Sam Kuha is no longer suffering hunger pangs, almost two weeks into the hunger strike he embarked upon in protest over WINZ' food grant policy, but he is feeling the cold.
He was also receiving solid support from almost all quarters.
The 59-year-old Kaikohe man, who lost a leg and the use of one arm when he was run over 20 years ago, said he had not eaten since September 14, when he was refused a $40 special needs grant to buy food.
WINZ in Kaikohe said he had received three grants so needed to see a budgeter before he could get a fourth.
Mr Kuha said he had prepared a budget last time he reached the three-grant limit, and doing another was senseless because neither his income nor expenses had changed. In any case, there was a two-week wait to see a budgeter.
"If they were going to make me go hungry, I decided to take that out of their hands. It's my choice," he said. He then realised there was no point being on hunger strike if no one knew about it, so last Tuesday he made the 4km trek by electric wheelchair to Kaikohe and used a hammer to smash two windows in the Community Link office.
Mr Kuha said he would not eat until the department changed its policy on special needs grants.
"This is not about me, this is about kids going hungry because their mums or dads are refused a food grant," he said.
The response to his protest was "mind-boggling," and a little overwhelming. Apart from a talkback host, Michael Laws, it had all been supportive.
He had refused offers of food or money but would now pass them on to other people who had been refused grants. It would be done via foodbanks in Kaikohe and Moerewa, to ensure any donations went to people in genuine need.
Meanwhile Kaitaia GP Dr Lance O'Sullivan visited Mr Kuha earlier this week, not to talk him out of his hunger strike but to offer support and advice, and a medical opinion. The risks Mr Kuha was taking depended on his prior health but people had been known to survive for weeks without food.
Dr O'Sullivan also wanted to lend his support to Mr Kuha, because many of his patients had had similar experiences with government agencies.
"Going on a hunger strike is extreme, but the issues he's protesting about are a common occurrence," he said.
"The staff at government agencies such as Work and Income, Housing NZ, CYF, ACC and the police regularly deal with people suffering significant hardship and stress. We need to ensure our response to them does not make their stress worse."
Meanwhile advocate Ken Brown is negotiating with WINZ on Mr Kuha's behalf. He has passed on Mr Kuha's demands for a change in the food grant policy and has requested a review of his benefit entitlements.
It has been found that a special benefit he is entitled to had lapsed, giving him an extra $19 a week, although it's not about the money, Mr Kuha reiterating that he won't end his strike until the policy changes for all beneficiaries.
`Heaps more' than some
Hunger striker Sam Kuha says he's grateful for the help he has received from WINZ.
And despite his humble living conditions, and financial woes, the one-time bushman and business owner says he's better off than many.
``I'm grateful for what I get, and I'm grateful the system's there,'' he said earlier this week.
``Compared to a lot of people I'm absolutely blessed. I've got heaps more than the average person. I have a house, a car, a four-wheel-drive buggy, and this great country to live in.''
The messages of support and offers of help he had received had lifted his spirits, but some had also brought him sadness.
Many people had told him they had also run out of food and money, and had been refused a special needs grant, but they had children as well. His problems were small because he had only himself to feed.