Those reading the NZ Herald this morning (or online) may have stumbled across this opinion piece from Deborah Hill Cone. I tend not to pay much attention to Ms Cone (if for no other reason than her taste in shades of lipstick scares the bejesus out of me). She also approaches things from a stance somewhat opposed to one I would take.

However, she has gone too far this time.

The premise of her argument in todays article/drivel seems to be that life isn’t fair, it’s not the government’s fault, and that local protester Chantelle Brown, should give up her fight against the stealth asset sales of Housing NZ properties in Maraenui, Napier (and further afield).

Chantelle’s full response to Ms Cone is below, and hopefully a shorter version will appear in the Herald’s letters section forthwith. However, before we get to that, lets look at the right-wing hypocrisy on show from Ms Cone.

For the state to provide low cost quality housing to people on low incomes is not the same as the state providing free ponies to all children, and to make such a condescending analogy is contemptible. Had she compare her ‘free pony’ policy with the National government’s tax cuts for the highest earners, then we could have a discussion, but as it stands, she is out of touch (with just about anyone who has either a brain or a conscience).

She further compounds her ineptitude by commenting that “no wonder new figures put our welfare bill at $78 billion”. Well, lets not allow the facts to get in the way of her little fantasy piece, but the $78 billion figure is the ‘lifetime cost’ of current beneficiaries (so that makes a number of assumptions that could easily be disputed). Moreover, it includes ALL beneficiaries (pensions, the DPB, Working for Families, Disability Benefits and so on). Is Ms Cone suggesting we should cut the pension, after all, as she has already pointed out, life isn’t fair?

Why is it that beneficiaries are seen as bludgers on society, but tax cuts for the rich and corporate hand-outs are seen as good business sense and government investment in New Zealand’s future.

If Ms Cone wants to complain about money, how about complaining about the $95 million of subsidies and grants to Warner Bros, or maybe the $10 billion that flows out of this country as profits to foreign owners of New Zealand assets every year (I wonder how much that adds up to over the lifetime of those beneficiaries Ms Cone was so keen to moan about?)

I’ll leave the final words to Chantelle.

If only I had your job, maybe your readers would be better informed about people with real issues.

We are not asking the government for ponies or banana smoothie dispensers, only that they maintain the state housing for the many needy families throughout New Zealand.  These homes are also state assets and this is just another example of the government‘s agenda of selling off these assets. If you aren’t getting your knickers in a twist about that, then it’s you who needs to go and find your identity.  Also Deborah, to compare your car park being taken away to a family’s roof being taken from over their heads is very self-centred and, if I was you, I’d find it hard to look in the mirror tonight.

Chantelle Brown addresses the housing Hikoi outside Parliament

This government isn’t just or fair, but if we sit back and let people who know nothing of the real struggles and hardships of New Zealanders without highlighting the errors they are making, then we make them, and people such as yourself, believe that low-income earners deserve to live under bridges – which is what is going to happen if the state houses are sold off to rich property developers.

These are the three basic needs for human well-being; Food, shelter and love!  This government is taking away the shelter! You, obviously show no love! What else have we got, what kind of society will we live in?

And yes Deborah, people do have the power to change their own lives. Communities don’t have to wait for a crisis point before they react to their circumstances, but when you are already tackling some of the real issues the government think they’ll come over the top of the people and groups that address these issues day-to-day and tell them we know what’s best for your community without consultation of the people who live, breathe and walk it and have the best strategies and solutions to solve these issues.

You speak of beneficiaries as if they are not worthy of being a part of our society.  I too am a beneficiary who lives in a state house, who is also studying.  I have worked in all types of industries but, none of these jobs could properly feed or house my children. Mainstream society says I am .  irresponsible because I can’t provide for my family, but Iet me tell you, while you are working on writing your little articles for your paper, I am here, studying full-time to improve my opportunities, raising my children, contributing to my community, volunteering to help out at the kids school, and coaching junior rugby. I may not be contributing to society in taxes, but in unpaid work I contribute over 80 hours of work to my community.

Let’s get back to the real issue here. This government is willing to sell all of us out to the highest bidder. Instead of our communities speaking out together, they get us squabbling amongst ourselves.  Yes Deborah, you and I can work together to make society a better place and we all need to take responsibility for our people, both rich and poor.  Kotahitanga is unity, let’s be open to acknowledging everybody’s backgrounds, irrespective of where it is you come from or how much money is in your pocket.

What a better society that would be!

  • Ralph Wahrlich

    This post is really encouraging: it reminds me that there are many people out there who really care about each other, and are not willing to stand by and let everything we own be sold to the highest bidder.

  • Arapera Brown (via Facebook)

    your response is well written. and i hope it opens up more talk and debate on the housing issue because thats what we are wanting as much debate and talk to bring the issue to all new zealanders because when I was collecting signatures alot of people did not know what was happening with the HNZ homes.

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