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Kainga Ora Review ‘Long Overdue’

A community group representing Ohakune residents is welcoming the government’s independent review of Kainga Ora as “long overdue”.

Ohakune Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Barry Murphy says the state housing agency’s plans for the small central North Island town affirm the government concerns about Kainga Ora’s efficiency and value to the taxpayer.

Housing Minister Chris Bishop this week said it is “critical that Kainga Ora is focused on efficiently building social houses for people in need while also delivering value for taxpayers' money”.

Mr Murphy says the review panel – headed by former prime minister Bill English – needs look no further than the large-scale social housing scheme in Teitei Drive, Ohakune, to see Kainga Ora is “clearly failing miserably” on both counts.

“With only 10 individuals and families on the wait list for social housing in Ohakune there is absolutely zero ‘efficiency’ or ‘value to the taxpayer’ in forging ahead with a scheme of this scale – on the contrary, it is a total waste of public money.

“Kainga Ora, along with its partner Ruapehu District Council (RDC), have failed to prove demand for this project, so they invented a ghost population of people they have ‘talked to on the street’ who apparently ‘don’t want to come forward and put their name on a list’.

“There are already five subdivisions underway in Ohakune. There is a large stock of suitable modern houses on the market that far exceeds Kainga Ora and RDC’s manufactured social housing ‘demand’. And these warm dry homes are far more affordable than the $700k two-bedroom units being proposed by Kainga Ora.

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“We have pointed this out to Kainga Ora. Sadly, though, rather than the more fiscally prudent option of using perfectly acceptable existing housing stock they are more interested in building a state housing monument using the Labour government’s Covid cash.”

Kainga Ora and RDC recently announced a U-turn on publicly notifying the resource consents – a deliberate move to keep hold of the Covid funding before it expires in March.

Talking to the review of Kainga Ora, Prime Minister Chris Luxon said this week that the government is “concerned about the governance and management” of Kainga Ora.

“We also share those concerns,” says Mr Murphy. “This senseless housing scheme dumped on our community in Ohakune has been woefully managed from the outset.”

He highlights the lack of consequences for a senior planner working on the Ohakune social housing scheme who failed to declare a significant conflict of interest – owning a holiday home on the boundary of the project site.

“It was evident that Kainga Ora had failed to manage conflicts of interest amongst staff – the staffer at the center of the controversy only made a declaration after media started enquiring.

“What was just as concerning, though, was the regional director’s dismissive attitude to what was a serious conflict of interest by one of his employees. There were no repercussions other than a slap over the hand with a wet bus ticket.”

Mr Murphy says the regional director was equally flippant about a grave breach of privacy by another senior member of his staff working on the Ohakune scheme.

“This staff member broadcast, via an email to a large number of recipients, personal details of someone who made a graphic complaint against a Kainga Ora tenant. This could have put the complainant in danger; at the very least it is a serious breach of privacy on numerous levels.”

However, it is the secrecy with which Kainga Ora and RDC have operated that that is most galling, says Mr Murphy.

“The social housing scheme was kept entirely from our community, with their so-called ‘consultation’ only initiated after resource consents had been lodged.

“Since the community started to question what was going on, including at a meeting of over 160 angry residents in a town of just 1000, they have treated us with utter arrogance and disdain.”

Mr Murphy says the Ohakune situation mirrors what is happening elsewhere in the country where Kainga Ora moves in and steam rolls communities.

“A good shake-up of Kainga Ora is long overdue.”

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