Sam Kuha shared his first meal after a 30 day hunger strike with Te Taitokerau MP Hone Harawira after receiving a letter from the Minister of Social Development, Paula Bennett agreeing to meet with him. Bacon was part of his first meal and while Mr Kuha expressed his excitement he vowed to avoid the bacon fat on his plate.
Throughout his 30 day hunger strike in protest of the impending welfare reforms, Kuha built a strong network of supporters keen to follow his journey, including Northland doctor Lance O’Sullivan who visited him to check on his health. Mr Kuha says “I’m happy because this isn’t about fault or anything like that, this is about trying to fix a problem which is process and make sure kids aren’t going hungry anymore”.
Sharing a breakfast with Kuha, Mana Party MP Hone Harawira says “I am so happy to see our relative eating again; now the Minister has finally agreed to meet with him he can tell her about these issues face to face”.
In the Ministers letter Paula Bennett requested that Sam end his hunger strike and she in turn would meet with him face to face to discuss his concerns over processes that beneficiaries must go through to obtain a food voucher. Harawira says many people across the country not only Maori were extremely concerned about Mr Kuha’s wellbeing with many fearing he would starve himself to death.
Work and Income declined Kuha’s application for a food grant which was the catalyst for his hunger strike after he returned to the WINZ offices in Kaikohe and took to the office windows with a sledgehammer to express his disgust at the processes they have in place. He claimed after losing his leg he was forced to depend a lot more on assistance and was made to feel less than human.
A date for the meeting is yet to be set but Kuha says the Minister can be reassured that she will be treated with dignity and respect when they finally come face to face and he hopes his concerns are heard and changes are made as a result.