The 400-seat Turner Centre auditorium was packed, with hundreds more forced to follow the meeting on a large screen in the theatre bar.
A Kerikeri community trust wants Kāinga Ora to pause its controversial plans for high-density social housing until the town’s spatial and master plans are completed.
Additionally, a petition organised by a group of concerned Kerikeri residents “urges Government to halt all Kāinga Ora social housing developments proposed for Kerikeri until a master plan and spatial plan has been competed and adapted into the relevant Far North District Council strategies and rules guiding development”. The petition, to be sent to Parliament, has so far got 1300 signatures, around 10 per cent of the Kerikeri population.
Kāinga Ora has faced large-scale opposition to its plans for social housing on Clark Rd and Kerikeri Rd, with more than 800 people packed inside and outside the Turner Centre – and 375 following online – for a public meeting on the proposal in May.
The Government’s state housing provider originally had plans to build a three-storey social housing block in central Kerikeri.
The backlash from the public meeting prompted Far North District Council to hand the decision of whether to make the consent publicly notified to an independent commissioner. The council has issued a consent for the apartment block at 3 Clark Rd, albeit for a scaled-down version.
The revised plan is for a two-storey building with eight apartments instead of 12 apartments over three levels. The new plan also increases the number of parking spaces available for residents.
Kāinga Ora Northland regional director Jeff Murray said the agency had a clear mandate from the Government to deliver more homes to meet the urgent need in our communities.
“We’re committed to working hard to deliver as much quality housing as we can, as quickly as we can, through redeveloping our land and partnering with developers,” Murray said.
“In Kerikeri, community and stakeholder engagement is already under way on the proposed developments being led by developer Gemscott in Clark Rd, as well as our own land on Kerikeri Rd, with more engagement planned.”
But community charitable trust Our Kerikeri is not happy with the way Kāinga Ora has been dealing with the community and has called on all plans to be put on hold until Kerikeri’s spatial and master plans are completed; the community groups and the community at large are consulted with; developments are adapted accordingly; and that alternatives which are not such a concentration of public housing in one area are considered.
The trust has also written to Kāinga Ora CEO Andrew McKenzie outlining their concerns.
Our Kerikeri trustee Vince Buxton said despite numerous appeals, the social housing development clusters in the heart of the Kerikeri village are bulldozing ahead, with community aspirations and concerns largely disregarded.
Our Kerikeri did not organise the petition, but fully supported it, Buxton said. He said the town was not against social housing, but was opposed to the size, scale and position of these plans and the lack of community involvement.
“This is a delicate issue that has people in the community divided. It is about getting the balance right between short-term opportunistic fixes and design solutions that have the best chance of success in the longer term, both for Kāinga Ora’s clients and the community at large,” Buxton said.
“The latter requires well-considered planning with genuine community engagement, the preparation and adoption of spatial and master plans and the enforcement of rules to guide development within the consent process. Our community has been advocating council for this for decades and is now paying the price for it not being in place.”
He said the petition is about buying time for proactive planning inclusive of wider community aspirations before Government developers begin these projects that are of a size, scale and density more suitable to larger urban centres.
“Of further concern is that the direction things are currently moving sets the scene for the perfect storm of further escalation because our small community is in a vulnerable position [as] our small provincial council has not completed the detailed planning for medium-intensity housing developments required for larger Tier 1, 2 and 3 towns.”
Murray said all Kāinga Ora developments go through a resource consent process, run by Far North District Council, which takes into account factors such as whether there is enough infrastructure to support the proposed new development and how it aligns with the publicly-consulted District Plan.
“That process will also decide whether there is a need for the public to be given the chance to make submissions to the council on the consent application. There are many low-income people living in Kerikeri and providing critical support to its service sector economy, and there is no special hurdle that housing for low-income people needs to address.
“This process will ensure the development is ultimately right for the town. To wait for the completion of further spatial plans, for which there is no current timeframe for completion, would mean people continuing to struggle in inadequate housing, without any good justification.”
He said the places where Kāinga Ora are seeking to develop new homes are typically in areas that are close to schools, shops and other services whānau need easy access to.
“Our customers, who need public housing because they simply cannot afford private rentals, have as much right to live in these areas as anyone else,” Murray said.