A dose of hope
People powered change — a roundup for April
Welcome to your monthly dose of hope!
As always, we’ve rounded up all of the incredible people-powered activity that has been happening across our communities and movement throughout the past month.
Get comfy — it’s been a busy four weeks.
🏡⚖️ Economic Fairness ⚖️🏡
Everyone, without exception, should have enough income to live happy and healthy lives regardless of whether they’re on welfare, in study, or in paid employment.
That’s why our community has been putting the values of equity and compassion into the conversation about how we rebuild our society post COVID-19. We know that going back to the old ‘normal’ where thousands of individuals and families struggle to survive isn’t the Aotearoa we want to live in.
The following are a range of campaigns led by our members of our community and staff striving to make our vision of economic justice a reality:
A generous welfare system
Together we are calling on the government to allocate resources and reprogram our economy in a way that will unleash the creative and caring nature of everyone in New Zealand. Making sure our welfare system stops locking people in the struggle and stress of poverty is an essential first step. In the last month, ActionStation members and staff have:
- Garnered the support of the Council of Trade Unions and First Union for our Open Letter calling for an end to WINZ relationship rules which stop people getting a benefit if they are in, or enter, a relationship
- Coordinated powerful media stories that show why the welfare system needs to urgently change: here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
- Each week, 32 volunteers have participated in our Welfare Tautoko program to insert loving and supportive messages in Facebook threads
- Over 500 people have written powerful, personal emails to our elected leaders calling for welfare system change.
- We’ve also been working with folks across the country to make a powerful mothers day video — which will be released this week!
The decisions the government is making right now will affect our lives for generations to come. That is an immense power and responsibility. It is more important than ever that they hear from the people who will be affected by their decisions.
A guaranteed basic income for everyone
A guaranteed basic income is an idea that’s been kicking around the public sphere in Aotearoa for decades. It is defined as ‘a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement.’
In other words, it is an idea made for these times. And it could help us rebuild and innovate beyond them.
On Wednesday 22 April, we joined forces with comedian Michèle A’Court as she hosted a lively discussion about the need for everyone in Aotearoa to be guaranteed a basic income and secure home.
Over 300 people attended the discussion with me and writer, activist and former MP Sue Bradford, President of the NZ Union of Student Associations (NZUSA) Isabella Lenihan-Ikin, Chair of Living Economies Phil Stevens.
A living wage for essential workers
All of us appreciate the people doing essential work at this time but what would really show our appreciation is ensuring those folks are paid a living wage. A living wage is the amount needed to provide workers with the basic necessities of life. While the current minimum wage is $18.90 an hour, the living wage is calculated at $21.15.
ActionStation members Jake and Jane have started a petition to support essential workers being paid at least a living wage. Over 7,000 people have signed the petition so far and we’d love your help to get it up to 10,000 before it gets delivered!
You can also help people doing essential work in our supermarkets by phoning or emailing your local New World or Pak’nSave (Foodstuff stores), or Countdown head office.
Countdown and Foodstuffs have been making headlines lately for paying their workers poorly and denying bonuses that were originally promised to staff.
- Find your local New World’s contact details
- Find your local PakN’Save store
- Post on Countdown’s Facebook page
- Phone or send an email to Countdown Head Office
Here’s an example of a message you can use:
“Hi, I’m a local in [your area] and shop with you regularly. I’m really disappointed to hear that your staff have had their bonus payment stopped in Level 3. I think they should be paid their bonuses and I think all of your staff should be paid at least a living wage to recognise the value of their essential work. I feel strongly about this because [a personal reason] …:”
We’d love to know if you get a response. You can forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
She’s not alone. During lockdown there have been thousands of New Zealanders leaving their bubbles to keep Aotearoa New Zealand running. The folks at Public Services Association (PSA) think that this is pretty special so they have set up a page where you can find out a bit more about the people doing this amazing work and show them how much you appreciate them.
Take a look at these workers’ stories, share them with your friends and family, and leave them a message of thanks at www.ourpeoplematter.nz.
A universal education income
In response to COVID-19, the New Zealand Union of Student Association (NZUSA) says that the Government should implement a Universal Education Income / Te Rourou Matanui-a-Wānanga.
A weekly payment available to all domestic students (part time and full time) would enable students to continue studying during the COVID-19 crisis. It would enable education and training to be a viable option for New Zealanders in the reset of our economy, post COVID-19.
Healthy and secure homes for everyone
No matter who we are, or where we come from, all of us need a safe place to call home.
