Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Multiple arrests at welfare reform protest

Protestors outside the Ministry of Social Development's Auckland building in Ellerslie . Photo / Dean Purcell
Protestors outside the Ministry of Social Development's Auckland building in Ellerslie . Photo / Dean Purcell

Former Green MP Sue Bradford will appear in Auckland District Court on Friday after a protest action in which she and four others chained themselves to a pillar in the Ministry of Social Development's Auckland regional office today.

All were charged tonight with wilful trespass after police cut the chain to remove them from the office this afternoon.

One other protester was also charged with trespass after he ran towards a back entrance in an apparent bid to break into the office.

Ms Bradford, now a doctoral student at Auckland University of Technology, said the protest would be the first of many against the Government's second welfare reform bill, introduced in Parliament on Monday, which reduces benefit categories from seven to three and provides for a new "one-strike rule" that would cancel a person's benefit for 13 weeks if they turn down a single job offer.

"I feel so strongly that we have to lift the level of resistance to what the Government is doing to beneficiaries," she said just after being freed on bail tonight.

"Just in the last 24 hours I have heard so many stories from beneficiaries who are just overwhelmed by the next onslaught. The fear is huge of what is going to happen.

"It's very hard for a lot of people to take action. That's why it's important that activist groups like ours can put ourselves on the line in whatever way we can."

Ministry of Social Development Auckland Regional Commissioner Isabel Evans said she supported the right to peaceful protest but her office called police when they began to worry about the safety of staff.

"What I can't condone is when protesters disrupt our ability to do our job," she said.

"I understand that future protests have been planned and I would encourage any protester to use their common sense, especially when it comes to the safety of our clients or the general public."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 21 Oct 2014 12:29:35 Processing Time: 344ms