Kāinga Ora forced to close community event as locals protest south Auckland social housing development

A Kāinga Ora community engagement event had to be shut down on Saturday as tensions boiled over about a social housing development in south Auckland.

Tensions were running high as staff from the public housing developer tried to field questions from residents who were angry about what they considered a lack of consultation.

The dispute centres on a development in The Gardens, where 17 homes are being built. Some members of the neighbourhood are frustrated that it took the government agency almost a year to engage with the community about it.

Kāinga Ora held a community engagement event at the Auckland Botanic Gardens on Saturday morning to provide locals with an opportunity to discuss the development, but it was shut down after protesters surrounded the staff members. 

"Do you have to yell at me?" a staff member could be heard asking a man who was expressing concern about the value of his property dropping as a result of the public housing development nearby. 

"We're angry!" the man responded. 

Manurewa Local Board deputy chair Matt Winiata spoke in support of the protesters. 

"I'm very unhappy that they have not disclosed this to the Local Board," he told Newshub. "I'm also wanting them to disclose any other projects that they are purchasing off the plans, which they say they don't need to."

Kāinga Ora wouldn't do an interview, but in a statement, Counties Manukau Regional Director Angela Pearce said due to commercial and legal constraints, "we were unable to advise neighbours until the purchase had been officially approved and the conditions of the sale and purchase agreement were met". 

She added: "Following confirmation, we began to inform the local community that the homes being built on site would be Kāinga Ora homes."

Local resident Glenn Turner had a message for those who might describe him as a NIMBY, an acronym for the phrase "not in my backyard" used to characterise opposition by residents to proposed developments in their local area.

"Those people who would call me a NIMBY, why don't you have a social development next to your house?"

He told Newshub, even if the public housing developer had consulted with the community, it wouldn't have changed their minds. 

"No, purely because of the type of area we're in. We're not trying to be snobs, we're just trying to say this is inappropriate."

Kāinga Ora says it is appropriate, because there are 741 whānau and individuals in the area who need housing.

"The homes will be used to meet urgent need for public housing in the Manurewa area and will provide people and families with a warm and dry place to live," Pearce said.

"We seek positive outcomes for both the people who will live in our homes and their communities. We will continue working with neighbours and residents in The Gardens to ensure these much-needed homes are a positive addition to the community."

But it's the locals Kāinga Ora needs to convince.