‘By our people, for our people’
HIKURANGI Enterprises has started building whare awhina (sleep outs) as a solution for the lack of housing on the East Coast.
Hikurangi Enterprises (HE) was set up in 2016 to increase the well-being of residents in the Waiapu area through sustainable economic development.
That mission has not stopped as they now are providing a “by locals, for locals” solution to the housing crisis.
HE kaiwhakahaere (chief executive) Panapa Ehau says after being inspired by Ngati Porou Whare Moe, they are building 30 square metre Whare Awhina for whanau in need.
“These are not for profit, and are the first stage of a modular housing solution,” Mr Ehau said.
Regulations changed in 2020 to allow construction of small buildings such as cabins or sleep-outs greater than 10sqm but less than 30sqm.
The sleep-outs are built to a high standard, exceeding the building code. They are fully insulated, plywood instead of jib board and have doubled glazed windows in aluminium frames.
“Our baseline for everything we build is that we only build whare that we are happy to put our families in,” Mr Ehau said.
“These will last longer than 50 years. Our people deserve high quality products.”
“My passion project for the last 20 years has been housing,” Mr Ehau said.
As of March 2021 a total of 564 people on the East Coast were on the housing register, and more than 23,000 nationwide.
“We don't have enough houses (here) and much of the housing stock is shocking, like the rest of New Zealand.
“We are a social enterprise and we decided let's just start building not for profit. The building industry is under the pump so not many people are out there doing things not for profit,” Mr Ehau said.
“The building industry is not incentivised to do things not for profit.
“This is about providing a housing intervention for those who are trying to survive day-to-day. It is about getting them on to the ownership ladder. This is way of doing that, ‘by our people, for our people'.”
Mr Ehau says Hikurangi Enterprises realised early on that a major hurdle to creating jobs for people to return home, was that there was nowhere for them to live.
“Even with work opportunities our people cannot return home.”
The total cost of a Whare Awhina is around $42,000 ex GST delivered on-site with foundations, stairs/deck and soak pit for run-off water. “This is much cheaper compared to similar products of around $80,000 plus,” Mr Ehau said.
“We know that many of the whanau in need don't have money available to purchase a home. Banks won't lend that amount for this type of purchase, and financing companies and loan sharks charge ridiculously high interest.
“We are working with Community Finance and the Tindall Foundation to develop an empathetic lending mechanism that will allow low socially economic whanau to rent to own these whare.”
Foundation manager John McCarthy said his organisation was excited to support HE to develop this innovative housing project in Te Tairawhiti.
“We recognise there is a desperate need for affordable, warm, dry housing across New Zealand including in Te Tairawhiti.
“Because this is a locally-driven, practical initiative, it will build on the mana and well-being of the local people and help address the housing crisis,” Mr McCarthy said.
A team of four kaimahi (workers) are building the Whare Awhina.
They can build one in 10 days and have received a grant from the Tindall Foundation to invest in infrastructure to build more, and quicker.
“If we doubled the number of workers we would be about to increase the output of Whare Awhina.”
Making Whare Awhina is a not for profit solution to get those in the most need, housed, Mr Ehau said.
One crew has been set up in Gisborne to develop the model with another crew soon to be set up in Ruatorea.
“Beyond Te Tairawhiti there is interest in scaling this model throughout the country. Our focus is local but we are also thinking nationally.
“Our workers are paid well and love building these for the kaupapa of housing our people.”
EJ Ehau is the team leader with a background in commercial project management, boat building and joinery. He was the project manager for the Rua Bioscience cannabis facility in Ruatorea.
Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki have purchased six of the Whare Awhina to be used as transitional housing while they get new houses built.
He is working with GDC to design modules that include ablution and cooking facilities that will connect to the Whare Awhina model.
“The demand is massive,” Mr Ehau said. “Last year we put a post on Facebook asking if people wanted these and within 24 hours, 684 people had responded saying they did.”
Turanga Ararau in Kahutia St have provided a temporary building site until the end of this year.
“Everyone we have engaged with has been 100 percent supportive including Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki, Turanga Ararau, Tindall Foundation, Bunnings, Stop Digging, BJ Moss, Kitchen Zone, Kevin Hollis Glass, Civil Project Solutions and Gisborne District Council.” Other Tairawhiti iwi have said they are interested.
Hikurangi Enterprises is reaching out to the community for support.
“We are currently looking for a Gisborne-based site where we can set up a series of 40-foot containers and shelters for the team to build in all weathers and pump these whare out.
“We are also looking for builders of varying experience to come on board.
“While our focus is on those in the greatest need we are also looking for people who can afford to purchase these with some profit on top to support the kaupapa and get in contact www.hikurangi.enterprises.”