The first 30 homes for the descendants of Auckland's largest hapu will be ready towards the end of next month and most are affordable at $550,000 or less.

Ngarimu Blair, deputy chairman of Ngati Whatua Orakei Trust and a director of the tribe's commercial arm Ngati Whatua Whai Rawa, said families would begin shifting into the Orakei ridge-top homes progressively next month and during March.

About 12 run-down state houses were demolished to make way for the Kainga Tuatahi (first place) communal housing scheme on Kupe St near Orakei Marae at Takaparawha or Bastion Point.

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"Eighty percent of our dwellings meet the Government's affordable definition, being $550,000 or less," Blair said of the scheme, declared a Special Housing Area under the Auckland Housing Accord between the Government and Auckland Council, which demands 10 per cent of places be affordable.

The homes have been built in a series of blocks with large communal areas between. And because Maori who buy the places will lease them for 150 years, a cuzzie corp has been established in place of a body corporate to run the place.

Blair said the $15 million project had not been easy and indicated the land's ownership had a contentious history.

"It was our ancestral land which we bought back from the Crown in 1996," he said of the ex-Housing NZ Corporation sites. "The banks won't lend to our families because this is communally-owned land and the banks can't get security over it. It was funded, thankfully, by us," he said referring to the wealthy and fast-growing Whai Rawa which declared $726 million of investment properties in its latest annual report.

New housing development being built on Ngati Whatua land in Orakei. Photo / Dean Purcell
New housing development being built on Ngati Whatua land in Orakei. Photo / Dean Purcell

"We have a decent balance sheet so we're borrowing from the banks," Blair said referring to Whai Rawa, "and lending on to our families. We had more than 30 meetings in 2007 and 2008 to work out how to do this. At the first meeting, we asked 'what does Papakainga mean?' Out of nearly 100, no one said a house. They said community, safety, jobs, employment, culture and identity."

Arrow International has built the residences, designed by Stevens Lawson Architects.

To the naked eye, these just look like a house. But we incorporated special design values.

"We have maximum passive solar heat, using free energy from the sun just like our ancestors on One Tree Hill. The houses have good ventilation. There are shared spaces between the homes where kids can play and can be monitored from the living and kitchen areas so there's shared responsibility of bringing up kids. All the plants have come from our marae nurseries. And I'm hoping for a zero waste policy and group composting."

Blair told of ambitious plans for the next stage.


"Over 3000 people will be here over time because there's about 40 acres," he said of future plans.