Mana Party leader Hone Harawira was at court yesterday to support a Kaikohe beneficiary on a hunger strike in protest at his treatment by Work and Income.
Sam Kuha, 59, made his first appearance in Kaikohe District Court after allegedly smashing two windows at Work and Income's Kaikohe office.
Kuha said he travelled into town by electric wheelchair early on September 18 and shattered the windows with a sledgehammer to draw attention to his hunger strike, now in its 16th day.
He entered no plea to a charge of causing intentional damage and was remanded on bail until October 30.
His only bail condition is not to visit Winz except by prior arrangement.
Outside court, Mr Harawira said Kuha was a courageous man who deserved support. His story, of being forced off ACC on to a benefit too low to live on was all too common.
"The Government expects everybody to suffer in silence. They say there's no excuse for breaking a window, but there's no excuse for children starving or living in poverty because of benefit cuts. That's absolutely criminal, far beyond a broken window - yet they're not being held accountable," Mr Harawira said.
Kuha, who lost a leg and the use of an arm after being run over 20 years ago, started his hunger strike after being refused a food grant on September 14.
He had already received three special-needs grants so Winz rules required him to see a budgeter before getting another. Kuha refused, saying it was pointless as his income and expenses had not changed since his last budget, and in any case there was a two-week wait to see an adviser.
He said he would not lift his hunger strike until the three-grant rule was changed. As an adult on his own, he could get by. His concern was for families with children.
He said he had been contacted by the Ministry for Social Development, though he had yet to meet officials face to face. He said his benefit amounted to $244 a week, leaving him just $18 for food once his expenses had been paid.
Mr Harawira has also been arguing Kuha's case in Parliament, using question time on Wednesday to grill Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.By Northern Advocate staff