Drop-in session organised by Housing NZ staff with residents of Puriri Park Rd to discuss concerns about state houses there

Shouting and jeering were the hallmarks of a meeting yesterday at Puriri Park for Housing New Zealand to talk about why it wants to build 37 state homes there.

HNZ intended a drop-in, information sharing event to allay residents' concerns about having a state housing enclave in their wide, leafy street, but things quickly turned to custard.

''You are going to take this park and replace it with a ghetto,'' one man shouted at HNZ staff before two-way discussion could even begin.

Other comments either yelled over the corwd or shared less loudly reflected people's fears their hard-earned homes would drop in value, they would be subjected to ''an element of society'' not currently in the neighbourhood, extra traffic would create problems and the new state houses ''did not match'' other houses in the street.

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HNZ senior communications adviser Iain Butler earlier said he expected people to come and go over a two-hour period, during which staff would be able to talk with small groups and individuals.

But about 80 people were at the park at the noon kick-off, with at least 20 arriving over the next hour.

Amidst the shouting, folders showing similar developments in Auckland and artists' impressions of the scheme were handed around.

When HNZ staff explained the images and plans were ''indicative only'', some complained they were ''being deliberately misled''.

Seemingly unprepared for the barrage of criticism, Butler's attempts to reply to the most vocal critics added to the heated atmosphere. At one point he swore in frustration.

Things cooled down when Whangārei National Party MP Shane Reti, tooled up with his travelling microphone and amp to speak above the babble and bluster, called for a question and answer format.

He asked the crowd to be respectful in how they asked questions and raised points.

Reti advised residents to back the Save Puriri Park group heading the opposition to part of the 3.75ha park being used for state housing.

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He said they should demand Whangārei District Council publicly notify consent applications so people had the chance to object.

 Drop-in session organised by Housing NZ staff with residents of Puriri Park Rd to discuss concerns about state houses being built at the reserve. 21 February 2019 Northern Advo
Drop-in session organised by Housing NZ staff with residents of Puriri Park Rd to discuss concerns about state houses being built at the reserve. 21 February 2019 Northern Advo

Butler was jeered at when he said HNZ would not support public notification because the agency wanted the proposal to move ahead on schedule.

Kerry Grundy, a former Whangārei District Council planner, angrily shouted: ''You're not a private developer, you're a public servant!''

Grundy told the crowd HNZ's proposal was non-compliant with WDC rules. He said 10 years ago Maunu was identified as short of existing parks and a strategy was written for the suburb, ''and the council did nothing then, and now''.

Peter Vaughan, a representative of the Iwitahi Manihera family of Te Parawhau which links to Maunu, said his family's position was that the park land should be offered back to the hapu or landbanked for future Waitangi Treaty settlement.

''I suggest that as part of any objections to the HNZ proposal, people support the land being offered back to us. We will ensure it remains a public green space.''

Giannina Thompson said retired people in the neighbourhood were alarmed about a whole new community with many children moving in.

''Why not put KiwiBuild houses here, for people who buy their own houses, or bring older HNZ tenants in to free up the bigger houses they've been living in,'' she told the Advocate.

One man suggested HNZ sell Puriri Park and buy twice as much land in Hikurangi where development could attract a supermarket, other facilities and economic growth.

Butler said Puriri Park was considered more suitable because of nearby facilities such as the hospital and schools.

Butler assured the people that HNZ would choose clients with a good history as tenants.

To suggestions unemployed people and an unsavoury element were being ushered into the community, Butler said HNZ had ''many thousands of working'' tenants who could never afford to rent or buy in the current market. Twenty-two of the 37 Puriri Park properties would be for families.

Butler promised that locals who missed out on one-on-one chats yesterday would be invited to a full public meeting about the issue in the near future.

HNZ had been soundly criticised before yesterday's meeting for holding it during a weekday when many directly affected locals were at work. However, there were at least 100 people there.

Quick facts
■ HNZ hopes to lodge resource consent applications with Whangarei District Council in April, start building early next year and have the homes finished by mid-2021.
■ The land was formerly owned by the Ministry of Education which intended it for a school when the road was subdivided in the 1960s. It has been used as a park since then but never publicly owned.
■ It was bought by the Ministry of Housing for $1.35 million in June 2018.