Homes for whanau are now ready in Hastings

By Aroha Treacher

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Gardens at the new properties.
Gardens at the new properties.

Waipatu is now home to a brand new modern day papa kainga.

Tucked away on Bennett Rd, Hastings, are eight new homes situated in a self-sufficient paradise that is predominantly off the grid and built on Maori freehold land.

"It's been an exciting project to be a part of," says trustee and project manager Paora Sheeran.

One of the new homes in "paradise".
One of the new homes in "paradise".

Each house is kitted out with the latest solar panels, the water is filtered straight from an underground supply and there is a communal vege garden and fruit trees.

Aorangi Maori Trust Board is behind the project with the aim of providing affordable housing for its beneficiaries.

"We wanted to provide affordable healthy homes in a beautiful environment surrounded by whanau," explains Sheeran.

The trust board was created out of 2913ha of land just south of Takapau which was taken by the Crown in the 1850s.

Eight now homes are on Bennett Rd, Hastings.
Eight now homes are on Bennett Rd, Hastings.

In the 1860s, the Crown assumed ownership of the land and sold it to the settlers, who burned down the papa kainga forcing the iwi kainga to relocate.

They were left landless and took up a century-long fight petitioning the Government for compensation.

Finally, in the 1950s the Government paid out £50,000, barely enough to cover the £236,000 land value and loss of use over the 100-year period.

So, in 1958 the trust board was established and with the support of the mana whenua Ngati Hawea they purchased the 3.4ha of land along Bennett Rd in the 1970s.

Today, though the original vision has been realised, the history of what their ancestors went through has by no means been forgotten.

"This is quite special considering where we've come from to now being able to provide housing to the descendants of those tupuna who had to relocate. It's a very special feeling for the board," says board chairman Tipene Heperi

There has been a lot of "whanau sweat" and goodwill poured into the project with many happily giving up their time to get the job done.

The environment promotes a peaceful wairua (spirit) with no fencing between houses, and only natives and hybrids attractively planted throughout the area.

"The 75 kowhai trees support bees and birdlife and the plantlife is educational for the new generation," explains landscaper Dene Thomas.

It cost $2.5 million to fund the project, with 70 per cent of that government-funded through the Maori Housing Network designed to improve housing for Maori.

Of the eight homes, six are rentals and the other two are home ownership models, homes that can only be sold to descendants of one of the original beneficiaries of the trust.

A major benefit is the rent is well below market rent for a home similar in size and with the same high spec such as the ones offered to whanau.

The modern day context of the papa kainga has made it possible for the descendants to move on from the historical grievances of the past.

"Knowing what our tupuna went through to try to get it back, it's all their work, and now it really does feel like a real healing," says resident Moana Hutana.

Whanau work collaboratively in all decisions, setting the tone and the rules together - no fences, no gang patches, no drugs and no dogs.

Smoking and consuming alcohol are allowed but it must all be kept within the bounds of keeping to the peaceful environment of the papa kainga.

However, the journey is not over just yet as the board plans to develop the other two adjacent blocks with the aim of building more houses, totalling 32 in all by the end of 2020.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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