Elderly residents are anxious as Kāinga Ora’s plans for redevelopment in Ruakākā threatens a major upheaval to their way of life.
The public housing landlord plans to replace 16 state houses with 50 new ones, in a block across Tiki Pl, Tamingi St and Peter Snell Rd.
Resident Tui Roman Snr feared the proposed high-density development will entirely change the look and feel of the now tight-knit community.
Roman is a Kāinga Ora resident but not one of those slated to move on; however, she is acting as an unofficial spokeswoman for those residents too scared to speak up, due to intimidation from the likes of gang members.
Many residents are in their 70s and have lived in their homes for more than 40 years, she said.
The biggest concern is the stress the changes are having on the elderly residents, who will have to move from their “forever homes”.
The changes have been up in the air for at least two years, with each resident hearing a different story about what is happening, Roman said.
Kāinga Ora promises to rehome existing residents in other places in Ruakākā, pay for moving costs and give them the option to move back to the new homes once finished.
But Roman said residents are also concerned about the impact the intense development will have in Ruakākā, which has been hit by violence and death in the last eight months.
“There’s so much fear in our community at the moment with two murders within 500m of each other and all sorts of gossip. Some elderly are locking their houses at 5.30 at night and won’t go out because they’re too scared.”
Roman said not all Kāinga Ora residents are a problem, but those who are anti-social take years to move on.
“We feel it’s our whānau being moved on and they’re bringing in people from outside who don’t have respect.”
There is also worry the high-density development will add to traffic, sewage and other already-stretched amenities, such as the medical centre, where it takes three weeks to get a doctor’s appointment, she said.
With three houses crammed into each site, Roman said small sections and no garages means there will be nowhere for grandchildren to play nor place for tangi to be held.
“They [the residents] are now thinking this is their last Christmas in their home, their last hāngī in their homes.”
She would like to see residents’ homes renovated instead of being replaced, although she admitted a few residents want to move into a new home.
One Kāinga Ora resident who will be moved, Clarence Schutt, said the ongoing uncertainty has been the hardest part, after living in his house for 25 years.
With the move hanging over him, he now feels unmotivated to do things like plant a veggie garden.
Schutt is also distressed about how he and his wife will fit into one of the tight new sections with no garage.
As a home handyman, he has a lot of equipment and tools, plus the household has two cars.
“Where am I going to put all my mechanical tools? I’m not giving up that just for them.”
Kāinga Ora said the new homes will replace the 16 old homes that are past their best, while delivering more homes for the growing number of people in Northland who need them.
“There are still too far many people struggling to find a stable home in our communities,” said Northland regional director Jeff Murray.
He argued the redevelopment will be in the heart of Ruakākā town centre, near jobs, school, transport and services.
The decision about who will move into the new houses, once complete, will be based on factors such as need, suitability, and existing connections to the local area, Murray explained.
Placement staff look at where the person currently lives, if their workplace is nearby, what schools their children attend, and key support such as whānau, health and social services in the community.
Murray said the focus so far has been on securing alternative accommodation in Ruakākā for existing residents and this has now been confirmed by buying six standalone homes from a developer on Peter Snell Rd.
Kāinga Ora is now ready to share its draft proposal with the wider community, starting with a drop-in information session this Thursday.
It plans to lodge resource consent with the Whangārei District Council in early 2024, following conversations with the community, Murray said.
The first community drop-in event will be held at the Bream Bay Trust Hall, 9 Takutai Pl on Thursday, with people able to drop in any time between 10am and 6pm.
More drop-in sessions will be held on Thursday, December 14 and Thursday, December 21, from 9am to 10.30am at Bream Bay Trust’s Room 4.
Denise Piper is a news reporter for the Northern Advocate, focusing on health and business. She has more than 20 years in journalism and is passionate about covering stories that make a difference to Northlanders.