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Occupy Christchurch – After the Tents Come Down


For almost three months over a hundred people slept in tents in South Hagley Park in solidairy with occupations around the world and to highlight the massive wealth inequality that exists in this society and the problems that result from that.


The occupation began with a 300 strong march down Riccarton road, a further hundred people marched on Labour Day. Other events raised awareness of economic, environmental and other social justice issues. We took action in solidarity with redzoned home owners, locked out meat packers, ratepayers angered by the latest action of the council- awarding the CEO a massive pay rise while many in the east still lack functioning infrastructure.


With support from Food Not Bombs and the City Mission we gave away food to hungry people- an example of whats called “propaganda of the deed” engaging in an activity that both meets a need and highlights an issue. We reached out to the unemployed with the message that their plight was systemic, not a result of lazyness.


As a result of our actions and those of other occupations, the media started paying attention and even examined some of the issues we spoke about. Media coverage was a mixed bag of possitive and negative stories, we utilised the media by occupying the phonelines on talkback radio and getting our message out through the new social media channels available to us.


We should be proud of everything we achieved. Yet we should also acknowlege the problems that existed; we didn't create a utopia in Hagley Park, oppressive ideas and behaviours that exist in wider society were not always absent from “Occupy Corner” those who drafted an implemented the safter spaces policy should be applauded. However women and queer people still expressed that they felt unsafe, and the gender imbalance at camp toward the end of the occupation is likely a result of that.


We shoud also not be afraid to admit that a 24/7 protest- even for those not attending full time- is a huge commitment and takes a toll on everyone involved. Dedicating this much time to something puts a strain on physical and mental wellbeing and relationships with those unable or unwilling to be activly involved. A downside to the huge public awareness of this movement is the negative reaction from some of the general public- I have been called a “derilect” “scum” a “bludger” and a “useless waste of space” and been told to get a job more times than I can count.


As someone with a job, a university education and a lot of respect in the community, I can brush that stuff off. It would be harder for someone who is unemployed and facing difficulty finding work, especially if that difficulty is partly the result of discrimination of some form. We shouldn't judge people who want to return to being private citizens again, safe from the vitorol of talk back radio and the Press letters page.


We need to find methods of sustainable activism- not just in the now popular environmental sense of the word, but activism that can be sustained over a long period of time without burning people out. The world is not going to change over night, its going to take years or even decades.


Looking at how we move forward from here I want to reiterate something I've raised at General Assembly, Naomi Klein's “hubs and spokes” model of social movements. Occupy can be a 'hub' that connects a number of different causes- after all we have woken up and realised that our deeply flawed economic system is the cause of most of these issues. The 'spokes' refers to people going out to these groups, and these groups feeding back into the Occupy movement.


I'm going to use a list of issues composed by Maddock earlier in the movement as a basis to highlight groups already active on those issues that we can get involved with, I will expand on this list where I see fit. I have tried to be inclusive in this list and as such want to make clear that I disagree with some of these groups (never completely, but on certain things). While Occupy is non-party political (not non-political, politics does not equal party politics) I have listed political parties where relevent as many people in this country, including those who have occupied, see working through parties as one means to be active for change;


  1. The fractional reserve banking system and the debt-based economy


This issue is of corcern to the Zietgeist movement, which Dean is involved in. The registered political party Democrats for Social Credit also concerns with this.
Personally I see these things are more symptoms than causes, with the wage-labour relation being the basis of capitalism. As such I've for several years been a member of the (unregistered) Workers Party, which has published material and run studies on this and related theories.

One thing the movement has already highlighed is the presence of credit unions, building societys and the publicly owned bank as alternative ways to store your own money.


  1. Corporate influence on politics and the exercise of financial power over our lives


The website keeps watch on the goings on in parliament and can be a usefull resource for activists. More transparency in campaign funding is needed in this country, as far as I'm aware there isn't an organised group working on this, but there are individuals.


  1. Child poverty, and poverty in general, while there are in reality enough resources available to avoid it


The Child Poverty Action Group are the major campaigners on this issue and should be engaged with and supported. We should also be aware of groups that advocate for beneficaries, such as the Beneficary Advocacy Service and Awareness. Regarding the working poor, the union movement has raising the living standards of workers as its goal and we should continue to support and grow this movement. We should support charities while being aware of their limits, remember that poverty is systemic and its the system that needs to be changed.


  1. The rising cost of living compared with real wages


As already noted, we should be supporting and engaging with the union movement. Union members in New Zealand earn on average 20% more than non-union members. Every Occupy activist should join the union at their work, encourage others to do so, and bargain for a collective agreement if one doesn't already exist. The major unions all have full-time organisers who can help with this.


