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National MP queries social housing in high-value suburb

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 13/06/2018

Housing New Zealand should have consulted neighbours before buying land in Whangarei for social housing, National MP Shane Reti says.

Housing New Zealand paid $1.3 million for 3ha of vacant Ministry of Education land in the high-value suburb of Maunu.

Locals had assumed the land was part of the council's Puriri Park, and many are upset at the plan.

Their concerns include losing green space, and the potential impact of an intensive social housing development on lifestyles and property values.

Dr Reti said the residents felt Housing New Zealand should have considered other options.

"The argument's been made that for that same $1.3m there are much bigger spaces that would accommodate more [houses] that are still just as pleasant as Puriri Park may be."

Housing New Zealand said it was already looking at several blocks of land around the city for social housing.

But its asset development manager, Patrick Dougherty, said Whangarei's waiting list for a state house had more than doubled in four years; the need was urgent, and the Puriri Park houses could be built within two years.

"All the reasons why the people who live in that suburb love it, are the same reasons why we think it is a good place for people who live in a state house," he said.

"The fact that there are some great schools close by, that fantastic park right next door and people who live in state houses have as much right to live in that environment as anybody else."

Mr Reti said no one disagreed with the need for social housing in Whangarei, and it was not a case of "NIMBY" (not in my back yard) but a matter of finding the right "fit" for the suburb.

He said there was already chronic traffic congestion in Maunu and an extra 40 or so vehicles trying to turn onto Maunu Road at peak times would make that even worse.

"Some of the local people, no more than 18-months ago, looked to develop out at Austins Road and the council declined [their project] on the basis of NZTA concerns about traffic turning onto Maunu Road.

"So if they were concerned about it 18-months ago they need to be concerned about it now," Mr Reti said.

Housing New Zealand said it plans to build on about half of the Puriri Park land, leaving the rest in native bush.

Mr Dougherty said the design process would now begin and he would be happy to consult with Maunu residents once there was something to show them.

Housing New Zealand had won an architectural award for a recent housing project in Auckland, and he could promise that the 40 to 60 Puriri Park homes would be an attractive fit for the suburb, Mr Dougherty said.

In Whangarei, 170 families and individuals are on the waiting list for a state house, and groups working with the homeless are worried that the numbers of people with nowhere to live are growing by the month.

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