied an empty house in the area.  Other residents are refusing to move.  “I’m one of those that are not going to leave their homes” says 49 year-old Materoa Kanuta, who lives in a state house with her husband and two daughters and walks to work at a nearby school.  Other tenants facing eviction include returned servicemen and their families, who were given their homes at the end of the Second World War.  Further protests occurred as demolition work began on the first homes in April.  Housing NZ has sold the properties to a private developer, who wants to replace the state houses with luxury villas.