A big hint today that the way forward out of the Government’s problems with Auckland Maori over housing may be to make local iwi partners in any affordable housing developments the Government undertakes.
Paul Majurey, chief negotiator for the Tamaki Makaurau Collective, told Waatea News yesterday that at a meeting on Sunday between 13 iwi from the Collective and Attorney General Chris Finlayson and Housing Minister, Nick Smith, the Ministers agreed to honour a 2011 protocol the Collective had negotiated with the Government over housing.
The Protocol says that the Collective has “the opportunity to be the developer” of any Crown land in the Auckland region where the Government plans to develop the land for housing with other partners.
“ We negotiated a protocol and essentially that was around if the crown was going to be involved in housing projects and it was going to involve land being declared surplus and available for that, we wanted to be the first partner, the first right of having that opportunity before it went to the outside market,” said Mr Majurey.
But with the appointment of controversial high profile Auckland lobbyist, Matt Hooten, by Ngati Whatua to present their case, it is clear that Mr Majurey’s optimism is not shared by the largest iwi in Auckland nor its powerful southern partner, Tainui.
Mr Hooton, a former National Government press secretary and right wing columnist for the NBR, is thus once again pitched against his old protagonist, Housing Minister Nick Smith.
But he says this time there won’t be any of his usual high profile tactics like bumper stickers or strident media statements.
Instead his clients, Ngati Whatua and Tainui, will be seeking a judicial stop to the process through Court action expected to be heard this Friday.
“We helped with the announcement of the litigation and now it goes to the courts and becomes a Russell McVeagh legal job rather than an Exceltium PR job,” said Mr Hooton.
It is now likely that the Auckland affordable housing programme is going to get bogged down in lengthy litigation.
What appears to have triggered the decision to go to Court was comments from the Prime Minister at his Post Cabinet press conference yesterday about the situation in Auckland.
“The Government always has the right to use land for an alternative purpose,” he said.
“We absolutely have the right in our view to develop that (land) for housing — that’s been our established legal position.”
As reports of the Prime Minister’s press conference comments yesterday have circulated within Maoridom today it’s clear that the Auckland battle is shaping up for another epic confrontation between Maori and the Government.
Wira Gardiner the former CEO of Te Puni Kokiri and husband of Education Minister, Hekia Parata, tweeted: “PM rejects iwi assertions, I don’t know details but on the face of it not a good look! The moral tests is good faith!”
He went on: “Good faith is a proactive notion: this situation should not have arisen: Minister & officials should learn from history.”
There is an added complication in that three small Auckland iwi have yet to complete their Treaty settlement process and sources say are concerned that any alienation of surplus crown land now might prejudice their chance to have right of first refusal on specific land in their rohe.
Mr Key advised journalists on Monday to look at the structure of a Christchurch affordable housing development in Hornby, called Awatea.
That is a partnership between the crown and Fletcher Building to construct 237 “affordable” houses.
The Crown provided the land. Fletchers built the houses.
It seems to be some variation of this that Mr Majurey is talking about
In Christchurch a charitable trust, The New Zealand Housing Foundation was also involved.
The New Zealand Housing Foundation was formed in 2003 with support from The Warehouse founder Sir Stephen Tindall and his wife, Margaret, a long-serving volunteer at the Northcote emergency house De Paul House.
The foundation has filled a hole in the housing market that had been left vacant since the state ended low-interest loans to first-home buyers in 1992 – helping those who are not poor enough to get a state house, but not rich enough to buy a house on the open market.
It has pioneered “shared equity” schemes, where the foundation takes an initial share of the equity (typically 25 per cent) so the buyer only has to stump up three-quarters of the market price up-front.
A variation is its “rent to buy” scheme where people rent initially and then use part of the increased value of the house after five years towards a deposit to buy it.
The Foundation is also already working with the Tamaki collective.
Along with the Maori Trustee and the Community of Refuge Trust it has formed a company with the Collective, Tamaki Makaurau Community Housing Limited, to undertake a $120 million 282 house development at Weymouth in South Auckland.
Whether Mr Majurey has the answer or not, the Prime Minister assured Parliament that the affordable housing projects would go ahead.
I am confident that parcels of land will be identified as being on track by October of this year, and houses will be built by 2016.
What he didn’t say was whether the Tamaki Collective would have a financial stake in the developments.