Otara locals wary of new housing construction

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Mental health and addictions provider - Mahitahi kainga trust,  is currently constructing 41 self-contained units as a housing complex, adjacent to a school and early childhood learning center and residential homes. This has raised alarms with Ōtara community members who feel like they've been left in the dark regarding the project.

Jane Loto - the chairperson of ONAC (Otara Network Action Committee) - which has a trusted legacy and history operating as the recognized Otara Community network for almost 30 years, told Te Ao News that their concern is not in the kaupapa itself, rather, the lack of communication from Mahitahi, with ONAC and the Ōtara community.

"No community consultation or engagement with the Otara community was made prior to the day they started to demolish the existing 2 dwellings on the site and the trees being cut down, by means of a drop off box letter from Mahitahi Trust to the nearby residents - this was the first engagement the Trust made with the community. 

"This letter states that this initiative has been over three years of planning and the first engagement with our community was the day it started.  This letter alarmed the nearby residents with the concern for the safety of their family and neighbors."

The housing complex is currently under construction on the corner on Franklyn Rd, Otara, Tāmaki. 

A meeting was held on the 18th of November in which ONAC, community members, and Mahitahi were able to converse with one another regarding the project.

Te Ao reached out to Mahi Tahi Kainga Trust Board about the meeting, in which they responded:

"Our conversations were that of understanding and empathy. We made it clear that these are for permanent living spaces.

"These houses are not for ex-prisoners, nor are they for sex offenders, or people who are short stayers. We will do our best to evaluate each applicant to ensure these homes are free of violence."

Puti Taufa (Ngāti Hine) feels that more effort needs to be made from the trust in their collaborative efforts with the community. 

"They aren’t listening to what’s being said. I'm saying to them, come and listen. Come and hear the dialogue, fill your baskets with knowledge, ask the necessary questions that we all want to hear."

A follow-up meeting is planned for early next month.