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Let’s get housing plan into gear

Opinion Piece

There are no formal council meetings this week. Interested councillors will join a Local Government NZ-initiated climate change webinar on Thursday.

Last week the council endorsed the post-Covid-19 response and recovery plan for Tairawhiti, Rau Tipu Rau Ora.

Chaired by Mayor Rehette Stoltz, iwi leaders of Ngai Tamanuhiri, Rongowhakaata, Ngati Porou and Mahaki have been working with Trust Tairawhiti, Hauora Tairawhiti and Eastland Group to prepare this plan for the region and for Government. Eastland Group is there as the provider of critical infrastructure.

It is not a council document but a district plan with parts for all the leadership of the region to make happen.

The principles cover vision and focus, supporting whanau and community, getting our economy moving, our environment and our workforce. The document brings together elements from previous plans for economic development that the region has discussed and it creates a vision for a stronger, healthier Tairawhiti. The plan strongly reflects the bicultural nature of this region and aspirations for all in Tairawhiti to be stronger together.

Like the refreshed Tairawhiti Economic Action Plan, this plan identifies various deliverables. The overall governance group still has more work to do in setting time frames and accountabilities if this is to be more than just another document.

Housing is one element and we have long heard of the need for more affordable housing.Last year Manaaki Tairawhiti gave an excellent presentation to GDC on their study of the immediate housing needs of the region.

This plan proposes a Housing Taskforce for Tairawhiti, to build 400 affordable homes. It looks to create local employment and trades apprenticeships, to supply locally-processed timber for the building programme and include scope for papakainga housing for whanau Maori.

We would all support every one of these goals, but how will the combined best intention of the group take this to the next step?

Each item in Tairawhiti Rau Tipu Rau Ora has an impact statement and a workforce development goal, a time frame and suggested partners. The housing workforce goal suggests 200 jobs, 33 percent local contractors and 33 percent Maori trainees and Maori contractors. Also, support of in-region wood processing. The partners are identified as all the players in the governance group and government agencies and the tertiary providers in our region.

The time frame suggests an imminent delivery of the proposal to government and very soon after, a decision on consents.

To achieve this the council would need to provide analysis of all land currently zoned residential where building could commence as soon as there were plans in place and builders free to move. Capital will be necessary for these builds. Is this where the Government is expected to provide at least a small amount of investment capital to get the project off the ground? We can't expect the industry to build too many homes until an ownership structure is determined, although there will certainly be scope for the private purchase of ready-built affordable homes.

Our local tertiary providers provide trades training; that could be tooled up for new students and current funding support for the employment of apprentices could be utilised. The building industry needs to be brought on board ASAP.

We need to consider sustainability for an upskilled and grown industry. The builds need to go on for some years if this is to be a sustainable, longer term project

A warm, dry, stable home is recognised as one of the essentials of wellness, of kids being able to get to school and participate, and for older people to keep well.

Let's get this project moving.

Pat Seymour