Monday, December 11, 2023

Residents consider legal action over public housing development

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Kainga Ora is building new public housing in Huntington Park. Times photo Wayne Martin

More than 640 people have signed a petition calling for a halt to a plan to build dozens of new public housing places in an east Auckland community.

Officials from Kainga Ora recently fronted a heated public meeting in Botany to discuss the agency’s development in Huntington Park.

The Times has been told by people who attended the meeting that irate residents shouted at the officials, who threatened to leave if people didn’t calm down.

Huntington Park Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Brian Brown has written to Housing Minister Dr Megan Woods, the Howick ward’s two councillors, and Howick Local Board about the group’s opposition to the project.

He says residents are forming an action group to oppose the development.

“We’re looking at getting legal action as well.

“The main problem is nobody knew anything about it until March, after ground had been broken, and even then they [Kainga Ora] just told the bordering houses and it didn’t go any wider than that.”

Brown says residents would still have concerns if the agency had communicated earlier in the process.

“We’re worried about extra traffic and much more parking. That’s one of the main issues.

“Also, the people next door are basically a metre away from the fence so that’s probably six hours a day less sunlight they’ll get.”

He says residents who voiced their opposition at the public meeting in April were “basically told we’re bigoted against poor people” by the Kainga Ora officials.

The officials said the public housing wouldn’t affect the values of residents’ homes and made statements Brown believes were contradictory.

“They said they choose an area based on whether there are local schools, but they also said there’s no primary school within walking distance,” he says.

“Then they said these are lower income people and they aren’t going to have a lot of cars, so then how will they drive their kids to school, because the school isn’t close?”

The development will add 48 new public housing places in east Auckland. Times photo Wayne Martin

John Tubberty, Kainga Ora regional director for central and east Auckland, says there’s an “urgent need” for more public housing across New Zealand.

There were 291 households on the Ministry of Social Development’s housing register within the Howick Local Board area in March.

He says the Huntington Park development will add 48 “much-needed” new one-, two-, and three-bedroom homes, as well as 62 off-street parking spaces and a community room for residents.

It’s due to be completed in June next year.

When Kainga Ora redevelops land it owns, it typically informs neighbours prior to work commencing, but as the Huntington Park site is being developed by a private company, it was unable to do so due to “commercial and legal constraints”, Tubberty says.

“This happened at the end of February 2023, after the developer had obtained the resource consent and ground works had begun.

“In March we informed the community new public housing was being built on the site for Kainga Ora.”

Tubberty says the community meeting was held to provide information about the development and how the agency manages its homes.

“Kainga Ora staff also met separately with the residents’ association committee and delivered a letter about the new development to around 100 neighbouring residents.”

He says the agency is committed to working with locals during construction.

“Before we tenant the properties next year we plan to host an open day to provide neighbours, local stakeholders and the community with an opportunity to view the new homes.

“We will also look for opportunities for our customers and the neighbours to get to know one another better.”

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