With the housing crisis at the front of many people’s minds, a protest by Anglican churches may have prompted political action.
The Labour Party Leader Andrew Little was in Epuni, Lower Hutt yesterday, promising to build 400 new houses in the Hutt Valley if elected this September. His party’s announcement follows the weekend’s protest action by St David’s Anglican Parish of Naenae-Epuni which drew crowds of hundreds, including MPs, Parliamentary candidates and the Mayor of Lower Hutt, Ray Wallace. “It was a great time, there was a really great buzz amongst the parish. It gave us a great opportunity to hear stories from our neighbourhood,” says Rev Martin Robinson, the parish’s Priest in Charge. “We got the idea as part of our Lenten prayer and reflection. We could see the vacant land from our church and wondered what can we do? Then someone suggested, why don’t we just camp on it?!”
The protest also drew the attention of nationwide media outlets, with the parish’s demand for positive action appearing on all the major television news networks, as well as national radio and newspapers. “It’s good to finally see our politicians committing to some action in response to the housing crisis,” says Bishop Justin. “After the occupation led by St David’s Anglican Church in Naenae, it’s great that the people’s protest has been listened to.”
With the issue being so complex, it’s important that local voices are heard in the process, says Matt Crawshaw of St Anne’s Parish of Porirua. “We need joined up thinking, so that whatever solutions are proposed are suitable in each local context,” Matt says. Together with other Urban Vision and St Anne’s members, Matt helped to co-ordinate a similar protest in his suburb of Cannons Creek, where Housing NZ land has been vacant for between seven and eight years. He says that as a faith community, they feel called to being prayerful and to empower their neighbourhoods to rise up and be part of the conversation.
“Many neighbours are struggling with housing issues, while there is vacant land that could be part of the solution,” says Matt. “Our neighbourhood has been hollowed out. If we do nothing, we will end up being either a consumer or a victim – but we want to claim our right to be part of the conversation.”
Photos of the Cannons Creek camp out.
Matt says the weekend’s action involved inviting locals to join them for prayer and hospitality on the vacant land, but as part of their commitment to understanding the issue, members of the group visited homes in the neighbourhood to interview locals about their views, discovering a strong desire for greater quantity and quality in the area’s housing. “Our conversations show that the locals love living here. They have unique insights on the issue, but they are the ones that are rarely seen in the conversation,” says Matt.
The Diocese is planning an election forum series at which the housing crisis will be discussed. Do you have vacant Housing NZ land in your parish? We’d love to hear how it impacts your local community – let us know.
Articles on the protests:
Stuff: Naenae church demands action
Newshub: Naenae protest
RNZ News: Naenae protest
Stuff: Cannons Creek protest
DominionPost: Naenae protest draws hundreds
Stuff: Labour announcement