4 Jun 2019

Auckland principal worried some evicted students may not get help

From First Up, 5:50 am on 4 June 2019

The principal of Auckland's Tamaki College says she's worried that some students whose families were wrongly forced out of the community may not be helped to return.

Tamaki College principal Soana Pamaka says both Pākehā and Polynesian families are avoiding the school because of false perceptions.

 Soana Pamaka Photo: RNZ / Sharon Brettkelly

Local MP Simon O'Connor said families who had to move out of state housing due to a new housing redevelopment in the Tāmaki area shouldn't have been forced out of the community.

Mr O'Connor is urging those families affected to come and see him, along with the Tāmaki Regeneration Company (TRC) which is responsible for about 2800 state houses in the area, saying those families are welcome to return.

Students spoke to First Up last week saying their families had been evicted from their Housing New Zealand homes because of the new housing redevelopment.

The students said their families were forced to pay more for private rentals in South Auckland on top of extra costs for travel and they're families were now struggling even more than they were before.

TRC took over ownership and management of the community's state homes from the Housing Corporation in 2016 and promised the current residents that they could be re-homed within the Tāmaki area if they wanted to.

But Soana Pamaka said she was surprised to find out several of her students were forced out and she's worried that the families forced to move before 2016 may not get the help they needed.

"I knew that some of our young people were catching a train. But I wasn't aware of exactly why that was," she told First Up.

Students at Auckland's Tamaki college.

Photo: RNZ / First Up

"I didn't realise they were forced to live outside of the community. So it is a concern, because of the financial strain and the travel time and all of that is obviously going to affect them and their learning."

Ms Pamaka said the students who spoke to First Up were pleased to hear TRC would help them and their families return to the community.

"They're quite happy about this and they're very excited," said Ms Pamaka who is now working with TRC to identify which families within the school have been affected.

"I have met a lot of families who have been happily relocated locally, I was quite confident that the Tāmaki Regeneration company was doing their best to ensure that the families who wished to still live locally could do so. So I was surprised to hear from our young people that they were forced out."

Tāmaki's redevelopment project began six years ago and is Auckland's biggest housing project.

While Ms Pamaka said TRC could help those who may have been forced to move out of the community from 2016 onwards, she's worried about what will happen to the families who were forced to move prior to that period - and that included at least one of her students. 

"There needs to be a way of offering that help to them without having to wait for them to come in and ask for it," Ms Pamaka said.

"I am worried about the families who moved out prior to the formation of TRC so I don't have any clarity about who's going to help those families.

"I think if the families were forced to move out post the formation of TRC, we can figure that out that but I'm not quite sure who's going to help the families who moved out prior to the formation of TRC."

Before TRC was formed, Housing New Zealand was responsible for the state housing redevelopment project in Tāmaki. 

Ms Pamaki said the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) needed to reach out to families affected.

"If we don't do anything about the families who moved prior to TRC being formed, they're going to continue to struggle, and other people may continue to be affected. Are [MSD] going to step in and help? I don't know."

First Up has repeatedly reached out to Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni, but she's been unable to comment on the case at this time.

"What is clear is that some of our families are not sure whom to talk to because this only came out once the students spoke to [First Up] so obviously, if they're suffering, they're not quite sure whom to talk to about it," said Ms Pamaka.

"Those responsible need to be reaching out to the community, if it's going to work. Don't wait until the community comes to ask you for help because it's not going to work for a lot of our families," she said.

"I'm pleased that these young people said what they said which has given rise to the fact that potentially there are more families out there who exactly in the same situation."