Bluff marae kaumatua units opened

    (From left) Invercargill Labour List MP Dr Liz Craig, Upoko o Awarua Runaka Ta (Sir) Tipene o Regan, Minister of Housing MP Megan Woods, Labour MP for Te Tai Tonga Rino Tirikatene, and Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt, at the opening of the six new kaumatua units in Bluff on Tuesday.

    AFTER more than 20 years of planning, the first step in Ngai Tahu’s plans to build  intergenerational housing on the country’s southernmost marae was unveiled on Tuesday.

    A ceremony was held at Te Rau Aroha marae in Bluff for the opening of six new kaumatua (elder) units.

    The units are part of the first stage in establishing on-site intergenerational housing and the realisation of a vision the local runanga has been working towards for more than 20 years.

    Minister of Housing Megan Woods and Te Upoko o Te Runaka o Awarua Ta (Sir) Tipene O’Regan officially opened the new units. The first resident is set to move in next month.

    Ta Tipene said the plan to establish safe, secure and affordable housing for Ngai Tahu kaumatua was first envisioned by runanga leaders in the early 2000s.

    ‘‘We have long dreamt of this development for our people and we’re all very pleased it has been achieved. These six new units will help to bring our whanau back to their turakawaewae and support our kaumatua to pass down their matauraka (knowledge) to our tamariki and rakatahi,’’ he said.

    Te Runaka o Awarua built the six units using its own funding and a $1.9 million grant from the Government’s Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund, administered by Kanoa — Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit.

    Dr Woods said the units were a perfect example of the purpose of the Covid-19 recovery and response fund.

    ‘‘To see not only the 21 jobs that were created as a result of these houses, but also the fact that there is now an enduring legacy of six, warm, dry, secure and safe houses for local people is a fantastic thing to see.’’

    The units form part of He Kainga Pai Rawa, a research project developing housing strategies and resources to enhance Maori communities throughout New Zealand.

    Te Runaka o Awarua chairman Dean Whaanga said community researchers had worked closely with kaumatua to develop a bespoke housing plan for the marae.

    The researchers would continue to work with residents to learn more about the anticipated social and health benefits generated by the project.

    ‘‘Times are really tough right now for all New Zealanders with record housing prices, increasing living costs and high inflation putting pressure on budgets.

    ‘‘We’re very pleased that this project will provide some of our most vulnerable kaumatua with warm, safe and affordable homes when they need it most.’’

    The runanga hoped to build more kaumatua units and, ideally, establish an  intergenerational housing community around the marae, where whanau could live while saving to buy their first home.

    ‘‘To build a complete community around our marae, with our youngest and oldest learning from each other, that would be a truly special achievement for our people, and that is something I hope we can achieve in my lifetime,’’ Mr Whaanga said.