The announcement by Housing New Zealand that it is closing all its client offices and will now require anyone in need of shelter to contact it by phone or internet -- even though most of those in the greatest need have neither phone or internet access -- is going to make it harder for people to get help with housing. That's obvious.
But it's worse than that. To take one example: there has been a small Housing NZ office at the flats on Grey's Avenue in Central Auckland. Many "difficult" tenants have been placed at those flats, and the presence of the office gives other tenants a ready point of contact to report problems, a sense that the landlord is engaged with their welfare.
Now, that's gone: Google searches for the offices just bring up the message We’re sorry, but that page doesn’t exist… . The Contact page now carries only national office phone numbers and an accursed contact form. Even though many tenants will have no phone -- or only prepaid mobiles, from which 0800 numbers don't appear to be free calls -- or internet.
One might almost think the idea was to make the landlord hard to contact.
And one other thing occurs. It is now intolerable that we have a piece of legislation, the Copyright (Infringing File-Sharing) Act, which contains an enactable provision for termination of internet access. Yet the internet may be the only free means for these people to seek the basic right of shelter. If there was any doubt that internet access amounts to a twenty-first century human right, that doubt is now well and truly gone.