  1. Job security and working conditions


As above.


  1. Gender equality


Women in New Zealand earn on average less than what men earn, this issue continues to be highlighed by the union movement. Eqaulity in relations between men and women in something every individual should be thinking about, as mentioned earlier I have heard from women saying they were concerned about safety at Occupy. Its been said that “feminism is the radical idea that women are people” speaking as a man, I think its sometimes as simple as treating women like people, don't be a sleze, don't act like you know better or are better equiped to preform as task, and to reiterate, don't be a sleze.


Of course, activist men are not the cause of every problem in this area, and there are wider societal issues about gender that need to be addressed, but lets start with reforming ourselves. I'm speaking to the other men because I don't think its my place to tell women what to do, however there has been a recent resurgence in feminism elsewhere in New Zealand with the Wellington Young Feminist Collective, I would view something like that developing in Christchurch as a possitive.


In education women now out preform men, and men are overrepresented in crime and suicide statistics, this could mean there are “mens issues” the same way we can speak of “womens issues” though I think they a related to the oppression of women; for example in the case of suicide, women are viewed in this society as emotional which is viewed as a negative trait compared to 'logical' men. This view is oppressive, but it could mean women are more likely than men to seek help.


  1. Cultural equality


Awareness of other peoples cultures is important in social movements, we should not compromise on that issue to win on others. For example, while New Zealand First might have social-democratic policies for ecomic reform, the parties views on immigration and non-NZ cultures (represented in their most vulgar form by new MP Richard Prosser) won the party the support of the white supremicist movement. Politics makes strange bedfellows, but if we are on the same side as neo-nazis, we are doing something very wrong.


While New Zealand First is openly racist, the immigration system supported by Labour, National and ACT (and to some extent the Green and Maori Parties) has treated immigration like a tap- when cheap labour is needed it can be turned on, and when there are no jobs it can be turned off. Immigrants have less rights than citizens just because they were born on the “wrong” part of this planet. We should uphold the principle that no human is illegal, and support the rights of migrants.


  1. Crime rates and the prison population, and the reasons behind them


Two major causes of crime are poverty and social alienation. I've talked about poverty aleviation already, as for social alienation a key thing we can do is rebuild communities, start with your street- people don't mug their neighbors if they know them.


Maori and Polynesian men are overrepresented in prison, this is without a doubt a result of racism, its not just the courts or the police but wider society as well, so we should always challenge racist views. I'm guilty and not doing this- working in retail the phrase “keep and eye on these guys, they look dodgy” was a subtle code for “watch those brown people don't steel anything” Maori and Polynesians don't necessarily commit more crime, but they are prosocuted for it more.


We should be aware of faux activist groups that habour racist ideas, for example Garth McVicar, head of the Sensible Sentancing Trust which usually advocates harsh punishment for violence openly stated that Bruce Emery, a middle age Pakeha businessman who stabbed to death a teenage Maori tagger should be let off for his crime. Thise shows McVicars racism- systemic racism is shown by the fact that Emery was sentaged to 3 years 4 months, and released after 1 year. Meanwhile poor and non-white prisoners serve longer sentances for lesser crimes.


The major victim support organisation that exists in this country is Womans Refuge, the majority of violent crime commited in this country is domestic violence and the majoirty of that is commited against women.

There are two organisations working for prison reform- The Howard League For Penal Reform, and Rethinking Crime and Punishment. Another organisation that exists is Pillars, which works with children whos parents are imprisoned.


  1. The futility of armed conflict and the grotesque arms trade that it supports


New Zealand is a participant in the NATO led war in Afghanistan, this is presented as a humanitarian gesture but it has came out that New Zealand soldiers have handed detainees to US forces who subsequently torture them. Even if this was not the case, the elite Special Air Service (SAS) which New Zealand has supplied engages in activities such as painting targets on buildings for US bombers. This is not the “good war” to fight terrorism.


While the arms trade may seem a world away, arms dealers have held conferences at Te Papa (these are always been with protest- large ones at the height of the anti-war movement, and smaller more symbolic ones since then) local companies such as Rakon and Tyco manufacture components used in weapons. The Anti-war movement is much smaller than was was in 2003/4 but the need is still there and we should work with those existing anti-war activists to rebuild it.


  1. The distraction of large sections of the population away from the truly important issues; for example, creating desire and demand through advertising & marketing, and encouraging spending and debt, while other people get sick, starve, and die — hence the slogans, “profit is put before people” and “where there’s a problem, there’s a profit”


Capitalism creates the ideology that supports it though the media- entertainment media as well as news and advertising. As a movement we should be promoting alternative media- news outlets such as Democracy Now, Russia Today and Al Jazeera. Magazines such as New Internationalist and Mother Jones. Locally there is The Spark,, a number of blogs and community radio stations. Radio and podcasts are a medium we can explore more.


