As leaders of Christian community organisations tackling many of the social issues affecting New Zealanders today, we want to express our solidarity with and our support for, the people occupying public spaces in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin & Wellington. We support their right to peacefully protest, their freedom of speech and their right to assemble. We support the fact that they are putting a spotlight on issues that successive governments both here in Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world have failed to adequately confront, let alone resolve. We are troubled by the moves to have these people forcibly evicted from the sites that they are occupying and the labelling of them as ‘anti-capitalist’ by the media; a gross over simplification of a complex issue. We ask that agreements are reached that allow for continued peaceful, non-violent demonstration to enable further opportunity to understand the issues being presented.
Inspired by the Occupy movements that have sprung up around the world in the last few months the protestors have given voice to a widely held feeling that society is not heading in the right direction. The concerns raised by those protesting in public spaces across New Zealand are entirely understandable. Although corporate irresponsibility here has not reached the same polarising proportions of those in the USA, the inequality created is real and is growing. All around the world the lives of the majority are being harmed by the actions of the few.
We echo the sentiments of Dame Anne Salmond that what is needed is a change of heart. As agencies & organizations we see increasing levels of poverty and deprivation, increasing disparity between rich and poor. We are deeply troubled that we live in a country where 200,000 children continue to live in poverty and youth unemployment is at over 23%. At the same time the richest 151 individuals increased their wealth by $7 billion dollars last year and the average NZX-listed company chief executive’s pay packet last year was just over 18 times that of an average worker at the same company, while many families struggle to make ends meet. This inequality is at the root of many of the social problems our country faces and our current course will only entrench and compound these problems further. The poverty that exists in New Zealand persists because we continue to tolerate it. The change of heart Dame Salmond talks about must surely require us to reassert our social conscience and reassess our values and what we hold most dear. Only then can the process of ensuring a just share of society’s wealth and resources for all, begin.
We aspire to a future where no New Zealander is ever left behind. We acknowledge and thank the Occupiers for their determination, for their commitment and courage in highlighting the issues. We ask that rather than attempting to silence and disperse them we, as a country, take the opportunity to reflect on the issues they raise and consider the kind of society and community we want to create for our children and for future generations.
John McCarthy, General Manager, Lifewise, Auckland
Rod Watts, CEO, Presbyterian Support Northern, Auckland
Trevor McGlinchey, Excutive Officer, New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services, Wellington
Ruby Duncan CEO, losis Family Solutions, Auckland
Puamiria Maaka, Chief Executive, Te Waipuna Puawai, Auckland
Major Campbell Roberts, Director, Salvation Army’s Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit
Rev John Roberts, President, Methodist Church of NZ
Mary Richardson, Executive Director, Christchurch Methodist Mission, Christchurch
Michael Gorman, Christchurch City Missioner, Christchurch
Associate Professor Mike O’Brien, Massey University, Auckland
Karen Morrison-Hume, CEO and Missioner, Anglican Action, Hamilton
Rev. Brian Turner, Methodist Church of NZ, Christchurch
Vicki Sykes, Director, Friendship House, Manukau
David Hanna, Director, Wesley Community Action, Wellington
Laura Black, Director, Methodist Mission, Dunedin