Historic change never came from sticking to the sidewalk; we were there to shout it loud, shout it proud: A home is a basic human right – and we want decent housing now. The march, organised by Child Poverty Action Group, brought together a number of campaigners and activists – among them First Union, Unite Union, Socialist Aoteaora, the Green Party, Labour Party, Auckland Action Against Poverty, Child Poverty Action Group and many other individuals - unified in the aim of securing decent housing, an end to state house sell-offs, and rent control.
While good weather would have meant a larger march, the response of the public was indicative of the mood of many. Motorist after motorist beeped and yelled their support and gave our banners the thumbs-up. Because quite simply, people have had enough. The housing situation is a travesty; in August the Herald reported that the average Auckland home earned nearly $230 a day in the past year - about twice what the average worker made in their job.
While the cost of housing is taking up more and more of our salaries, we’ve seen little in the way of pay rises or job security. Our poorest and most vulnerable are finding it increasingly hard to access – or remain in - state housing, more people are being forced to rent (with zero controls over how much rent can increase by), and housing for the poor, where it exists, is wholly inadequate. Last year saw the tragic death of toddler Emma Lita Bourne, which was attributed to the poor condition of her south Auckland home.
And yesterday we were there to demand change. In the same spirit that put an end to zero hour contracts and that saw tens of thousands march against the TPPA in recent months, the march was vocal and strong in stating that housing is a right, not a plaything of market forces. At the end-of-march rally, Fa'anana Efeso Collins talked of the need to embrace the spirit of Jeremy Corbyn, to use our people power to claim what is rightfully ours.
The march wasn’t the hugest of recent times, but it felt like a barometer of the political mood. There is a growing sense that if change is to come, it is to happen at grassroots level, that organising in our workplaces and communities is the only way to make our voices heard. The secrecy over the disastrous TPPA contract; the refusal of our leaders to act on climate change; the mean-spirited response to the plight of refugees coupled with attempts by the far right in Europe to scapegoat Muslims; the bankruptcy of capitalism worldwide, its inability to climb out of financial crisis and its insistence that the only way to defeat ‘terror’ is to unleash a terror of its own, killing thousands of civilians in the Middle East as it does so… all of these developments have had the cumulative effect of underlining just how little capitalism has to offer us.
Yesterday is only the beginning of the fight. And not just for housing.
Maria Hoyle, Socialist Aotearoa