Build 158 - Changing Māori housing [Feature]

By Jade Kake - 1 February 2017, Build 158

It’s time to nurture new ways of thinking to achieve the type of housing and communities that iwi need and want. For many Māori, this is on their own land with their wider family group.

I am often asked, why Māori housing? What makes housing for Māori different to housing for non-Māori? From a land use and planning perspective, it is about our whenua (land).

What is Maori land?

Our Māori land, defined by communal ownership and ancestral and ongoing connection, is administered under Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993. This means that, although our land is inalienable and retained under communal ownership, there are barriers to decision making and development not experienced by owners of general land.

Many obstacles and issues

It is difficult for us to develop and occupy our whenua Māori and to obtain finance. We are still working through issues of restrictions on development under the district plan, as most Māori land is zoned countryside or rural.

There are also issues with rating, resource consent costs and development contributions.

From a health and social deficit perspective, Māori housing is more likely to be associated with the lower socioeconomic status for many. This is reflected in lower home ownership rates than non-Māori, difficulties in obtaining secure accommodation and issues of overcrowding and homelessness.

Many are not Māori housing issues but disproportionately affect Māori. They are often symptoms of displacement and poverty that become Māori issues by default. We often say we are in the business of ‘housing Māori’, rather than ‘Māori housing’.

Different way of living

A more relevant question may be, how do we as Māori want to live? How can we as Māori live in a way that enhances our wellbeing?

This is where the concept of papakāinga is important. In its contemporary sense, this is the village living environment and includes housing, generally with communal facilities.

It is usually on ancestral land and occupied by the whānau whānui (wider family group). It is a place for mahitahi (working together) and kotahitanga (cohesiveness), a place where our culture and reo can thrive. This may not be the preferred option for all Māori, but it is meaningful to many.

Barriers to developing land

The Auditor-General’s 2011 report on Housing on Māori land identified barriers to Māori wishing to develop their land for housing, including papakāinga.

The follow-up report in 2014 identified that, although improvements had been made, there is still much work to be done.

Changes in legislation include:

  • review of the Resource Management Act (RMA) 1991
  • review of Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993
  • the recent passing of the Housing Legislation Amendment Bill
  • District Plan provisions for papakāinga that are evolving and recently include Whangarei District Council’s Papakāinga Plan Change 94B.

Six strategic directions

The Honourable Dame Tariana Turia championed the first national strategy for housing Māori, He Whare Āhuru, He Oranga Tangata. Running to 2025, it identifies six strategies for improving outcomes and increasing supply. It is a significant government commitment, but further work is needed to ensure the outcomes are monitored and that policy underpins the strategy.

Investing in deprived areas

The Honourable Te Ururoa Flavell has been instrumental in establishing the Māori Housing Network and securing increased appropriations for Māori housing. These include funds for capacity building, infrastructure, vertical builds and repairs.

Recently, $10 million was invested in the Mid–Far North, an area defined in the New Zealand Deprivation Index as having a high prevalence of housing deprivation.

Based on need, there is a rationale for the current appropriations to be extended beyond 2018. However, given the limited availability of these funds, it is necessary to protect future appropriations and to ensure allocation with criteria more closely aligned to the index.

This raises the question, what about families and communities not in the areas of greatest need but who still wish to occupy their tūpuna whenua (ancestral land)?

Innovative finance options

Alternative sources of finance need to be developed for those whānau and communities, many of whom could service a loan if the right financial product was available.

Though many changes and improvements have been made to the Kāinga Whenua loan product – the only loan product for building on Māori land – uptake has been slow, with only 18 loans drawn down since its inception.

If this could be improved in line with its original intent, it would enable increased housing development on Māori land and could be extended to general land owned by Māori.

Beyond Kāinga Whenua, there is the opportunity for innovative alternative forms of finance. Some questions need to be asked:

  • What is the extent of Māori housing finance need?
  • What could a Māori housing finance ecosystem look like?
  • Could this encompass a joint government, banking and private sector financial (debt and equity) product, responding to regionally specific needs, varying scales of development and different land tenures?

Beyond government grants and the banking sector, there is untapped potential in the private finance and philanthropic sector.

Time for new approaches

The time is right for the development of innovative new approaches to housing Māori and for greater collaboration within the sector. This raises new and exciting questions:

  • What is the role of science and technology?
  • What is the role of research?
  • How can we develop new forms of communal infrastructure?
  • What is the potential inherent in developing joint Māori housing and regional economic development initiatives?
  • What future roles might this point to for our Māori economic entities, including iwi post-settlement governance entities?

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