It’s been a massive year! Not just for Organise Aotearoa, but for political and social movements throughout the country and all over the world. As 2019 comes to a close, we want to reflect on some of our campaigns, actions, and accomplishments.
The fight to protect Ihumātao
Our biggest fight this year was standing with kaitiaki against Fletcher Building’s planned multi-million dollar housing development on the stolen lands at Ihumātao. From May, we had members staying full-time on the whenua until kaitiaki were evicted on July 23 by an army of police officers. Our members painted walls and murals, built compost toilets, planted dozens of native trees, tended the gardens, organised film screenings, welcomed guests and held workshops, among other mahi. There was always plenty of everyday work to be doing to maintain a watchful presence, keep everybody fed and healthy, keep Kaitiaki Village beautiful and clean, and build-up its facilities.
When kaitiaki were evicted, the campaign exploded. More OA members brought their tents to the whenua to hold it down against police, who had every intention of arresting people en masse in the first few days of the mass occupation. Hundreds of people came to defend the whenua, and OA members supported solidarity actions held all over the country. To this day not a single bulldozer has touched Ihumātao. Our involvement has not gone unnoticed by our favourite local private enterprise enthusiasts.
Several of our members joined an 18km long hīkoi through rain and thunder all the way to Jacinda Ardern’s offices in Sandringham to present a 25,000 signature strong petition asking her to come to Ihumātao. So far, her response has been radio silence, so we don’t agree that she’s ready to capitulate.
We are proud to have stood against the vulture colonial-capitalists at Fletchers, but we do not take credit for the ground that has been gained. This fight to protect Ihumātao continues to be mana whenua-led, and backed by the entire community. We are just one of many rōpū standing in solidarity. We will continue to do so until a resolution has been reached that mana whenua can agree to. We will continue to stand with tangata whenua against land injustices, until constitutional transformation has been won, and full sovereignty over the land has been reclaimed.
Standing with Western Sahara
This year, we were proud to get involved with the Western Sahara solidarity campaign, helping to host Tecber Ahmed Saleh, a Saharawi health-worker and independence advocate, on her tour of Aotearoa.
Tecber spoke about the history of Spanish colonisation of her homeland, and later, the ongoing Moroccan occupation and extraction of phosphate by the OCP Group, controlled by the Moroccan Royal Family. The New Zealand fertiliser companies, Ravensdown and Ballance Agri-Nutrients, are two of the biggest buyers of this stolen phosphate. 173,600 Saharawi are living in Algerian refugee camps while their homeland continues to be plundered for resources, and we recognise that those of us living in New Zealand have a responsibility to stop Ravensdown and Ballance from buying blood phosphate.
The Saharawi fight for self-determination has a long and militant history, but in New Zealand, we have a clear mandate from Polisario (the government in exile). By challenging the buyers of stolen phosphate at home, we can hopefully prevent another civil war, and force Morocco to allow a referendum for independence that the Saharawi have been waiting for since 1991.
Tecber Ahmed Saleh arrived in Aotearoa in September. We took her to visit Ihumātao, where she was able to engage with the struggles being waged for self-determination here as well. From there, she spoke in Auckland, Hamilton, Lower Hutt, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin.
Her visit has sparked several direct action campaigns, which New Zealand unions have been at the centre of. P Port workers with the Rail and Maritime Transport Union in Napier, Lyttleton, and Port Chalmers have handed letters of protest to the captains of the Ravensdown ship, the Federal Crimson. Ravensdown facilities have also been blockaded, rallies have been held, and the movement gains energy every day as Ravensdown and Ballance are feeling the pressure.
There is plenty more work to be done, and we are committed to supporting the campaign and building community solidarity with Western Sahara.
Further international solidarity
Lenin once said, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” This year, we felt that! We have seen the capitalist and working classes clashing against each other on a global scale. Far right governments are seizing power through coups and bogus elections, and mass movements are bringing their nations to a stand-still.
The very first action we held this year was in solidarity with the Brazilian people following the inauguration of the genocidal President Jair Bolsonaro, who took power via judicial coup after jailing his opponent Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. We occupied the Brazilian embassy, not expecting that our message of solidarity would go viral in Brazil. Death threats, rape threats, and Nazi memes flooded in, but were eventually drowned out by messages of heartfelt gratitute. Later in the year, we were invited to be involved in another rally outside the Brazilian embassy by members of the Brazilian expatriate community in Wellington.
