Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Robin Martin, Radio NZ
Almost 70 Kiwibuild homes are to be built in a neglected New Plymouth neighbourhood more than a decade after a new housing project was first promised.
In 2008, 28 Housing New Zealand properties were demolished in Marfell and in 2012, 20 families forced to move out to make way for a development that never materialised.
And some locals remain sceptical about the Kiwibuild initiative.
Several more Housing New Zealand properties were demolished in Marfell last year after being ransacked by mobs who stripped them of anything of value.
The remaining battle-scarred duplexes that pock-mark the vast empty expanse of Banks Street and Discovery Place are mostly private rentals.
The Minister for Housing and Urban Development Phil Twyford, who made the announcement today, said Marfell had become a symbol of inaction.
He said the $23 million, 68 home Kiwibuild project would revive the whole neighbourhood.
"For young families, for first home buyers who will get their start in life in this community it's an investment that we believe will revitalise and rejuvenate this community.
"It will bring people right back into the heart of this neighbourhood and provide a lifetime of opportunities for young families right here."
Mr Twyford said the three and four bedroom homes would be warm and dry and built using the latest technology.
But he acknowledged that with a maximum price tag of $450,000 the homes would be out of the reach of many current Marfell residents.
Mr Twyford said Kiwibuild homes were targeted at people who could service a mortgage.
"There will be some whose incomes are too low to be able to afford to do that. So I would expect people with a household income of say $70,000, $80,000 or $90,000 would be able to take on the kind of mortgage we're talking about for these homes here, but I know there are lots of people who earn less than that."
Mr Twyford said an influx of middle income families would add a new dimension to an already vibrant community.
But not everyone shared his vision.
Tino rangatiratanga flag draped over his shoulders and a baby in his arms, Ngawiki Preston approached New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom about the gathering.
"I didn't see any local representation so I've come over and uncle Neil was like 'hey bro, who are you?' and I went 'Ngawiki. Who are you?' 'Neil'. 'Ahh Mr Holdom, check. Have you been up here, sir?'
"And he was like 'I used to grow up on the BMX track'. And I was like 'no, here where you are standing?' 'Nah it's the first time I've been here.' I see no local representation here just a whole lot of black suits thinking they have authoritative power over papatuanuku."
Mr Preston said the Kiwibuild homes would price locals out of their own neighbourhood.
"As a construction contractor myself it's ridiculous even the common 40-hour a week man on minimum wage can not afford that. They will not be able to afford those, not in their wildest dreams."
The 37-year-old said the going rate for a home in Marfell was in the mid $200,000 range.
Minister Twyford spoke to labourer Luke Ah Kuio who was taking baby Taylor-Joe for a walk with his partner Krete.
He too thought the homes were pricey.
"For a low decile area I think that is pretty steep. You know for the people that are living here that's pretty steep, but at least they're doing something."
Mr Ah Kuio who paid $270 a week for his run down rental was interested in a rent-to-buy option floated by Minister Twyford.
"If what he was saying that'll they'll own part of it until you pay off so much and then you buy it off them. I think it depends if it's $300 a week, I think that's affordable."
He wasn't worried about an influx of newcomers changing the vibe of the neighbourhood.
"Ahh it depends on the people that these houses bring in. A community is always about the people. People look from the outside and say 'oh you know' but you come and live here and the people are awesome here.
"You know your kids can walk down the street here and you know they're safe because everyone is watching out for your kids."
New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom could only see an upside.
"Look at the surroundings here. I mean it is stunning. You know we've got Paritutu over there, we've got the maunga there. I think for a young family looking to get into a home they can afford it's perfect.
"It will change the nature of this community so I think it is really positive and I'm sure there will be many people looking to invest in this because it is an amazing opportunity."
New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young said he was surprised at the $450,000 maximum price tag for properties in the development.
"Housing New Zealand need to ensure that the Marfell Community can access affordable accommodation, whether that is to purchase or to rent. This is their home and they are a proud community who have supported one another through the period when plans have been on and off the table."
The National Party MP said it was important to acknowledge the work of the Catalyst Housing Trust which had already developed a redevelopment programme for Marfell, before Housing New Zealand took it over as part of their Kiwibuild programme.
The Together Grow Better Communities Trust and the Marfell Community Trust and New Plymouth District Councillor Shaun Biesiek had also been strong advocates for the redevelopment, he said.
"This is a great step forward and has been able to progress because of the strong work done by many contributors over the last decade."
The diggers are set to roll into Marfell in the coming weeks and the first home buyers should be in their properties next year.
Later in the day wearing his Minister of Transport hat, Mr Twyford also announced a $29m safety upgrade of State Highway 3 between New Plymouth and Waitara.
About a dozen people have died on the stretch of road over the past decade.