17 Dec 2019

Ōtara residents protest Mahitahi housing development for mental illness, addiction recovery

From First Up, 5:33 am on 17 December 2019

Dozens of residents from the South Auckland suburb of Ōtara say they've been taken advantage of by a Māori social housing trust building a development for those recovering from mental illness and addiction next to several schools.

Ōtara Leaders for Justice spokesperson Tuava'a Lefono.

Ōtara Leaders for Justice spokesperson Tuava'a Lefono. Photo: RNZ / Katie Doyle

They took to the streets yesterday afternoon, to protest the development and how it's been handled. 

The Franklyne Road papakāinga housing development by the Mahitahi Trust has been three years in the making and when completed will house more than 40 people.

"Behind them is also a kōhanga reo and a couple of other primary schools surrounding the area," said a spokesperson for the Ōtara Leaders for Justice group, Tuava'a Lefono.

He said residents battled for a meeting with Mahitahi over the development, but when they finally got one, building consent had already been granted. 

Ōtara residents took to the streets to protest the Mahitahi  development and how it's been handled.

Ōtara residents took to the streets to protest the Mahitahi development and how it's been handled. Photo: RNZ/Katie Doyle

If proper consultation had occurred the outcome might have been different, but now the community just wanted construction to stop indefinitely, Lefono said. 

"They wouldn't do this in Remuera, they wouldn't do this in Parnell and sure as hell the people that live there wouldn't allow this to happen." 

A Local Youth Worker, Sully Paea, said the Ōtara community was sick of being used and abused by outsiders. 

He said people just wanted to know what was going to happen in the area beforehand, which was something they were almost never afforded. 

"We've been through the mill many times over because it's Ōtara," he said. 

"If it was done in a proper manner it would not have turned out this way ... well that's why we're here, we're here to make sure that Ōtara's voice is loud and clear." 

Auckland councillor Efeso Collins was also at the protest and said Mahitahi attended a community meeting two weeks ago, and promised to attend another, which they later cancelled on. 

"All Mahitahi needed to do was come and talk to the community and give them assurances that they are going to be safe ... that's why we're here today," he said. 

"It's a failure on Mahitahi's part and there's failures on the consenting process because they didn't get a general consultation out through public notification."  

Collins said he had asked Auckland Council to look at current building consent policies, and he expected answers with haste. 

The Mahitahi Trust wouldn't speak with First Up, but in a statement said the people living at the Franklyne Road papakāinga would be vetted three times for safety. 

It said housing was a basic human right that every person should have, including those dealing with addiction and mental illness. 

"The development is going to provide long-term homes for those on a journey toward wellness who might otherwise find it difficult to rent a home of their own in their local community."