New homes strengthen ties to family

By Genevieve Helliwell

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Rangi Oliver is looking forward to welcoming the younger generation of her whanau to Mangatawa.

She is excited about seeing children play on the playground, listen to them recount stories of their whakapapa and share experiences with their community.

"We come from this land and we own this land and we're making use of this land," she said.

"These homes will be homes for our mokopuna and they will be able to come back [from Australia] and come home to their roots."

Mrs Oliver and other residents of a papakainga (village settlement) housing project in Te Maunga are welcoming new families to their community following a $2.6 million funding grant to build 20 new family homes. Elderly residents already living in the units say the new homes will change the lives of Maori families and help residents reconnect with their whakapapa.

Resident Nellie Aubrey said many young had forgotten their whakapapa and the community housing project would encourage whanau to rediscover their heritage.

Sitting around the kitchen table in Uruhina Cookson's home, seven residents told the Bay of Plenty Times how the community housing had changed their lives. They said the 20 houses would be equally life-changing for the new residents. They were not bothered by negative comments made by Tauranga developer and former National MP Bob Clarkson, about how it was unfair Maori had been granted $2.6 million for stages two and three of the housing project. They said they land was their own and they had every right to build there.

The Social Housing Fund to be allocated from during the three years (starting last July) to all community housing providers is $104.1 million. From this fund, $13 million is set aside for Maori.

Victoria Kingi, a trustee of Mangatawa Papamoa Blocks Incorporated said: "In context, the funding received by Mangatawa represents only 2.5 per cent of the total social housing fund available to all New Zealanders. Also, Mangatawa is also contributing the land worth $2.5 million to the project at no cost ... we'll be making the most of this fantastic opportunity for our whanau."

Ten modest homes for kuia and kaumatua (elderly) were completed last year in the first stage of the Mangatawa Papamoa papakainga (village settlement) housing project in Te Maunga.

Since moving into one of the units on December 13, 2011, Ebba Te Tua said her quality of life had bloomed and her days were full of camaraderie, friendship and security.

Maybelle McLeod, who works in the Hauora centre at Mangatawa, said the new homes were a blessing as too many Maori struggled to afford accommodation. The group hope the addition of more families to the land will see a growth in community services, such as a shop, a playground and possibly a bus service.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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