It costs nothing to say when you are wrong, unless you are a bureaucrat with the taxpayers credit card.
Over the coming weeks you are going to hear about the exorbitant legal fees that have been mounting up over the years at the Auckland City Council’s development agency, Eke Panuku Development, and us at Te Whānau o Waipareira. This is a legal stoush that could have been avoided had we been allowed to do what is so desperately needed right now, put whānau into safe, affordable new homes.
Rewinding back to 2017, Panuku Development agreed to sell the 9583 square metres of land at Old Tavern Lane, Papatoetoe to Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki Whenua Limited. Ngāi Tai and Te Whānau o Waipareira entered into a joint venture to develop predominantly social housing.
We had a set plan which included a minimum of 67 per cent of social housing with the remaining 33 per cent deemed as open market housing which would be affordable. At that time no home on this section would have been sold for more than $650,000, that’s $200,000 less than what the market rate is now. This is where we collided with Panuku who stipulated that only 30 per cent would be deemed social housing with the remaining properties designated as affordable homes and market homes, so a three way split. This is social engineering.
Naturally I asked Panuku the obvious questions which was, how and why does Eke Panuku Development have a social housing quota? I was baffled that this could be legal let alone feasible. It was also an alleged breach of the Human Rights Act as it discriminates against superannuitants, welfare beneficiaries and Aucklanders earning under $80,000 a year.
This question saw the Council terminate our contract for Old Tavern Lane. Firstly we still had a binding contract and secondly they were denying housing to those who needed it and, more importantly, were entitled to it. So we booked our seat at the Human Rights Tribunal which is now set for May 16, 2022, to represent everyone eligible for social and affordable housing.
The Panuku social engineering quota system, one-third each to social, market and open market housing, is a farce. The latter two groups often go to speculators who then place social housing renters in their private home but receive state paid subsidies. Subsequently developers turn that property into at least 60 per cent social housing anyway.
The rise of superannuitants who have worked all of their lives on low wages yet remain unsuccessful at securing their own home because of that, should not be prejudiced by ignorant social engineering policies applied by highly paid, non elected and non performing bureaucrats.
On July 6, 2020, Panuku Chief Executive David Rankin wrote to me personally stating Auckland Council had dropped their 30 per cent cap on social housing, therefore in his opinion, the Human Right Tribunal was no longer necessary. We disagreed because Mr Rankin and his board could easily reinstate their quota.
Panuku Development went on to sell the Old Tavern property to another iwi. They also offered an out-of-court settlement including part payment of our court costs plus three different pieces of land they basically couldn’t get rid of themselves. It was a Clayton’s offer badly disguised as an act of good faith.
Aucklands lack of social housing is a fact, it is a problem, and it’s only getting worse. To the killjoys, this is not us playing the “Māori” card, because social housing does not discriminate, it includes all races, our middle class and the elderly who are all desperate for homes.
Had that 30 per cent social housing cap not existed, right now families would be tending to their gardens, preparing kai and discussing their day over a cuppa in their own homes down Old Tavern Lane, Papatoetoe.
Instead, years down the line with hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees mounting, we have litigation with one party representing those needing social housing, and the other group refusing to admit they simply got it wrong.
John Tamihere is a former Labour Cabinet Minister and Chief Executive of Whānau Ora and West Auckland Urban Māori organisation Te Whānau o Waipareira.