Plans to settle ancestral lands excite

By Laurel Stowell, Wanganui Chronicle
6:27 AM Friday May 2, 2014


Thriving wetlands, houses made of pumice blocks and a proposed papakāinga of 30 dwellings were outlined to the third National Māori Housing Conference in Wanganui.

The conference finishes tomorrow and focuses on planning and financing papakāinga - clusters of housing on ancestral Māori land.

The conference is hosted by the Whanganui Iwi Housing Forum and its national umbrella organisation, Te Matapihi Trust. Trust chairman Rau Hoskins said Māori housing needed more resourcing, but progress now would be good for future projects.

They could range from two houses on a marae to 20 on a papakāinga or the takeover of 200 houses from Housing New Zealand.

Three Whanganui region projects were presented to an appreciative audience of about 100 yesterday.

Brother and sister Judd and Moari Bailey talked of their goal for a vibrant community on 27ha of land handed down from their forebears.

Their Riri A Te Hori 2 development borders Putiki. The land is swamp, hills, gullies and flats with a former pa site and puna (spring).

The Baileys recently got it back, after 13 years when it was leased to a farmer for $46 a week. The tenant left behind rubbish dumps and gorse regrowth, and Mr Bailey said those former lease holder issues were being addressed through the Māori Trustee.

The two have now leased out the flats for $11,000 a year, which gave them capital to work with. Wetland ponds have been dug, with the aim of attracting eels and koura. Gorse has been mulched or left to shelter native regeneration.

Hillsides are to grow medicinal native plants (rongoa), to be provided to healers.

A community garden has already produced crops, and an old cowshed is the current base. The pair are now researching eco building methods, including using local clay mixed with muka (flax fibre).

Shipping containers are another possibility.

They aim to generate their own energy and deal with their own waste.

"The waste will be treated in a natural flow system. There will be no hooking up to council services."

They want to live there and hope the place will spawn small businesses, perhaps in catering or rongoa or education.

Next was the "Ben and Ken Show", with Ben Potaka and Ken Mair talking about a housing project at Pungarehu Marae on the Whanganui River.

The Te Urumingi Whanau Ahu Whenua Trust got grants for research and experimented with mixing pumice from its land with cement to make building blocks. They were tested at Unitec in Auckland and found to have the same insulation value as pink batts.

Auckland's Carin Wilson designed the first two-bedroom house built at the marae. It is to share a septic system with the next two houses planned for nearby.

A kaumātua now lives in the first house, and occupants can get income-related rents.

The next two houses will have slightly cheaper and improved design, Mr Potaka said.

The third speaker was Pahia Turia, the chairman of Te Rūnanga o Ngati Apa. He outlined how the Rangitikei iwi had lost almost all its land in the 160 years since 1849. There were now just 12 people living on tribal land, and thousands elsewhere.

"The marae don't even have land around them," he said.

Rangitikei was a dairying district and their marae smelt of silage rather than manuka.

"That smells of money. It's just that it's not our money."

The 2010 treaty settlement for Ngāti Apa-Nga Wairiki gave a cultural redress package that included small parcels of land suitable for papakāinga.

A survey by the iwi found more than 50 per cent of members were interested in returning to live on papakāinga, most for the long term and most in their own houses.

Mr Turia showed plans for a papakāinga on a 7ha site near a forest, with roading and sections for 30 houses.

But he said just providing houses would not be enough. There would have to be jobs too, and the iwi wanted to work farms on its own land.

"We have to get an economy that will enable our whānau to return home.

"Our whānau can't return home to nothing."

Wanganui District Council now had a district plan change supporting papakāinga, he said.

After some persuasion it had agreed not to state the locations of planned papkāinga. Mr Turia said that would help in their establishment, because neighbours were likely to oppose them.