Tahi Hiroki is a house-proud man with “all the weight off my shoulders” now his whānau have a brand new home, thanks to a Toitū Tairāwhiti iwi-led initiative
Mr Hiroki, partner Irene Hitaua, their five children and three mokopuna were living in a dilapidated two-bedroom house in Whatatutu for over four years.
“It was pretty tight but we learned to be able to work together as a family,” Mr Hiroki said.
On Saturday morning that cramped and at-times challenging lifestyle ended when three new homes were opened in the area and over 100 people — including Associate Minister of Housing Peeni Henare and Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri — gathered at a blessing of the family’s new three-bedroom abode.
“We can actually sit in the house and feel comfortable. The reality is here,” said Mr Hiroki, adding that the whānau now had an asset to secure their future.
Not all the whānau have moved into the new home. Some of the kids are taking over their old property.
Toitū Tairāwhiti is made up of the chief executives of four iwi — Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri and Te Aitanga a Māhaki — and formed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
At first the iwi group supported Tairāwhiti whānau by providing hygiene, care and food packages. Now they are collaborating to help fix the housing crisis.
Toitū Tairāwhiti housing chief operations officer Annette Wehi said 51 houses were in the pipeline although some had been held up by building supply issues,.
Another 150 were ready to be signed off with Ministry of and Housing Urban Development, and Te Puni Kōkiri.
The houses are built offsite in Huntly. Each costs around $250,000 and another $45,000 to move and set up on a property on whānau-owned land.
Mr Hiroki said cooperation was the key to success and when everyone was on the same kaupapa, everyone reaped the benefits.
The attendance of Minister Henare and MP Whaitiri was indicative of the programme’s success.
It showed that the Government were starting to listen.
“They’re starting to hear the calls from the people. They’re understanding that whenua (land) is there to be used.
“Coming here face-to-face with us gives them an idea of how passionate we are; how passionate we are about our families and working together as a team.”
Mr Henare said it was important to be there and give their support.
“One house transforms a family and a community. That’s why I’ve come and continue to show commitment to the people who are working hard here.”
Although there was a focus on large housing developments Māori often benefited from a targeted approach, he said in his speech. “The transformation when your whānau move into a house like this is measured over generations.”
The collaboration between iwi in Te Tairāwhiti was something other iwi could learn from, Mr Henare said.
“They’ve realised that homelessness and the housing crisis affects all of the people here and so they’re working together on it.
“Up north, for example, they’re all pulling in different directions at the moment, but we’re working with them to try to bring it together. I hope that at some point in time, my people in the north will be able to come on a road trip and see what’s happening here. I’m super impressed by what they’re doing.”
Toitū Tairāwhiti has partnered with Built Smart to supercharge their workflow.
Built Smart constructs prefabricated transportable homes in Huntly.
Iwi collaboration Toitū Tairāwhiti and building company Built Smart have plans to open a facility at Gisborne’s Aerodrome Business Park.
“We’ll have six houses coming out of here every six weeks to seven weeks,” Toitū Tairāwhiti housing chief operations officer Annette Wehi said.
The Gisborne facility will feature six covered bays where houses can be built around the clock.
Toitū Tairāwhiti will send staff to Huntly to meet those who run the family-owned Built Smart business, see the facilities and learn the Built Smart way. They will stay in Huntly for seven weeks, the amount of time it takes to build a prefabricated house.
The Built Smart facility is scheduled to be open in August.
Toitū Tairāwhiti also has plans to open a “wellness centre”, including 150 houses, on iwi land next to the hospital.