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Hundreds evicted from Tamaki state housing for redevelopment

From First Up, 5:45 am today

Indira Stewart, First Up presenter

Figures released under the Official Information Act have revealed 182 state house tenants and their families were evicted from their homes in Tamaki to make way for a new housing development - while many of those families were re-homed within the community, about 60 of those families moved out.

It comes after a number of Tamaki College students told First Up in May they had been forced from their state homes to make way for a new 7500-strong housing development in Glen Innes.

Tamaki College

Tamaki College students said their parents had been forced to pay more for private rentals in South Auckland. Photo: RNZ

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Students told the programme their parents had been forced to pay more for private rentals in South Auckland and were struggling to meet the extra transport costs to get to school.

At the time, local MP Simon O'Connor said while some families opted to leave the suburb, no families should have been forced out and they would be welcome to return.

However, government figures show the ministry could not provide homes for at least a dozen tenants and their families, leaving them no option but to leave the community. Locals said the development itself has destroyed their community.

Speaking in May, Tamaki College Year 13 student Sela Tukia told First Up about her plight, saying her family was forced out of the only community they had known.

"Us two, we both grew up in GI (Glen Innes) but due to the housing development we've had to move out to South Auckland and we travel to Tamaki every day to come to school.

"We got moved due to the housing development so that's why we had to leave."

She wasn't the only one. Lu Faaui's said his family was in the same boat.

"Just like Sela said, it's forced us to move out of GI and yeah my family just decides to cope with it. It's made my dad work even more hours. My mum gets two jobs, my sister gets two jobs. I mean, money is money, you know."

Sela's mother is a solo mum, she's paying an extra $33 a week for Sela to attend the school she loves. Lu's Mum is working two jobs to fund the extra $40 for his transport to school.

Tamaki College

At least 182 tenants and their families were evicted from their state homes by Housing New Zealand between 2012 and 2016 to make way for a housing development. Photo: RNZ

Today, First Up can reveal for the first time that at least 182 tenants and their families were evicted from their state homes by Housing New Zealand between 2012 and 2016 to make way for a housing development.

Of that figure at least 42 tenants and their families chose to move out of the suburb or into private rentals.

At least 12 tenants and their families were forced out of the community, even though they wanted to remain.

Housing New Zealand said those figures may not be the full and final sum of all the relocations that took place when they were in charge, so the numbers could be even higher.

The department said many families were forced out of the community because there was not enough housing available or they couldn't find adequate housing to meet the needs of some of those families.

It said it met some costs of relocation for families who had to be re-homed, but it didn't cover transport costs for children who wanted to remain in the same school in Tamaki.

Local MP Simon O'Connor said some financial consideration should have been made for students like Sela and Lu who have travelled across Auckland since their families were evicted several years ago.

"I'm leaning towards there should have actually been some allowances made, particularly for families with kids to continue their connection to the schools ... having their transport paid wouldn't have solved the underlying tensions but it may have at least been a gesture of goodwill."

Sue Henry has lived in Tamaki for almost 60 years. She said the redevelopment project had not only impacted the students of Tamaki College, it had destroyed her entire community.

"I watched all my neighbours' houses be demolished, there's now very wealthy people living on the land that the houses were transferred to and the whole community in Northern Glen Innes has just been absolutely ravaged and destroyed.

"Some people did want transfers but most of the ones I know, they loved this community. We all grew up together, we all worked in the factories together when it was an industrial hub. So what has happened? the guarantee was their lives were going to be dismantled and it's horrific."

Housing New Zealand was initially overseeing the development when it was announced in 2012 but in 2016, the ministry transferred 2800 of its state homes to the Tamaki Regeneration Company, or TRC, which now manages it.

TRC has plans for 7500 new homes to be built within the community over the next 20 years but said since it took over, no families had been forced out of the community.

Glen Innes has the highest density of state housing in the country - in one area by Maybury St Reserve, 98 percent of the homes are state houses.

Sue said pensioners who were living in state houses had been among the worst affected, with some dying before being forced out, some shortly after.

"They should've left the pensioners, those with disabilities and terminal cancer, with tenure protection. One of my best friends who had terminal breast cancer - she was given two eviction notices in one year and she died, like a lot of the others. And I just can't get my head around how any New Zealander would do that to others."

Sue said it was a form of elder abuse and the most vulnerable should have been better supported.

"I was very vocal about it, so were others, and we were just ignored completely.

"It's just decimated peoples' morale, it really has. It's nothing like it used to be."

One resident, Angie, said she was living in a makeshift house in her backyard since her home burnt down four months ago. This despite many homes now sitting empty.

"They turned around and told us that they were going to put us into another place and they haven't done that. It took me about four months to chase them up to see what was going on and we still haven't been housed.

"There's plenty of houses around that are empty that they can put us into but they haven't done their part of the work. Houses have been finished but they still haven't done that. I've got kids. The kids are more important than for me to be housed instead of going here, there and there and being along the streets. And at the end of the day we pay our rents. There's heaps of empty houses. I understand that there's a lot of people out there that are still waiting for places."

Losa owns a 'two dollar' shop in the thick of the redevelopment. She said tripling the number of houses in the area had also added pressure to the town's infrastructure.

"Innovation is good but this is a traffic jam at the moment because that was a big place. It was one house, now it's almost four or five houses inside. So many people have increased and the traffic jam is very heavy traffic."

Local MP Simon O'Connor admitted the redevelopment project had been traumatic for many in the community and said lessons could be learned.

"Talk to the people. I think they would say developers should keep their word, to keep them informed and to provide them some certainty... I think one particular fault in the GI-Panmure project was that people would be moved out but had no perception of what was coming in."

The developers should show people the new homes, have some of them built first so the transition process can start and people can see what the wider community looks like, he said.

Asked if it had been as successful as he hoped, Mr O'Connor said: "Oh, I'll be honest, I'm not exactly sure what I hoped for. I think I've been disappointed at the hurt that it's caused in the community, you know, lingering pain and this programme has touched brightly on them.

"On the successful side, I think we are seeing some amazing new homes and families who have moved and settled in a community that still has its vibrancy so maybe I could say I think it's a net positive."

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