John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Tribes unite for bid to buy state houses

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Tauranga's Maori tribes have united behind one of the three bidders vying to buy the city's 1124 state houses.

The ground-breaking support of the three iwi has been obtained by IHC-owned Accessible Properties chaired by Tauranga property developer Paul Adams.

Part of the justification for the iwi partnership's support for the bid was that 60 per cent of Housing New Zealand's tenants in Tauranga were Maori.

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Ngati Ranginui chairman Tawharangi Nuku said it was essential that iwi played a part by putting in place links between tenants and their iwi and hapu. It also offered opportunities for iwi to invest in social housing.

The announcement that the three iwi had signed a memorandum to support the bid was made prior to a planned meeting yesterday with Economic Development Minister and Associate Minister of Finance Steven Joyce.

Prominent Maori had gathered for the meeting, held as part of the Government's post-Budget roadshow.

However, Mr Joyce was unable to attend when his flight from Wellington was diverted to Hamilton due to poor weather.

Ngai Te Rangi Settlement Trust chairman Charlie Tawhiao said achieving better housing was a pressing issue for all tribes.

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He said the Government's social housing reform in Tauranga had been advanced without due regard for its Treaty partnership with city iwi. The iwi partners had a shared vision to improve outcomes for all the city's social housing tenants.

Ngati Pukenga Iwi chairman Rehua Smallman said they were impressed by the "impeccable track record" of Accessible Properties - a not-for-profit organisation that reinvested its surpluses into more social housing.

Mr Adams said he was delighted to get the backing of iwi.

"I know the importance of consulting with tangata whenua, so it was an obvious pathway to follow when Accessible Properties decided to pursue putting in an offer to the Crown.

"If our bid was successful, we would work very closely with tangata whenua to get the best outcome for their people."

The IHC had been in social housing for 70 years and was the country's largest non-government social housing provider with 1500 homes. He said its expertise was in property management, tenancy management and wrap-around services, with its plans for Tauranga including a community centre offering medical, dental and other services.

"We will not only improve the lot of tenants, but the whole infrastructure."

He said Housing New Zealand's Tauranga portfolio needed significant refurbishment and reconfiguration. Some sections were so large that they could fit up to three extra houses, and some existing homes with four bedrooms had only two occupants.

Mr Adams said the level of deprivation and shortage of emergency housing was also something that needed to be urgently addressed.

Ngati Ranginui chief executive Steph O'Sullivan said iwi wanted to get involved in ensuring their people got safe, warm and healthy homes that were accessible and affordable.

Bids closed on Tuesday to buy and manage Tauranga's state houses.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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