Housing provider at the forefront of solving Māori housing crisis

By Tumamao Harawira

Māori housing is one of the big Budget winners, with the government allocating $380 million of its $1 billion-plus spending for Māori on building 1000 new warm, dry homes and Māori housing providers, such as Hurimoana Dennis at the Te Puea Marae, has begun to look to the future with hope.

"We've never had a budget that looks like this and looks the way it does for Māori. I mean a billion dollars for Māori across the board. That's a lot of money, and now it's up to us as providers and whānau to get on and do the mahi."

Te Puea has been at the forefront of Māori housing initiatives since 2016 and, having been invited to Parliament last week for the budget, Dennis is clear about what Te Puea marae can offer to the housing situation among Māori: "So we can get on and do the mahi and the work that we do, and move our 25 heads to 52 heads.

"Five hundred and forty-odd whānau later, we're good at what we do here, and we do it with the agency sitting next to us here at the marae."

Where help is needed

The Housing in Aotearoa: 2020 report by StatsNZ and the Building Research Association found more than two in five Māori and Pasifika people lived in damp housing. But Dennis is concerned whether the funding allocated to Māori housing will get to where it is needed most.

"You do worry in between that level at the front end, there are layers of bureaucracy, which makes it more difficult to access. More policies on top of policies and, before you know it, when it gets down to the front end, it doesn't look the way it does at the back end."

Te Puni Kōkiri has been tasked with leading repairs for 700 Māori-owned houses, aimed at improving the quality of homes for whānau in most need, while a further $30m would help iwi housing providers accelerate housing projects.

But Dennis believes that Te Puea's job isn't only to fix houses; it is also there to help fix the people.

"Being at the wrong end of statistics, that's nothing to be proud of, but it means that we as Māori have the responsibility to get in there and fix the issues."