18 Feb 2015

Maori home ownership scheme stymied

9:51 am on 18 February 2015

A Far North community trust has called for empty state houses in Auckland to be moved to Kaitaia rather than demolished.

Housing New Zealand says the demand now is for larger homes, and smaller one bedroom units.

Housing New Zealand says the demand now is for larger homes, and smaller one bedroom units. Photo: RNZ / Teresa Cowie

He Korowai Trust has bought and relocated nine Glen Innes houses to Kaitaia where it is running a home ownership project for needy families.

It wants to buy more houses for a waiting list of more than 50 whanau, and could take at least 40 for the first stage.

But Housing New Zealand was forced to halt its sales to the Trust last winter, after protesters blocked housemover trucks and clashed with police.

It said a truck driver was knocked out by a flying rock, a truck engine was sabotaged and the situation became unsafe.

Several protesters were also injured and Mana leader, Hone Harawira, who supported the action was arrested.

A Glen Innes woman who has supported the protest, Sue Henare, said the Government's policies on state housing have devastated her community, with long-term residents being shunted around like parcels, and sent away from the neighbourhood where many raised families.

Ms Henare said she knew of 13 elderly people who died soon after they were relocated by Housing New Zealand.

She said Auckland had no shortage of families in need of shelter and the houses should be given to them rather than being sent north.

Housing New Zealand said it planned to build multiple units on the quarter acre sections that are common in older state housing areas such as Glen Innes.

It said on average it could fit three homes on a 900 metre section. Given Auckland's housing crisis, it said that had to be the priority.

A spokesperson said Housing New Zealand supported the Kaitaia project and was prepared to wait for a while in the hope the stand-off could be resolved.

But if, in the end, it could not move the homes safely, then they will simply be pulled down.

He said most are three bedroom homes, while the demand these days is for bigger homes for bigger families, and smaller one bedroom units for singles and couples.

Manager of He Korowai Trust, Ricky Houghton, said the Glen Innes houses were desperately needed in Kaitaia, and he hoped the protesters would relent.

He said many were descendants of Northland whanau who moved down to Auckland in the 1960s for work.

He said in many cases it was their relatives in the Far North who were hoping for a chance to own a home for the first time in their lives through the He Korowai scheme.

Mr Houghton said he met the Glen Innes tenants' group at a meeting this week brokered by Mr Harawira.

He asked to meet face-to-face with them last year, at the peak of the protest, but was advised not to by Mana's deputy co-leader John Minto.

The Kaitaia man said the meeting was fraught with emotion, and he fully understood the pain and anger of the displaced Glen Innes tenants, and their whanau.

But he said if protesters would allow it, something good can come out of all the change and trauma.

Otherwise, he said, nobody wins, and at least 40 solidly-built homes that could shelter poor families in Kaitaia would go to the landfill.

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