Tauranga city suffers sharpest drop of Maori home owners

By Anna Whyte

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Shadrach Rolleston sits in the home he bought in the early 2000s.
Shadrach Rolleston sits in the home he bought in the early 2000s.

Tauranga city had the biggest fall in Maori home ownership in the country over a 27-year period, statistics show.

The Statistics New Zealand report showed between 1986 and 2013, the percentage of Maori living in owner-occupied dwellings dropped by 38.6 per cent in Tauranga city, followed by the Carterton district, which dropped 31 per cent, then Rotorua district by 30.8 per cent.

The report found the average ownership drop across the country was 15 per cent for the total population, and 20 per cent for Maori.

Labour Party housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the steeper drop in Maori home ownership may be due to the housing crisis driving a "big gap" between the rich and the poor.

Mr Twyford said it was an important issue to be tackled, which could be solved by "cracking down on property speculators".

Minister of Maori Development Te Ururoa Flavell said there was a range of reasons for declining home ownership levels, "including high housing costs relative to incomes and a lack of low cost homes on the market".

"Maori have lower median incomes than non-Maori and higher rates of intergenerational poverty which means whanau find it harder to support the next generation into home ownership."

"The Maori Party introduced a number of grants to support whanau to build papakainga [original home on communal Maori land] including securing $12 million for the Papakainga infrastructure fund and introducing new criteria for Kainga Whenua loans to make building on multiple-owned Maori land easier."

Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith said the long-term home ownership decline over the 30-years had affected all groups of New Zealanders, which was why the Government had made "such priority of housing reform".

"The productivity commission has done a comprehensive report on what were the core reasons of why houses had become so expensive and why home ownership had declined. They identified the single biggest problem was in the price of the section and the issues of the Resource Management Act, that is why its reform is important to the long-term solution."

Dr Smith said another difficulty for first-home buyers was pulling together a deposit which was why the Government introduced the KiwiSaver Home Start Scheme in 2015. "I've been particularly encouraged by the high level of uptake of the scheme amongst Maori and Pacific Islanders," Mr Smith said.

Qualified property valuer Inez White ran free workshops for Maori to develop financial literacy.

"Up until recently ... home ownership has been about acquiring papakainga, your grandparents' home or your parents' home," she said.

"It's only in the last one or two generations that that has really dropped and changed. Where now we actually have to compete in the mainstream market."

Maori urged to weigh up all housing options

Tauranga planning contractor Shadrach Rolleston bought his own home in the early 2000s.

"It took us a while to save enough to buy our first home. We probably saved over a two-year period before we had enough for a deposit, to be able to buy.

"I think at that time the market was similar to this one." He said he and his wife had the benefit of having stable, well-paying jobs.

Mr Rolleston said he thought some of the reasons for the drop in Maori home ownership were due to lower incomes and rising house prices.

"I think some Maori tend to focus more so on living on family blocks of land rather than looking at opportunities on general land, which comes down to personal choice and preference, but a lot of people don't have that luxury," he said.

He said people needed to consider different options in order to get a foot in the housing market.

Education project manager Marina Kawe-Peautolu said that as someone who had built a home, she thought issues such as the difficulty in accessing loans when building on Maori-owned land, the expense of purchasing homes, and the lengthy process in using Maori-owned land through the Maori Land Court contributed to the fall in Maori home ownership.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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