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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 8. 19th April 1973

The Strike Goes On

The Strike Goes On

July, 1972: Wellington Tenants Protection Association holds inaugural meeting, with several MPs signing on as members. John Prebble Chairman.

August: Organised squatting starts in Wellington to obtain vacant houses for homeless families. TPA's answering service gathers complaints from tenants, members give legal advice etc. Frequent complaints about a landlord called Rama.

September: TPA members visit all known Rama flats i.e. about 75 to collate information and complaints. George Rosenberg becomes Chairman of TPA. Picket of Rama's house at 56 Coromandel Street, Newtown.

October 8th: Meeting of Rama's tenants and TPA. Tenants decide to withhold half their rent to persuade Rama to negotiate. They want fair rents; tenancy agreements fair to tenant; receipts for bonds and guarantee of their return, and an end to "administration fees".

October 12th: Rent Day — the strike begins.

October: Rama hires lawyers and gets them to send long threatening letters to tenants warning them of the consequences of their action. Chairman appointed in each block of flats to collect and hold rents.

November 5th: Demonstration at Rama's house in Newtown. Tenants hire bus to bring in large contingent from the Hutt Valley. Window smashed. Demonstrators visit Rama's lawyer, Stacey.

November 25th: Labour elected with promises to 'protect the little man' and 'bring the people out of the slums'.

December: The squeeze begins to tell on Rama: the mortgage about to be foreclosed on one of his houses. At the last minute he races in with a fistful of money to avert this.

February 1973: A girl rang up about an advertised flat in the Springfield block (relatively attractive). Rama took $30 deposit from her then drove her to Lerwick Flats (slum) and left her there, saying that was all she could have. She didn't want the flat and asked for her money back. "No. You pay me money and I keep it". Police no help.

March: Another tenant left flat, couldn't take all furniture at once. When she went back to get it, it had gone. Summonses sent to striking tenants.

April: Rama wins a few cases against tenants.

April 10th Tuesday: Unable to wait for further court action, Rama hires bailiffs, and sends them to seize tenants' possessions, while men and most women away at work.

Bailiffs force or trick their way into flats. Take furniture and equipment whether it belongs to tenants or friends. Amanda Russell, TPA, arrested for slapping face of Rama's son, a lawyer. Chattels removed into Rama's storage.

That night, TPA members, students and others visited all raided flats to get inventories of what was taken and what was left. Tenants' houses stripped of all but beds and eating utensils. No heaters, no music. Tenants bewildered. Rama has never negotiated. Tenants angry.

April 11th Wednesday: TPA lawyers proceed with writs to sue Rama for exceeding the powers of the 'Distress and Replevin 1908' Act, which authorised some of his bailiffs activities. Students begin to man flats to ensure no more raids.

April 12th Thursday: Special TPA meeting to plan tactics for direct action and demands for delegation to cabinet ministers.

April 13th Friday: Delegation of tenants and TPA members see Matiu Rata, Minister of Maori Affairs (either because most tenants are Maori or because Kirk picks Rata to buy off radicals). Rata says he will look into the matter and declare a 'freeze' over the weekend on further action by Rama or the tenants. But Rata promised nothing.

Meeting held in Student Union Building to consolidate student support. Large numbers turn up. Leaflet 'Tenants in Distress' handed out at railway station — good public response. Telegram campaign to Kirk and Finlay (Justice) started.

Saturday 14th: More information gathering in the Hutt. Halloran, founder of Auckland TPA, arrives in Wellington. Support coming in all the time, from the public and from various unions.

Sunday 15th, 2pm: Meeting at Waterloo Plunket rooms, of tenants, students, other interested people. Whetu Tirakatene-Sullivan's Secretary and Trevor Young, MP for Hutt, present. Rama has broken freeze — he seized a push-chair from one flat. Fearing that Rama will sell seized goods, tenants agree in principle that they should be reclaimed.

Paul Halloran sets the tone of the meeting: "What happens here will determine what will happen to tenants all over the country . . . . The Government has fallen back on its statements issued before the election and has done nothing for tenants in their fight for reasonable conditions. It has come to the time when more direct action be taken and increased pressure be placed on the Government". Halloran said that support for the Rent Strike was coming from all directions and that if the Government made no stand over landlords like Rama then Rent Strikes and other actions would be taken on a nation wide basis. According to Halloran, Rata had said when the Auckland TPA was formed, that he would be prepared to squat and support the withholding of rent. "None of you are doing anything the Minister of Maori and Island Affairs said he wouldn't do, and if he goes back on that there's a word for him, and as an ex-seaman he'd know what it is". Trevor Young gave support to the tactics and objectives of the meeting and in fact encouraged pressure on the Government in the form of direct action. He said he did not think that this would not prejudice the Government's inquiry into the strike.

The meeting reiterated the tenants' demands for independent arbitration of the dispute and for negotiation of fair rents. Rama has at all times refused to negotiate with tenants. They also want receipts for key money, bonds, etc., and a guarantee that they will be paid back at the end of tenancy. They want freedom from harassment by their landlord.

page 3
Photo of the outside of a house and people carrying property

Friends of the tenants liberate the property seized by Rama's bailiffs from tenants' flats.

Photo of people taking household items