Protestors call for nothing less than 100% state houses

While Pomare residents and fellow protesters insist nothing less than ''100 per cent'' of state houses be re-built, Maori leader Ngatata Love is suggesting there may be a better option.

On Saturday hundreds of people, at least half of them wearing ''Pomare  Save Our Community'' T-shirts, cheered speakers as they slammed Government policy, and Housing New Zealand's ongoing demolition of 88 flats and houses in and around Farmers Cres.

John Ryall, of the Service Workers and Food Union, said HNZ was ''conning people'' here and in other parts of New Zealand with significant state housing estates  such as Glenn Innes, Auckland  about a better future.

But the upshot was that tenants were being ''chucked out'' for state housing redevelopment, with no guaranteed rights of being able to move back into replacement houses  likely to be fewer in number anyway.

Using another speaker's comparison to the West Bank and Gaza, Mr Ryall said ''they bulldoze your place, push you out and  then you have to struggle to come back to your community''.

Rimutaka MP Chris Hipkins said Pomare had demonstrated it was a fantastic community with a spirit of neighbours helping each other out, ''and they've kicked the guts out of it''.

Pomare School principal Chris Worsley said his roll had dropped from 200 to around 100 pupils.  The result is fewer teachers, and less ability to run programmes on music and kaupapa Maori.

Mock tombstone signs and crosses were painted with messages such as ''Has anyone seen my whanau?'', ''Land confiscation  repeating the cycle'' and ''Is your HNZ home on prime land  you're next!''. 

People lined up at the sausage sizzle and kids played on the bouncy castle, with the backdrop being broken-windowed blocks of  flats awaiting the demolition ball.

Patria Tamaka of Pomare Community Voice said HNZ's demolition programme had forced residents with up to three generations of history in the local community to leave schools, churches, health facilities, whanau and neighbours.

Catherine Love told the crowd that 160 years earlier, the home of Wi Tako Ngatata (Te Atiawa, Ngati Ruanui and Taranaki) was also Pomare.  ''He and his whanau were pushed off the land, and they threatened to destroy all his crops.

''You are tangata whenua, mana whenua.  This is your rohe and you have a right to be here.''

HNZ has said it only wants to rebuild a maximum of 20 per cent of the 88 bulldozed units as state houses. It wants the rest to be owned or operated by other social agencies or privately.

Professor Ngatata Love, chairman of the Port Nicholson Settlement Block Trust, sees good potential with this option and confirmed the  trust had already told the Prime Minister and Housing Minister it was interested in being part of Pomare redevelopment.

Port Nicholson, the Tenths  Trust and the Palmerston North Reserves Trust already has $35 million invested in villages and housing for around 400 students, elderly people and families with social needs, ''because they couldn't get accommodation anywhere else''.

The trusts are willing to invest more, particularly in tandem with Hutt City Council and Mayor Ray Wallace, who he described as an ''extraordinary supporter'' of getting a good outcome for Pomare.

Land in the Port Nicholson trust's portfolio includes Petone College and the old Waiwhetu and Wainuiomata schools, ''which we believe should be used for community housing''.

Professor Love told those at Saturday's protest that he admired their struggle for what is best for their whanau, but ''we can argue and argue with the Government of the day and what we want, or we can do it ourselves''.

''You keep the fight up; we're going in a slightly different way.  We want new housing over which the community has some control.''

 Moved on after 29 years as friends

The ''Rest in Peace'' signs say it all for Yvonne Kapua (left) and her former neighbour of 29 years, Korina Haua.  They say the demolition of the state houses they'd lived in for 31 and 29 years respectively has killed off their link to a treasured and close-knit community.

Another friend, Tolly Jackson, had lived there since 1965 before demolition forced her out.

They're still in the same suburb but are paying more for smaller state units, and now only see each other when they pass in the street.  They'd rather still be at their old places in High St, even though they were damp ''and the maintenance we asked for never made their priority list,'' Mrs Kapua says. 

Mrs Haua kept her old letterbox as a souvenir of the good old days. She says she misses Mrs Kapua passing left-over food over the side fence. ''especially the steamed pudding!''.  Their kids all grew up together and went to Pomare School.

As the old units started to empty out, teenagers got in and caused havoc.  ''We used to yell at them to stop doing damage and we'd get abused,'' Mrs Haua says.  ''We can't blame it all on Housing NZ; some of those parents had no control of their kids.''

They say there's no guarantee they'll be able to move back into whatever replacement houses are built - whenever that is.

It's a long time to be in state housing, but the women say their family incomes are still stretched and it was years ago they were switched over to market rents.

Hutt News