Māori-led housing initiatives helping solve high number of Rotorua whānau in emergency motels

Tackling the problem of homelessness has been the focus of hundreds of delegates at a conference in Rotorua this week.

It's a city that still has 750 people living in emergency housing - 75 percent of whom are Māori.

Rotorua Boys High students are the next generation of builders.

Tūhoe descendant Turiokahu Rakuraku-White dreams of one day taking his skills back to his ancestral lands in Ruatāhuna to build houses.

But for now, he's happy with building these two Kāinga Ora homes as they will go to Rotorua whānau who are in most need.

"You know these are going to a good use, we are not doing this just for the Academy but doing it for other people as well," Rakuraku-White said.

Those being 768 adults and children currently living in Rotorua motels due to emergency housing. It's a significant drop since Mayor Tania Tapsell assumed her position in October.

"Significant progress and reduction of our motels from 30 to down 17, so we are happy with that but there's still work to go," Tapsell said.

The Rotorua Housing Accord has seen iwi, and both local and central governments work together to tackle the ongoing housing problem.

Ngāti Whakaue was recently given a $19 million boost towards their 15-stage development. Although it will take 30 years to complete there will be more than 1000 homes built over a mixture of land titles.

"Government partnerships, I think, they play a huge role for the development of Māori land for housing," Ngāti Whakaue general manager Ray Morrison said. 

Getting to stage 1 has taken them five years to build 52 commercial homes for the people of Rotorua but their aspirations of building on their own land are still years away.

"We also on the fringe suburbia and, you know, fringe good connection to infrastructure, our water and all that. Whereas smaller and other iwi around the country don't have that luxury," Morrison said.

Economist Shamubeel Eaqub said the neglect and lack of capital for Māori land is an absolute failure by regulatory authorities.

"We know that there's been many decades of neglect. The scars of colonisation, dispossession, racism are absolutely visible but we are still starting to make progress but we have got to do more… and we’ve got to resolve more capital," Eaqub said.

The Greens co-leader Marama Davidson says tackling homelessness right now should be simple heading into an election.

"We got to see wealth tax, we got to see capital gains tax, we've got to see levers shifted so that we stop using housing for the few to make wealth off the back of Māori and low-income communities," Davidson said.

So that Māori can help themselves with more of their land unlocked for Māori housing and more Māori teenagers learning how to build those houses. 

Māori-led housing initiatives helping solve high number of Rotorua whānau in emergency motels