Following an attempted imperialist coup in Venezuela, we also occupied the U.S. Consulate in Auckland We have proudly stood with the Chilean community in New Zealand after protests erupted in Chile, and we’ve dropped banners in support of West Papua and Northern Syria against colonial invasion.
As class war rages on an international scale, we plan to stand with indigenous and working class comrades around the world in the global struggle against imperialism, colonisation, and capitalism.
Hamilton council survey
While some on the radical left aren’t all that interested in engaging with elections, members in Hamilton welcomed an opportunity for public education, surveying 75 Hamilton and Waikato candidates on issues of homelessness, housing, public transport, and the living wage. The Hamilton and Waikato councils have, in the past, been a hotbed for racists and climate-change deniers, and our survey aimed to provide voters with information on where candidates stand on issues that matter. The campaign successfully ended the careers of the most dangerous city councillors, and led to Hamilton electing its most progressive council ever.
At this stage, OA hasn’t adopted the strategy to put up our own candidates in regional and national elections, but we will be having rigorous democratic conversations in the coming months about our strategic direction and relationship to electoral politics.
Our march for reproductive rights in December last year brought hundreds of people to parliament to express our collective frustration at the embarrassing state of reproductive rights in New Zealand. For us, reproductive justice isn’t just about free-for-all abortions, but making sure everyone has a livable income so that we never feel shame about having children because we lack the means to provide for them. Reproductive justice is about full bodily autonomy. It’s about free childcare and public services, birth control, education, LGBTI+ liberation, disability justice, and the reconstruction of whānau, hapū, and iwi structures. It has always been a class issue, and while we welcome the new Abortion Law Reform Bill as it makes its way through parliament, we know that there is much more work to be done to achieve true reproductive justice and women’s liberation.
This year, we joined another rally for abortion law reform, and we look forward to next year’s National Day of Action in March, organised by FemForce.
Te Tiriti justice workshop
In December, OA members and supporters in Tāmaki Makaurau facilitated and attended a workshop on Te Tiriti workshop to improve our own understanding of Aotearoa’s constitutional history, arm ourselves with tools to dispel colonial myths, and brainstorm ways in which we as OA can help support the need for constitutional transformation in Aotearoa. The workshop helped us as a branch rethink our decolonial strategy. It underlined the importance of supporting existing decolonial efforts and building relationships with those activists, each other, and bringing these conversations back to our own communities. We’d like to whakamihi Tangata Tiriti for training OA members over five weekends in May-July to be able to facilitate Treaty Workshops such as this one, and other branches are excited to get involved with similar workshops.
Bringing the weapons expo to an end
September this year, we celebrated alongside community organisers from a myriad of groups as the New Zealand Defence, Industry, and National Security Forum, otherwise known as the weapons expo, was cancelled. Peace groups have been organising against the weapons expo since 2003. The campaign really picked-up in 2015 with annual human blockades to stop war profiteers from being able to enter the venue. Our members have been putting their bodies on the line for years, and OA was officially involved in last year’s protests in Palmerston North, just a month after we officially launched.
This was a massive win against the military industrial complex. The expo was sponsored by global arms company Lockheed Martin and hosted by the NZ Defence Industry Association. There’s no guarantee the NZDIA won’t try to sneak its way back in with a rebrand, but if it does, we’ll be ready.
Tax the rich banner-drop
Angered by the callously named ‘Wellbeing Budget’ and the coalition government’s infuriating backdown on implementing a capital gains tax, members of OA hung a pithy “Tax the Rich” banner over the Auckland motorway. The stunt was successful in generating news headlines and saw our then media spokesperson Justine Sachs interviewed by the ever insightful (not) Ryan Bridges of Newshub.
We’re thankful to Justine for her composed articulation of Aotearoa’s gross inequality. It’s necessary for us to continue to present an honest assessment of our political-economy, aiming for an expanded class consciousness to rival ruling class narratives.
