Pita Sharples and the Maori Party wake up to the fact that something is rotten in Christchurch...
On a brief visit to Christchurch, Sharples was apparently 'shocked' to learn of the appalling conditions that people are being forced to endure in the Eastside.
Reports The Press::
Sharples visited Christchurch late last month and heard the "chronic housing issues" Maori community workers were still battling with, including a blind couple who were living in a garage and a woman who had been living in her car for weeks.
"I was shocked when I heard details of the hardships some people were enduring and I was really annoyed that they are still in that position," he said.
The obvious question is where has Peta Sharples - and the Maori Party - been for the past year or so?
Organisations like the Wider Communities Earthquake Action Network and the Tenants Protections Association have consistently highlighted the deepening crisis. There have been protests outside Gerry Brownlee's Christchurch office. There have been numerous meetings. Mayor Sideshow Bob has been consistently lambasted for his failure to represent the interests of the eastern suburbs.
Helen Gatonyi of the Christchurch Tenants Protection Association said in April: 'We are in a crisis, crisis, crisis. It's just about as bad as it can get and, yet, it's getting worse,"
And just last month businesswoman Ann Robinson released figures that showed Christchurch tenants had been hit with rent rises of up to $50 a week, forcing some families to "slip below the poverty line"
Said Robinson: "We are looking at ordinary people who are now on the bones of their backside through no fault of their own. It is the working poor that have been left with financial issues from all this....There are massive, massive issues here. People say we are in a housing crisis now, but we are well and truly on the brink of something a lot bigger..'
Sharples response to the crisis is to suggest that Christchurch folk squat in abandoned red-zoned homes rather than endure the harsh winter months in garages and cars. This has earned him, not surprisingly, the ire of the do-nothing Gerry Brownlee who has described his comments as 'irresponsible'.
But what is really 'irresponsible' is a Government that refuses to acknowledge there is a crisis and thinks, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that 'the market' will solve all of Christchurch's problems.
Says Gerry Brownlee : "I've taken a good, hard look at it over quite a long period of time and I don't think it's a crisis,''
Rather than political grandstanding, Sharples and the Maort Party should be publicly challenging the Government for its failure to accept that a massive social crisis has unfolded in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch.