Kāinga Ora a no-show at public meeting about Kerikeri social housing plans

Artist’s impression of a three-storey social housing building proposed for Clark Rd in Kerikeri. Photo / Kāinga Ora

Social housing agency Kāinga Ora says it won’t attend a public meeting on Wednesday evening about its plans for Kerikeri because invited speakers include candidates in the upcoming general election.

Regional director Jeff Murray said Kāinga Ora, formerly Housing NZ, had a duty to remain politically neutral.

The meeting organisers had invited a number of election candidates as speakers, which made this discussion “inherently party-political in nature”.

Kāinga Ora’s decision not to attend the meeting, in the Turner Centre auditorium from 5.30pm, has disappointed event organisers from community groups Our Kerikeri and Vision Kerikeri.


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They say it aimed to inform the community and had changed the format, splitting the meeting into two parts with only the last 15 minutes set aside for a political panel, in an effort to persuade Kāinga Ora to take part.

Correspondence seen by the Advocate shows that the project developers, Gemscott Limited, were instructed by Kāinga Ora not to attend.

Far North District Council chief executive Blair King will attend the meeting. Kahika (Mayor) Moko Tepania is expected to take part along with councillors Ann Court, Felicity Foy, Babe Kapa and Steve McNally, whose areas of expertise include roading, housing and planning.

Recently named Northland election candidates Shane Jones (NZ First) and Grant McCallum (National) are also expected.


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Northland MP Willow-Jean Prime and Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis (Labour) can’t attend in person because Parliament is sitting at that time but it’s understood they hope to take part via Zoom.

The meeting will be led by Tania McInnes, a former deputy mayor now based in Whangārei, who has taken on the role of “neutral facilitator”.

The meeting was triggered by a flurry of social housing announcements in Kerikeri, in particular a development on three adjoining properties on Clark Rd and King St in the town centre.

If approved, it will include a three-storey, 12-home apartment building and 14 two-storey duplex townhouses.

Kāinga Ora has also recently purchased a property at 115 Kerikeri Rd, between the SPCA op shop and Kerikeri Retirement Village.

The plans have sparked concerns about housing scale and density, inadequate infrastructure and especially a lack of planning in the town centre which objectors say will be changed irreversibly by ad hoc development.

On the other hand, both Our Kerikeri and Vision Kerikeri acknowledge the need for more social housing in the Far North. The number of public homes available in the district has declined sharply in recent decades.

Our Kerikeri trustee Vince Buxton said the meeting had been intended as a forum for transparent, meaningful engagement with information flowing both ways.

Kāinga Ora representatives were free to leave before the final part of the meeting involving political candidates and invited MPs.

Buxton said Kāinga Ora had so far failed to keep the community properly informed, so volunteers from the two community groups had been forced to take time off from their jobs and dip into their own pockets to organise the meeting.


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Kāinga Ora’s drop-in sessions, with only a few residents from surrounding streets invited, were aimed at minimal community engagement, he said.

The plans, which would increase the town centre’s population by 10 per cent and change its social structure, were being pushed through with little regard for what was still just a small town.

The community would be disappointed by the government agency’s no-show, Buxton said.

Murray said Kāinga Ora had started its own community engagement with information and meeting invitations going out to Kerikeri service providers and school boards of trustees.

“I’m happy to organise and attend other meetings with individual community groups. Any group in the Kerikeri area that wants a meeting can get in touch,” he said.

■ Far North District Council planning and policy group manager Roger Ackers said Gemscott had lodged four resource consent applications for the Clark Rd and King St properties. One application for 4 King St had been withdrawn in January with a new one lodged in February, but had been returned to Gemscott because it was incomplete. Applications for 3 and 5 Clark Rd were lodged in February. A decision as to whether they would be publicly notified was expected in the next two weeks.


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