Hunger strike ends with big breakfast

By Peter de Graaf of the Northern Advocate with APN

Sam Kuha says he'll start eating again if there is movement on food grants. Photo / Peter De Graaf
Sam Kuha says he'll start eating again if there is movement on food grants. Photo / Peter De Graaf

A Northland beneficiary has broken his 30-day hunger strike with a "Broadway Breakie" complete with eggs, sausages, hashbrowns, bacon and two flat whites.

Sam Kuha told an assembled media throng he especially enjoyed the bacon but found the sausages "a bit rich" after his extended fast - in protest at being refused a Work and Income emergency food grant.

Mr Kuha was joined for this morning's breakfast in Kaikohe's Cafe Malaahi by renegade MP Hone Hawawira and his brother Arthur.

The Mana Party leader picked up the tab just hours after his arrest in Auckland following a housing protest last night in Glen Innes, in which he refused to move his car from a road.

He is due to appear in Auckland District Court on Wednesday.

Mr Kuha struggled with his first meal in a month, only managing to finish about half the big breakfast. But he washed back two hot coffees, his first since beginning the hunger strike last month.

A steady stream of supporters congratulated Mr Kuha on his stand, with one kind-hearted soul delivering him a fresh batch of homemade pipi fritters.

His supporters are claiming victory after Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said she would meet with Mr Kuha and listen to his concerns if he gave up his protest.

The meeting is pencilled in for sometime during the next fortnight. Mr Kuha said he was looking forward to meeting Ms Bennett and hoped their get together would take place at the same cafe.

This morning's breakfast date was nearly as popular as last year's infamous cup of tea between Prime Minister John Key and Act Party leader John Banks, with television, radio and print journalists descending on the cafe as the trio tucked in.

Mr Kuha, 59, stopped eating on September 14 when his request for a $40 food grant was declined by Work and Income in Kaikohe. He had refused to see a budget adviser because of a two-week wait and because his situation had not changed since his last budget.

He returned the next day on his mobility scooter with a sledgehammer and smashed a window in the Work and Income office, landing him in court.

While his protest was initially directed at Work and Income's food-grant policy, his focus had since broadened to the poverty affecting beneficiaries' children.

Mr Harawira - who also tucked into a Broadway Breakie - said he was honoured to be with Mr Kuha as he broke his hunger strike. He also congratulated Ms Bennett for agreeing to meet with Mr Kuha, saying he hoped the Government would scrap a policy that left people having to beg.

Asked about last night's arrest, Mr Harawira said it was "bloody over the top". He also questioned whether the courts would bother issuing a warrant for his arrest if he failed to turn up for his scheduled appearance on the obscure charge of failing to remove a car from a road.

He would not be drawn on whether he intended to defend the charge.

The Te Tai Tokerau MP was among at least seven people arrested during the Auckland protest.

Members of the Tamaki Housing Action Group, who are fighting the removal of state houses and eviction of families, occupied one property being removed in preparation for redevelopment.

- APNZ

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