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Housing struggles portrayed in photos

LAUREN PRIESTLEY
Last updated 05:00 11/06/2014
Sakiko Sugawa and Ella Grace McPherson-Newton
Lauren Priestley

STANDING TOGETHER: Sakiko Sugawa and Ella Grace McPherson-Newton say the This Home is Occupied exhibition is about community.

Empty section
NOTHING THERE: A slide show of empty houses and sections where houses have been removed in Glen Innes forms part of the exhibition.
Arrest
ACTIVIST ARTIST: Ella Grace McPherson-Newton was arrested during a protest against the housing removals in 2012. The image was taken from video footage captured by Briar MarchntsTnte.

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State houses in Glen Innes are being thrust into the spotlight through a new art exhibition.

This Home is Occupied focuses on state housing changes in the suburb and aims to draw attention to similar developments across the country.

Housing New Zealand is redeveloping its stock - selling some properties and removing state homes from others.

The aim is to help meet growing demand for housing but it has caused unrest among existing tenants who've had to move as a result.

The exhibition, at the St Paul St Gallery until July 25, is the brainchild of artist Ella Grace McPherson-Newton, 26, and research fellow Sakiko Sugawa.

"It's not about glorifying artists or the artwork, it's a struggle and a fight that's happening right now.

"This is affecting real people in a community that is so close to places like St Heliers or Remuera," McPherson-Newton says.

Images of empty state houses and sections in Glen Innes, a state housing time line and propaganda posters from the 40s and 50s adorn the gallery walls.

Visitors can see excerpts from Briar March's documentary Whare Tapa Wha including footage of a controversial house removal from a holding site on Lunn Ave in 2012.

McPherson-Newton was one of seven protesters, including Hone Harawira, arrested that night.

She camped out on the roof of the house with two other students to show her support for the Glen Innes protesters. Police eventually carried them off the roof.

"It was a good opportunity for us; it wasn't scary until the police arrived.

"There was another night when 13 people were arrested on Apirana Ave. This was just one of many that came from people standing up."

The central city resident has always been interested in art and activism. She learnt about the housing removals after meeting the Tamaki Housing Group three years ago.

Gallery staff have been very supportive throughout the project, she says.

Kyoto-based cultural worker Sugawa contacted the artist before arriving in Auckland for her research fellowship at the gallery.

It was important the work was authentic, Sugawa says.

"You can't go somewhere you don't know anything about and do something on it. I wanted to work with the people who are actually doing this amazing community work."

Creating Communities bought 156 Housing New Zealand (HNZ) sections as part of the HNZ Northern Glen Innes Redevelopment Project in 2013.

Creating Communities director Murdoch Dryden says there is nothing wrong with using the subject for art. He says the redevelopment project is going fantastically. There are about 20 families still tenanting what is left of the 156 homes, Dryden says.

The company has built nine new houses on sections which used to hold four state homes, he says. Five of the new houses are owned by HNZ.

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"I don't mind the art but I don't want to engage in the political side of things. I'm not about to discourage people from expressing themselves.

"It's about looking at the facts and the logic. Of the ones we have just built, there is one more state house than was there before and there are another four that are doing something to address the housing supply issues in Auckland."

The gallery is at 40 St Paul St, Auckland city. The exhibition closes July 25.

- East And Bays Courier

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