A now-removed sign that caused social-media uproar in two Hawke's Bay suburbs was deliberately provocative, says the Flaxmere man who erected it.
The sign on the corner of Flaxmere Ave and Wilson Rd named the website loveflaxmere.site and asked: Do we want Flaxmere to be like Maraenui?
"I wanted to provoke Flaxmere people to find out what's happening," David Pearse said.
A proposal by Hastings District Council to develop land for social housing would "do nothing to remove the stigma" of Flaxmere.
Pearse, a former Hastings councillor, said there was nothing wrong with Maraenui "except for the fact it has been developed with all state houses in one area".
"We had the same in Bristol Crescent in Flaxmere. We learned from that mistake to not group all the state houses into one suburb, but thread them throughout the community."
Pearse said he had been in Flaxmere for 35 years and while it already had high-quality housing, council development proposals were for much-needed social housing.
"I just don't believe Flaxmere has to be the sole place where the problems of Hawke's Bay are going to be fixed.
"Is it fair that Napier people in emergency housing come and live in Flaxmere?
"We don't want to be the number one position - the lowest socio-economic position in Hawke's Bay.
"I love the place. That's why I am so passionate about it and getting upset about the proposals put forward by the local councillors and the council."
Pearse hopes that future Flaxmere development is higher-quality rather social housing.
"There are a lot of Flaxmere people who are concerned about the proposals and it just seems to be, in the case of the sign, that our voices are being stifled - they don't like people with alternative views."
He said because the sign was mysteriously removed less than 24 hours after it was erected, pamphlets might be used instead to rally supporters.
Flaxmere Ward councillor Henare O'Keefe said he was not surprised the sign was quickly removed, saying it reinforced negative perceptions.
He would not comment on the council housing proposal.
"I don't even want to mention what his point was," O'Keefe said.
"You are inciting a not-so-very-good wairua.
"Put that on a sandwich board and walk around in Flaxmere and Maraenui and see how far you get.
"There are better ways of getting your point across."
He said the sign was doubly offensive because it included "our close kindred" in the Napier suburb of Maraenui.
O'Keefe said Pearse's sign was part of the reason why the Flaxmere community sought to determine its own destiny, linking the sign with the 2008 hikoi Enough is Enough! We Are Taking Our Community Back!
The hikoi followed the assault of O'Keefe's daughter and partner in their home.
"You are attempting to get leverage by exploiting the poor and impoverished.
"That wasn't about gangs - the media made it about gangs.
"It was about taking our community back. Taking it back culturally, emotionally, commercially, taking the mums and dads back.
"It is intrinsically linked."
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