After a depressing parliament backdown on implementing much-needed amendments to the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act that would make it much easier for transgender people to change the gender markers on their birth certificates, we wanted to do something positive and proactive. We launched a Givealittle fundraiser, raising over $2000 for Gender Minorities Aotearoa, which provides important resources and advocacy for the trans community.
Later in the year, another Givealittle campaign raised more than $3,500 for kaitiaki at Ihumātao. Our members in Wellington also attended a pub quiz for the Hataitai Bowling Club, a beautiful, historic building in desperate need of repairs, where we had been holding our meetings. The community has big plans for redevelopment.
Fundraisers and mutual aid are part of the bread-and-butter of what we aim to do. It’s no substitute for state or public funding, which we would have plenty to go around if we taxed the rich, or better yet, eliminated capitalism altogether. Until then, we fundraise!
When we publicly launched last year, we could only boast 2 branches in Auckland and Wellington. Now we have active branches in Dunedin and Hamilton as well, and we have been holding events in Christchurch, Rotorua, and Lower Hutt with the hope of “painting the motu red” and establishing more and more branches.
We were extremely saddened to see our comrade, Alex Pirie, pass away this year after a long battle with cancer. He was a long-time community organiser, and he did the lion’s share in organising our environmentalism hui in Rotorua and helping to write our programme. In the last few months of his life, he raised thousands of dollars for cancer research.
Some of our most committed members are members-at-large, too far away to be involved in any of our active branches, but still do vital mahi for OA both online and in their communities. We always encourage members and supporters to get in touch if you would like support in establishing a branch in your region, or to just meet new radical friends you didn’t know were in your area!
Amazing but invisible work has been done to bring our website to life. We will be excited to launch a new website design in the new year, but we’ve also been sharing blog posts to inform our followers better on what we’re about, in a bit more depth than a regular Facebook post.
Here are some of our favourites from the year:
- Interview with Jasmine Taankink
- A Primer on Northern Syria
- What We Can’t Fix: Advocacy and Class Struggle
- Marxism and the world of conspiracy theories
Since launching, we have held community hui around the country on issues of housing, work and welfare, the criminal injustice system, internationalism, environmentalism, and constitutional transformation. The primary purpose has been to engage with our communities about key issues and generate discussion which will inform our programme, but even more important, is providing a space to have community conversations.
We’ve learned quickly that community discussion is valuable in its own right because we are all frustrated, and by having a space to express our concerns with like-minded people, we are building stronger communities together, able to articulate alternatives to neoliberal capitalism. The last of our programme hui will be wrapping up early next year, but we plan to continue creating spaces for collective education and roundtable discussion.
We’re especially proud to have been able to bring these hui to places such as Rotorua and Lower Hutt, and we’re working every day to build an active presence outside of the busy metropolitan centres of Wellington and Auckland.
Launch of our housing programme
Our programme has been a slow process, and we would not be the first to point this out. But we’re not just articulating a short collection of demands. We’re writing a long, extensive, researched analysis of capitalism in New Zealand, and what it will take to move beyond capitalism and build a society which centres people over profit, a society which we can truly take pride in. This is not something we can pump out quickly, and we’re not naive or arrogant enough to believe we can just have all the answers from the beginning. We do not stand above the people, preaching our gospel from a pedestal. We are the people and we voice the people’s collective demands. Together, we are always learning, always building power, always forging new connections.
This year, we launched the first section of our programme on housing – a key site of struggle in Aotearoa. Our programme has been informed by public community discussion, and engagement with people already organising for housing and renters rights. Democratic communities and life without landlords doesn’t have to be a fantasy. Together, we can make it a reality!
Art and creative projects
Toni Cade Bambara once said, “the role of the artist is to make revolution irresistible.” This is why we poured a lot of energy into creative projects, as well as working with local artists, not just to design our own posters and merchandise, but create art for its own sake – art that moves, art that inspires, art that reaches across national borders, brings people together, and tells a story of solidarity.
We would like to thank Accompany Collective for their work on our new logo and brand redesign, which will be unfurled in the new year. We would also like to thank Aya Anderson and Lawrence Thompson for their stunning photography, as well as Mirkyton Ummashtarte and Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho, not just for the posters and art they’ve created for us, but for everything they do to make revolution irresistible.
We would like to share below art which we’ve either commissioned, or which was created by our members.