Auckland Council development agency Eke Panuku is heading to the Human Rights Review Tribunal this month as part of an ongoing legal battle with former Māori Party co-leader John Tamihere.
And according to the council-controlled organisation’s chief executive David Rankin, the agency and the council have already spent $605,750 in legal fees in relation to the case.
Tamihere is chief executive of Auckland’s Te Whānau O Waipareira Trust – which has been locked in a stand-off with Panuku over a property development in Old Papatoetoe’s Tavern Lane.
The agency had originally planned to partner with Ngai Tai Waipareira Housing, which is half-owned by the trust, on a project which would have seen 60 or more homes built on the site of the old St George Tavern.
But the parties fell out over the amount of social housing, that would be included as part of the development. Panuku’s housing mix guidelines would have restricted the amount of social housing in the project, whereas Ngai Tai Waipareira Housing wanted at least 67%.
Tamihere announced in 2019 that it would take legal action against the agency over the project, which he said was in breach of the Human Rights Act and discriminated against those shut out of the housing market.
And now with the first Human Rights Review Tribunal hearing set down for May 16, he remains confident he can win.
Tamihere said the case was important for both central government and local government and would help clarify their social responsibilities.
“When you make a decision on public land, you have a responsibility to the poor and the less well off to give them and the community an opportunity middle class New Zealanders take for granted.”
Tamihere said with more and more families shut out of the property market, social housing was more important than ever.
He was dismissive of the agency’s out-of-court settlement offer from last year, which included both property and money to cover the $400,000 in costs it had racked up, in return for dropping the case.
“It was a Clayton’s offer. The properties they offered us are ones they can’t get rid of – it was a real slap in the face,” Tamihere said. “Panuku made out it was showing good faith, but it was a joke.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Eke Panuku chief executive David Rankin confirmed it had offered council property to Tamihere as part of its out-of-court settlement offer.
“As we have made clear, Eke Panuku considers that the funds spent on defending these proceedings could be better spent on forward-looking social and community projects and that the time and energy of all parties involved could be put to better use.”
In July last year, he said the agency had since dropped its “housing mix guidelines” in its developments.
Rankin said it was disappointing the parties hadn’t been able to reach an out-of-court settlement.
According to Rankin the St George’s Lane development site was sold to Papatoetoe Whare Tupu Limited Partnership early last year.
The development is currently in the design and consenting phase, is expected to be completed in November 2024 and will include 80 terraced homes.