Indymedia Aoteroa, where I'm posting this article, has some potential. This site was once well used, but became overrun with trolls. Now that the number of social justice activists has multiplied, it could have a new life.


Alternative entertainment should be promoted, there is an enormous catalouge of music, films, books and even some television that promotes progressive ideas and ways of thinking. A library is another possible future project.


  1. The democratic process

    • public participation vs apathy;

    • Representative Government not actually being representative;

    • Bills passed into Acts under urgency

    • Mis-allocation of public funds away from education and health-care, further increasing poverty and illness; Student loans; Pharmocracy; Excessive and anti-democratic powers of CERA


Much of this was covered under number 2. We should also focus on building civil society groups than can act as a watchdog for central and local government. On some issues this happens- Greenpeace and Forest and Bird take the government to task on environmental issues, and the Council of Trade Unions keeps watch on industrial relations.

Of course, we also need to be building democracy from the ground up, there are many possible ways to do this and no doubt lengthy discussion can be had on this topic.


  1. Police powers to surveil, search, and execute raids


Again part of this is covered by number 2 and 11, there is also a group active on this type of issue, the council for civil liberties.


  1. The wider world: poverty & the gaping rich-poor divide; starvation; sanitation; housing; etc, etc, even while we have enough for everyone


Globally, organisations like Oxfam are active on these issues. Unlike some other NGO's Oxfam is not afraid to criticise trade policies etc that lead to greater poverty. We should pressure the government to adopt policies that benefit the poor in the developing world rather than just our own 1%. For example, Pacific Island countries have long been calling for labour mobility in the region as part of of the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) labour is the major export of these countries. This ties in with number 7. At present, Mana is the only party in parliament to support this policy.



  1. Children’s’ rights to good parenting and guidance (I think we can move to grab this one a bit more firmly), as this affects their development, and will therefore affect not only their capacity to feel valued and protected, but also their capacity to contribute to making Life better and more beautiful in the future.

This isn't one that comes easy to me not being a parent, but things that can be looked at are alternative schools- Tamariki and Discovery in Christchurch, as well as Hagley Community College and Unlimited for high schools. For pre-school children, a parent-run child care co-op exists in this country; Playcentre.

Children are not immune from the things mentioned in number 10, in fact if anything children are marketed to more than adults and the ideology of capitalism is just as present in childrens entertainment as it is in entertainment targeting adults. The US based 'Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood' is a useful resource.

Two things I'd add to Maddocks list are mental health and food security. Many people involved in Occupy Christchurch, especially toward the end, had experience of mental illness or addiction- and often had problems with the services available. There is a mental health activist organision in this city- Awareness.

In terms of food security, there are concerns about the food bill (some likely to be overblown and others justified) there is a wealth of material on the internet about this. Its notable that Mana is the only party in parliament opposing this bill. Involvement in a community garden is a possitive thing people can do toward food security; there are community gardens in Ilam, New Brighton, Opawa, Spreydon (and possibly elsewhere?). There is always room for more

There has also been a lot of talk about doing work in the east of the city, if we do we should do it with the existing organisation, Action for Christchurch East. A simillar organisation exists in Addington.

This document is in no way comprehensive but is intended to start a discussion. Thank you for reading all the way to the end, sorry it was so long!


Good stuff !

Thanks bro :) Twas a good and informative read. I like your style... down to earth... and all that. One sentiment I disagree with at present... "Occupy Christchurch, especially toward the end..." Rather presumptious that one bro. Day 73 :) O for Occupy 2012, 2020, 2050, Forever... Now :) The Truely Loving shall Occupy the earth :)

love, although commendable,

love, although commendable, is not necessary to be motivated to be involved in social struggle.  taking direct action together can also be motivated out of self-interest.  undertaking mass direct action to advance your own interests makes sense when it is both motivated out of intense love for others' lives or just merely your own.  revolution does not have to be exclusively about love.  that sounds like a hippy idea to me. 


working class people have largely the same interests and by successfully taking action together we have the ability to better meet our needs and fulfill our desires and push back and even defeat the systems of oppression acting against them.  all for one and one for all.  not necessarily out of love but because it works.

nothing in the above

nothing in the above regarding animal rights , i guess you dont give a shit about their plight. Sleeping in a park changes nothing , if there ever was the slightest wiff of real revolution or action most of you would not be up for it as history shows us real revolutions are violent and require more than just talk.