Monday, July 15, 2024

Fire-damaged public housing development on track

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A Kainga Ora public housing project in Huntington Park caught fire in July this year. Times file photo Wayne Martin

Construction of a controversial public housing complex in east Auckland that was damaged in a fire is going ahead, but its completion will be delayed by about a month.

The blaze broke out at the multi-storey Kainga Ora complex in Guys Road, Huntington Park, in the early hours of July 24.

As the Times has previously reported, Fire and Emergency NZ was alerted at about 5.30am.

Photos posted to social media the morning of the incident show the complex engulfed in flames.

Multiple fire trucks were still present at the scene at about 10am.

Water from a fire hose atop a crane was being used to dampen the interior of the building, the steel frame of which was exposed.

Part of Guys Road was blocked to traffic as firefighters removed bent and burned steel from inside the building’s ground floor. A fire investigator was present also.

A member of the public at the scene said he didn’t see the blaze when he drove past it at about 5am, but when he returned shortly after 6am the building was alight.

Following the incident, a police spokesperson said officers were working to investigate the fire’s circumstances.

“We can confirm the fire is being treated as suspicious and extensive damage has occurred at the site.

“An initial scene examination has been conducted and further enquiries remain ongoing.”

The 48-home development is being built in stages and was due for completion in mid-2024.

It’s on two sites and will predominantly house smaller families.

The project has been met with opposition from the local community since it was announced.

More than 600 people signed a petition earlier this year calling for its halt.

Kainga Ora officials fronted a heated public meeting in Botany in April to discuss the development.

People who attended the meeting said irate residents shouted at the officials, who threatened to leave if people didn’t calm down.

Kainga Ora regional director central and east Auckland, John Tubberty, says: “The developer, Gemscott, has completed its assessment of the damage and has advised us there will be about a one-month delay in the delivery of these 48 much-needed new homes.

“They are working hard to get these homes completed as soon as possible as they know they will make a world of difference to the families who will live in them.”

Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown told the Times prior to the suspected arson being carried out he “totally understands” the concerns expressed by the local community about the development.

“The reality is there is a need for more social housing in east Auckland and of course there is always going to be concerns.

“The majority of Kainga Ora tenants are respectful of their neighbours and treat their properties appropriately, but there are also cases where tenants of social housing cause significant concerns for the community.

“Not everyone is going to be happy but if they [Kainga Ora] engage with the community they can talk through the facts, explain what they’re doing, and have that conversation up front.”

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