A Napier suburb devastated by the slashing of its residential core in social housing reforms a decade ago could get up to 200 new homes in the next few years in plans revealed by government agency Kainga Ora Homes and Communities.
In a statement released late on Wednesday, Kainga Ora says seven sites have been identified for development in Maraenui, the suburb bordered by Willowbank Ave and Riverbed Rd east and west, a green belt to the north and horticultural land to the south.
Listed as possible developments are much of the Fitzgerald Park area, bounded by Percy Spiller Ave, Masefield Ave and Bestall St, and both sides of Lister Cres, a Bledisloe Rd site cornered by Hillary Cres and opposite the Maraenui Four Square superette, and nearby block of Geddis Ave East.
Almost all of the land had been occupied by state housing for several decades until the sudden demolition and removal started in the era of Housing New Zealand (the "Housing Corp"), including the loss of at least 96 state homes between 2011 and 2015.
Visiting the area for the opening of new units for pensioners in April of election year 2014, the car carrying Prime Minister John Key was struck by eggs hurled by those protesting the removals and demolitions. Protesters said long-time residents had already started resorting to friends' couches, garages and back yards as accommodation because they had no other options.
Kainga Ora, established in a revision of government agencies three years ago, is taking the new plan to residents of the community first, with a letterbox drop having already taken place, and staff in the area next week, at Roopu a Iwi Trust in the shopping centre on Monday between 10am and 6pm and at Te Kura Reo Rua o Maraenui – Maraenui Bilingual School, from 2 to 4pm on Tuesday and Thursday.
The plans had been flagged last week when the Napier City Council revealed hopes for a $15 million improvement of stormwater infrastructure in the area.
The council also has plans for a community centre (Te Pihinga) on the main thoroughfare Bledisloe Rd, while the wider area of the southern suburbs is engrossed in residential development, from Te Awa to up to 600 homes on an area west of Riverbend Rd and neighbouring Maraenui Park, in Onekawa South.
The Maraenui suburb, developed in the urbanisation of the 1950s and 1960s, had a population of more than 3600 in the late 1990s and early 2002 but that had dropped to under 3100 at the 2013 Census. It is estimated now to have a population of about 3500.
Kainga Ora East North Island regional director Naomi Whitewood said the development will bring much-needed housing options to the area.
"We are working towards meeting the growing need for warm, dry homes in Napier," she said. "There is capability to build or facilitate the development of 200 new homes in Maraenui.
"However, our work is about people, homes, and communities – delivering not just houses but homes for whānau and enabling thriving communities," she said. "A house means more than a roof over someone's head. We recognise that kāinga represents the hopes and dreams of whānau, an essential foundation for lives, families and thriving communities."
Whitewood said Kainga Ora could only help to build "great places for people to live" when it worked in partnership with local people who make up the community. "Our aim is to increase the supply and choice of housing available so that Maraenui can continue to thrive."
The accommodation would be a mix of state homes for people who need housing assistance and new affordable homes for sale, she said, adding it's time to share the "early" plans with the people of Napier, listen to feedback and incorporate the thinking into the more formal processes.
Engagement manager Dale Grants said the staff in the area next week would be there to answer questions, share information and listen to feedback, and emphasised: "We especially want to hear feedback and ideas from the people who call Maraenui home."
Whitewood said the collaborative approach that Kāinga Ora has to development means they will be working with a broad range of partners across the region, an approach she said has been successful in Hastings.
The first to be developed will be on the Bledisloe St block, now vacant but formerly occupied by two-storey multi-unit blocks, with replacements already being worked on by architects and designers.
About 30 new state homes will be built on the frontage opposite the shops and Kainga Ora will be applying for building consent later this year with hopes of starting construction in 2023.
Maraenui, Marewa and Onekawa have the highest concentrations of state housing in Napier. Kāinga Ora owns 34 per cent of Maraenui's housing stock.
Most are three-bedroom homes more than 50 years old, the agency says, but it adds there is limited supply and strong demand for housing in the area, especially for smaller homes.