Pomare redevelopment plan 'awesome'

SIMON EDWARDS
Last updated 14:05 22/01/2013

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Pomare residents who attended an open day last week were excited about draft plans for redeveloping land between Farmers Cres and High St, where 88 state houses were demolished.

But the same two questions kept popping up: When will construction start on new houses? Will former tenants or lower income families be able to afford to live there?

City Living, the Hutt-based company chosen by Housing New Zealand (HNZ) as a development partner, has been liaising with representatives from all sorts of sectors on the Pomore Redevelopment Project Working Group.

City Living directors Peter Savage and Graeme Cromie said Lauren White, a lecturer at Auckland's School of Architecture, advised the community representatives on town planning and urban design principles.

Feedback from the working group guided what was in the draft plan that was open for viewing at a well-attended open day at the Pomare Community Hall last Wednesday.

Mayor Ray Wallace dropped in for 45 minutes and said he was impressed by the effort City Living has put in.

"Listen to the buzz in here. There are good, productive exchanges going on over what is possible."

Features of the draft plan include:

A 2500sqm community park, several community vegetable gardens and other green spaces

A new walkway between the current Farmers Cres and Peck St, and on to the railway station; a new pedestrian crossing across High St to the stopbank and river

The name Farmers Cres, with all its connotations, might disappear. One alternative being considered is to name the street after prominent former MP and doctor Sir Maui Pomare or Lady Pomare

A new community and learning centre next to the health centre, to be built or leased by a partnership that might comprise the city council and other entities

Bringing the bus route along the interior streets, rather than making residents cross busy High St

Retention of the harakeke (flax) plantings and the taniwha play feature.

Fats, a Mongrel Mob member who has lived in the neighbourhood for 22 years, said the plans were "awesome . . . a big change from back in the day".

The draft plans call for demolition of another 20 to 30 houses or HNZ flats - including where Fats and his family lives - but he wasn't particularly worried.

"I like change. You've got to have change, otherwise you're stuck in a hole."

It would be good for the elderly to be in the heart of the redevelopment, he said.

"The only thing I'm worried about is that they're probably looking for people [to live here] who are more well behaved [than some current and past tenants]."

Jim Watene, DJ on Pomare's radio station In The Hood, said as well as the green spaces he liked the fact the blend of rented and private ownership housing would ensure a "mixed society".

The community gardens, and space for people to have their own gardens, mean families could offset food costs.

"This gives people a chance to come back to the marae type of living, where everyone pitches in, like helping each other grow food."

Only up to 20 per cent of the new houses will be state house rentals.

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The others will be private rentals or for home ownership.

Mr Watene's major concern was that low income families would not be able to afford to live there.

"That's the big problem. It's long been a bone that has been chewed on around here - that Housing New Zealand is not going to take full ownership."

But City Living's Graeme Cromie says they are talking to trusts, church groups, elder care and other "third sector providers" who have various models of helping people into home ownership.

"We would like to equate it with, say, Taita, and see a healthy sprinkling of first home buyers."

While pricing is still being worked out, "we're trying to do some affordable housing.

"We're not trying to turn this into an Avalon or a Military Rd . . . we can't do that."

The aim is to provide two- bedroom, one-bathroom, one- garage 96sqm homes on a 250sqm section for about $300,000. Three- bed, two-bath, two-garage 118sqm places on larger sections could go for $350,000 to $375,000.

The three HNZ Star flats - each with 12 two-bedroom units - would remain, perhaps with some extra decking.

"They're strong buildings, not earthquake-prone, with good bones to them," Mr Cromie said.

Single level, two-bed units could be built for independent and mobile elderly close to one of the community gardens. They could show younger families how to grow things, "and keep an eye on the garden".

Mr Cromie said consultation would continue and City Living would report back to the community on February 10. He understood the eagerness to see a start on houses but a budget and final designs had to be settled, and HNZ needed sign-off for its part.

The first construction task is infrastructure - water and stormwater pipes, roads, etc - and the plan is to do that work next summer.

- Hutt News

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