The hui organisers highlighted some significant housing issues that need urgent attention, including housing affordability, over crowding, substandard housing, and homelessness. The discussion centred not only on State housing, but also private rentals - identifying a number of issues in these areas.
I heard unhappy grumblings from some in the audience when talking to the following Maori Party policy:
The Maori Party will devolve state housing to Māori and Pasifika community groups for whānau to purchase their own homes, including a rent-to-own scheme.
Not long after this particular announcement, two Maori people (the only two Maori, apart from my support crew who came with me) from Glen Innes walked into the room and told everyone about what is happening in their community in relation to the Tamaki Transformation Project (TTP).
56% of houses in G.I. are state homes, and Housing New Zealand are currently in the process of relocating over 150 families in order to start the project which would see the a number of sections subdivided for the creation of new state houses. Some houses will remain as state houses, some will be sold off to community organisations to administer, and some houses will be sold in to private ownership.
One of the Maori people from G.I. stood up and talked about how people felt about being moved out of their state homes, which in a word, is traumatised. Many people had lived in their homes for over 40 years, some whanau were multi-generational tenants, and some were deeply entrenched in their community, and were being asked to relocate elsewhere. Needless to say, there was a lot of mamae, and stress in his community.
No politician had an answer for how to help. In fact, I did wonder whether any of them knew anything about the TTP project at all. Even I didn't have a solution to support his community in the immediate future. What I did do however, was respond to the kaupapa he put on the table.
I told him that despite the facilitator not wanting his issue to be discussed, and despite no panelists having an answer - that I wanted to address the kaupapa laid down. (Why? Because he was Maori, and deserved to be heard; and because I am Maori, and it is my job to hear him, and take that kaupapa up)
I told him that I had been to a hui held in G.I. at Ruapotaka marae, and that I heard first hand the trauma, the stress and the mamae within the community from having people moved out of their homes. I got it - its about connection, security, and 'home'.
I told him that the Maori Party wanted to make sure this did not happen again to our communities in the future by ensuring that no whanau was left vulnerable to the mercy of Governments.
The unfortunate truth is that if the government giveth, the government can easily taketh away.
That is why the Maori Party want to put State houses into the hands of community organisations who focus on Maori, Pacific and Low Incomes to help them by:
a) administering housing stock (because we believe that community organisations know how to look after those people within their communities)
b) supporting whanau to put their rent towards ownership of their homes (so that no whanau can ever have their house taken off them by a government with a 'new direction' or 'new plan' for development)
c) Ensuring we have whanau ora models in place (so that communities are resilient, looking after one another, and taking reciprocal responsibility to address the issues facing them in their own communities)
We believe that this is what our people should be aiming for: freedom from vulnerability; or in other words RANGATIRATANGA.
It's not about being rich, its about having your right to decent housing met, while also ensuring that you have security, and freedom to make your own decisions (regardless of who is in Government).
And until we are able to 'whanau ora-ise' the State (which is our long-term goal), we must provide alternative options to help look after our people in the immediate future. That's what the Maori Party is about.