Pubdate: Mon, 03 May 2004
Source: Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2004 Allied Press Limited
Author: Jane Smith


Octagon Hosts Three Demonstrations

Cannabis users, international socialists and undervalued nurses staged 
separate demonstrations in the Octagon at the same time on Saturday afternoon.

About 100 people sat smoking cannabis in the lower half of the Octagon to 
mark the annual J Day protest against the prohibition of cannabis in New 

"Today is a public statement to show that people who use cannabis shouldn't 
have to exist in an underground subculture, but be free to openly use their 
drug of choice," J Day spokesman Julian Crawford said.

"We are here today to fight against prohibition because we see it as unjust 
and unworkable law."

J Day, or Joint Day, was marked internationally on the first Saturday of 
May, which coincided with International Workers' Day, or May Day, this year.

Referring to the May Day demonstration for workers' rights in the upper 
half of the Octagon, Mr Crawford said that in some ways it was "part of the 
same cause".

"The system has a number of inequalities, a number of people exploited or 
oppressed in some way, and these various protests are just different 
manifestations of people's frustrations with the system," he said.

Protesters smoked and listened to live music for several hours before 
walking down to the police station, where they smoked inside and outside 
the building.

Senior Sergeant Bruce Ross said, "We just ignored them . . . We are not 
interested. We don't get involved in their protest."

In the upper half of the Octagon, May Day spokeswoman Penny Hayes said 
people were celebrating workers' power.

Union speakers addressed the 40-strong crowd on the importance of workers 
worldwide uniting to force improvements in working and living conditions.

Wages and conditions had gone backwards for ordinary New Zealanders in the 
past 10 years, Ms Hayes said.

Wages had not kept up with inflation, people were working longer hours and 
harder, and a recent World Health Organisation-funded report had shown many 
Dunedin houses were "not fit for human habitation".

"New Zealand is changing quite a lot and not for the better . . . Workers' 
day is about bread-and-butter issues," she said.

The more united workers were, the more power they had, and the more 
democratic the society they lived in.

In the third Octagon demonstration, three Dunedin nurses asked passers-by 
to sign their petition calling on the Government to boost funding to 
district health boards to improve working and pay conditions for nurses.

Dunedin Public Hospital emergency nurse Jane Nimmo said nurses were poorly 
paid, overworked and stressed.

She worked part-time because full-time was too stressful, especially in a 
litigious society and when she sometimes had to care for more patients than 
she thought safe for one nurse.

Ten years ago, nurses had had pay parity with teachers and police officers 
but now, they were paid significantly less, and did not get the same leave 

"I feel very passionate about emergency nursing. I believe I'm making a 
real contribution to people who come in and need it, but it's an extremely 
stressful job," Ms Nimmo said.

"It's emotionally, physically and mentally tiring."

Although nursing schools were full, many graduates were not entering the 
profession in New Zealand because pay and conditions were better overseas.

Instead of improving conditions, the Government was spending $100 million a 
year recruiting overseas nurses, she said.

As a result, the average age of nurses in New Zealand was 46.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom