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Kaikoura homeless sent 260km away as housing units sit empty

From Checkpoint, 5:17 pm on 28 January 2019

Logan Church , Checkpoint video journalist

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More than 40 Kaikōura families are in desperate need of a home while seven emergency housing units on the beachfront sit empty, not having been occupied in almost a year.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) opened the temporary housing village in April last year for those displaced by earthquake damage to their homes.

But in the nine months since they opened some units have not had a single occupant.

Ngaio Te Ua of the Māori Council said this was not good enough.

"We've had whānau in town on the brink of homelessness and we haven't been able to find a place for them so they have been relocated out of town."

The portable units each feature two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen. There is even a place for the dog around the back. They cost $225 a week to rent.

The eligibility criteria for the units is strict. You need confirmation your home is earthquake damaged, confirmation of a start and end date of building work, and an approved building consent.

"It's all because of this criteria and in my mind the answer is simple: Change the criteria," Ms Te Ua said.

She knew of three families who were desperately in need of accommodation immediately.

One Kaikōura woman, who did not want to be named, said she and her family were on the brink of homelessness.

"We've got good references and everything but there's no houses available and when houses do come available, there's so many people needing them that they don't even look at us.

"We don't have long to find something for the six of us."

Ms Te Ua has raised this issue repeatedly with the government, who manages the units, and the Kaikōura District Council, who owns the land.

The council's community services manager Susi Haberstock said the situation was not ideal.

"We have 44 people on our housing register who have a housing need but not one of them is eligible."

The council has tried to address housing issues across the district - a council-run housing forum was part of it.

"We thought we were being proactive by creating a forum," Ms Haberstock said.

"The forum only meets once a month so there is a bit of a lag. We did the best we can under the circumstances but there's always room for improvement."

And the reality for people faced with homelessness in Kaikōura is either leave or be relocated by the government.

However, according to MBIE's Julia Shanahan, not many had left.

"We aren't in a position to repurpose the use of the village. Once the needs of that community have been met in terms of earthquake-related building ... then we would be very open to repurposing the building."

She said there were four eligible families that were likely to need accommodation in the village within the next month.

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