That’s why, along with our friends at Avaaz, we delivered two petitions signed by over 100,000 New Zealanders calling for measures that would ensure everyone in Aotearoa has a warm and secure home during and after COVID-19.
🏠 Put an immediate amnesty on rent and mortgages
🏠 Set long-term rent caps so no one is paying too much for a home
🏠 Buy unoccupied homes to house those without homes
🏠 Remove all obligations for people to pay for emergency housing
So far, the Government has put a six-month pause on rent increases and stopped no-cause evictions until June. People with mortgages can apply for a six month repayment holiday.
These are great first steps, but they are not enough. Our friends at Renters United recently found that 92% of renters are still paying full price for their rent, despite having less income and 70% of renters are feeling high levels of stress.
As people continue to pay high rents, experience insecure housing and face loss of income, now is the time for our Government to future proof our housing system. Our housing campaigner Vanessa Cole has written more about what bold action on housing during COVID-19 could look like.
We aren’t the only ones concerned about housing right now. The Manawatū Tenants’ Union have released an open letter calling for urgent housing solutions, including a ‘living rent’ where no tenant should have to pay more than 30% of their income on rent. The Salvation Army are calling for a massive investment in public housing and support to get people owning their own homes. University students have been speaking out against hostel accommodation charges and coming together with renters to organise rent strikes.
Our housing system is at a tipping point, but it won’t become fairer on its own. Let’s keep pushing for big ideas that will lead us from housing ‘crisis’ to housing ‘security’. The petition was our first step and there is so much more to come.
💚💜 Whānau Wellbeing 💜💚
A few weeks ago, Laura joined justice transformation advocate Julia Whaipooti and Mihingarangi Forbes on The Hui to broadcast the findings of our survey of Māori and Pasifika perspectives on the use of armed police to the nation.
You can check out the interview here from the 9:20 mark (sign in required), but the whole episode is worth your time. Our survey results were also seen, heard, and read on Newshub and Radio New Zealand.
We surveyed 1,155 Māori and Pasifika people and found:
- 85% of people do not support the use of armed police.
- 87% of people said knowing police are armed in their community makes them less safe.
- 78% of people had experienced or witnessed police acting with bias or racism in their lifetime.
- 91% of people said they were less likely to call the police in situations of domestic violence or mental health crisis knowing that they carry guns.
And a whopping 92% of people agreed we need to prioritise alternative ways to keep people safe. For example, we could have teams of paramedics and mental health professionals on-call and available 24/7. A trial of something like this is already underway in Wellington and could be scaled up.
We also coordinated this powerful op-ed for E-Tangata by Pounamu Jade Aitken. It looks at the historical evidence as to why police should not be allowed to carry guns.
And today we have another op-ed coming out with The Spinoff from Anjum Rahman of the New Zealand Islamic Women’s Council who also opposes the use of armed police. This is an especially important perspective given the March 15 attacks were used to justify the trial of armed police in the first place.
Thankfully, the trial of armed police has finished for now pending the police’s internal review. We will keep a close eye on this issue as it develops and will let you know when it’s time to spring into action once again.
🌱🌏 Thriving Papatūānuku 🌏🌱
Our government is getting ready to spend billions of dollars to kick start the economy to recover from COVID-19. But what should their priorities be?
Shay who is a surfer, travel-lover, and member of the ActionStation community has launched an open letter calling on our elected representatives to prioritise a collaborative and just transition for a sustainable future. She has invited issue experts in water quality, Mātauranga Māori, energy, waste and transport and is calling for solutions that:
💚 Are grounded in indigenous knowledge and expertise
💚 Unlock renewable energy
💚 Kickstart the zero waste and circular economy
💚 Focus on low carbon mobility
💚 Prioritise regenerative agriculture
The next few months will be full of uncertainty and what we would like to make certain is ActionStation’s ability to continue doing what we do best: Guiding our 300,000-strong community to shelter and care for each other while supporting long-term political change that ensures everyone’s health, financial freedom and wellbeing.
If you’re not in a position to donate, but you do have time, we’d love for you to consider signing up as a volunteer. So much of what we do is powered by people who share their talents, skills and time for a fair and flourishing future for all of us.
And finally, you may remember in previous Monthly dose of hope emails that I’ve talked about our Tauiwi Tautoko volunteer programme to encourage more courageous conversations about race and racism online. Now you can read about the programme first-hand in this great piece written for The Pantograph Punch by one of our volunteers Julia Craig as she writes about her experience as a Pākehā woman doing this work. Thank you Julia and thank you to everyone else who has contributed in big and small ways to the vision, mission and values of ActionStation.
We are so much more powerful together.