Hunger striker fights for kids
A man on hunger strike in Kaikohe says that he is going to make the government as uncomfortable as he can for as long as he can, to have them think about the process by which people receive emergency food grants.
Sam Kuha says he has stopped counting how many days he has been on his hunger strike.
But since mid-September he has been going without food, to highlight the inefficiency of the current system by which people are supposed to receive their emergency food grants.
He says he was refused an emergency food grant until he had been to a Work and Income budgeter, but he had attempted to do this and their staffing levels made it impossible to make an appointment to see one.
“All of the budgeters are booked out and it doesn't matter where in the country you look, it's the same,” Mr Kuha says.
Workload and staff levels just don't meet up, he says. And that's causing children in New Zealand to go hungry.
“What this is about is the process - we get a certain amount for our emergency food in the course of each year, a set amount. What this process does is that after you've gone in for your third food voucher, they make you go through a budgeter for every one after.
“They make you go to the budgeter every time - that's why the budgeters are so far behind.”
He says emergency food vouchers are issued in small increments and are not a part of the benefit scheme that could be abused. Mr Kuha, who is limited to life in a wheelchair says that other invalids - and importantly children - are being forced to go hungry.
The political process is new to Mr Kuha. He says he's “never done anything like this before”.
“A lot has happened because of this, a lot of things are coming into line. A lot of positives,” he says.
He calls himself a “stubborn bugger” and admits he is no angel himself - that he has not led the life of a saint, by any stretch, but that as long as there are children who are going hungry because of this process he “can't give this up” until he has to.
“I'm not ready to give up yet."
He is receiving support from all angles.
The Mana Party has supported the political protest.
But it is letters of support that he has received from people who have been struggling with the same process and are unable to provide food for their children that has urged him on the most.
He says that what started as a personal battle has become about the larger issue of hungry children who are, he says, victims of the same broken system.
“Sooner or later Paula Bennett needs to come to terms with this,” he says.
He has so far been unable to organise a meeting with the social development minister.
Those who wish to help can donate to: Feed the Whanau Funds, BNZ account number 022-0332-00191-83-000.
Those who can prove they have been dealing with the same process as Mr Kuha - and are going hungry - can access the fund for money for food.