EPISODE SUMMARY: On this episode of Indigenous Urbanism, we travel to the Kaihū in the Kaipara to learn about a tribal-led programme to improve living conditions for whānau through essential housing and infrastructure repairs.
GUESTS: Mihiata Te Rore, Tania Moriarty
Jade Kake: Poor quality housing is just one of the realities of living in rural Northland. For many of our hau kāinga, the pride and sense of identity associated with living on their own whenua is often coupled with the challenges of keeping their whare warm, dry, and safe for their whānau.
Mihiata Te Rore: Here as we walk into the kitchen, I had a couple of jacks underneath the house here because that was a bit unstable so that the fridge would wobble, and the stove would wobble.
JK: Have the piles rotted away or something like that?
MTR: I don't know, it's not the piles, because the house has only been here for ten years, it was actually the actual boards
JK: It might have been the bearers, or the joists, if it's not the posts themselves
MTR: Yeah it's not these ones, it was the ones that run underneath the house
JK: Have they rotted?
MTR: They were rotted, the were rotted. Like, there was one that went along here I think, and it was just totally rotten, and it went one along here
JK: So you had to replace that with the car jacks
MTR: Yes, this whole floor has been replaced, but prior to that it was three jacks along here, I think maybe 3-4 jacks, and that was just holding it up
JK: Tēnā koutou katoa
Nau mai haere mai ki te Indigenous Urbanism, Aotearoa Edition, Episode two.
I’m your host Jade Kake and this is Indigenous Urbanism, stories about the spaces we inhabit, and the community drivers and practitioners who are shaping those environments and decolonising through design.
On this episode of Indigenous Urbanism: We visit Mihiata Te Rore nō Te Uri o Hau [delete] at her whare on ancestral Māori land in Kaihū, located in the Kaipara district of Te Tai Tokerau. Patrick Gemmell reports.
Ko Mihiata Te Rore ahau, ko Kaihū tuturu kāinga, ko Kaihū te awa, ko Maunganui te maunga, ko Ripiroa te moana, Te Roro te iwi.
Patrick Gemmell: I guess we want to start with whereabouts we are in the world, and a little bit of your upbringing here in Kaihū
MTR: Yeah I'm in Kaihū, we're about 30km north of Dargaville, and more or less at the foot of the Waipoua Forest, that's going towards north. I was practically born and raised here. Sort of came away from down the line, from Tokoroa, and came here when I was about 6. My father brought us home, nine of us, all nine children. And I was sort of raised here in the area. And got older, moved away. Father passed away and then we all sort of moved away, got married. And some of us came home, some of us didn't, and I decided about ten years ago that I was coming home.
PG: Coming home is one thing, but coming home to where your ancestors have been brought up and back to your own Māori land, how important was it to you to come back to that as well?
MTR: It was very important. That was one of my main feelings to come home. You just feel it, it's ancestral land, this goes back to, I must be the 5th, 6th generation. I've got grandchildren, and they've all been here as well.
The land is here, the chief here was Te Rore, and from Te Rore he came down from Taho, and that's one of the rangatira for this area, for Te Roro. And from Taho, Te Rore, which is my tūpuna. And from him was Raniera, and he's buried over here, that's the third chief down, and that's my great-grandfather, so. My grandfather was raised here, my father was raised here, I've been raised here, I've raised my children here, so, that's quite a... that's a major legacy to me. And to actually be able to come home, and be here.
PG: What were some of the motivating things that really drove you to come back and put this whare back on the land, and when you did that, what were some of the issues that you ran into?
MTR: If I go back to almost 30 years ago, I'm 55 this year, I would have been 16, 17 years old when I eventually left this area, got married, and then came back. It was only the homestead, and another relative way down there. His house, down there. These were the only houses here. These ones in between the one over there, they weren't here, but as the years went by whānau came home, and it just felt that sense of belonging, the need to come house. Because my father had passed away, and the need to come home was stronger as I got older and my kids started to get older and my mokopuna arrived. That was the need that pulled me home. And be part of the valley, to be part of the land. Like that bush up there, I still remember years, when we were children, and our father would take us to there, and we were all self-sustained. We didn't buy butter, we made butter. We didn't buy milk, we made our milk. We didn't need meat, our meat was here. Orchards, we'd have orchards over here. We'd have gardens down there, and gardens across the road. And that was for watermelon, corn, everything was grown from the land. And you don't have that anymore. I want to try and be sustainable, but it's really difficult when you're on your own. It was an amazing lifestyle, we had an amazing lifestyle. I think, wow, my parents, with nine children, would go to the bush and get manuka, and that was our main heating source, cooking source, was through the old wood range. And so it was important to have firewood all the time, it was like sunup to sundown, you didn't stop. My dad was like that, he didn't stop.
PG: So a lot of early memories are still with you now, and obviously you've come home to rekindle a lot of those memories, and I guess something that we spoke about in the whare, which a lot of people have benefited from, is the housing repair programme that's been administered by Te Uri o Hau and Te Puni Kōkiri, and others, in terms of their input into it. Tell us how important that's been in terms of your own personal transformation and your whānau transformation? What's it done to you, in terms of the repair programme?
MTR: It just made me feel so good. It gave me confidence that my house is going to stand a little bit longer. The house has been here ten years, and if I didn't get the help that came to me, there was no way I could afford it. You know my house was on jacks. That was pretty depressing. I was getting a bit depressed about it, I must admit. I started getting a bit low on that, and when I made the application to Te Puni Kōkiri, and you, and Whaea Lyn, who came here, and we gathered a few whānau that would come. It was, well incredible really. Cause there was no where else, there was no way something like that over there, there's no way I would have chosen a massive water tank like that. And to do the roof, the water spouting, everything that they did, I was just overwhelmed.
PG: You've spoken briefly about what you're looking to do in terms of a pathway, and what you've just finished saying is that you're really keen on doing a building course. Has the repair programme, has that been a big influence in why you want to do this?
MTR: Oh definitely, because there's still things I need to correct. And it's also so I can help my whānau too that want to come home, cause there are other siblings that want to come home. And sort of extend from there, and hopefully, once I learn to use the tools, we can start working to build, maybe extend the house to make it bigger to house as many whānau that want to come home. It's all about, we're isolated out here, there's not a lot of work, if there is work it's backbreaking work, it's labouring work. You've got the kumara gardens, you've got the sawmill, agriculture, farming and that.
PG: One of the other questions I wanted to mention around the repair programme - how has the community received the news that potentially if we looked to advocate for repair programmes of this nature, how do you think they'll feel about it, considering that they've actually seen the before and after of your house? And then they realise that, this is actually a real thing. If we were able to get more of this done through the community, how do you think the community would feel.
MTR: I think they'd be really happy. There's a few houses, cuzzie over there, other one down there, other one opposite, that's three already. And that's only down here. I think there's another one, four. There must be a few more up past, at the Kaihū settlement.
The community, their expectations are now. This is what I mean. Their expectations, because they've seen the mahi done on my whare, and their expectation of my turn, what about me? This is what's been said in the community. Whānau are waiting, waiting. Te Puni Kōkiri, I've told the whānau here that yes Te Puni Kōkiri are there to speak to, but they do wānanga now, the process is different this time. You have to do a wānanga over there to find out what the needs are of the community, and you go as a community. And that's what I mean, it's hard to go from here to there, cause a lot of us have trouble with transport - that's a problem. And just, the expectations of the community here are high, because of what they've seen done here. When they seen the diggers, they seen the truck come up here everyday, that's ATS carpenters were here. Then they seen the digger, then they seen the water tank. It was like, oh my gosh, she's getting all this work done, and it's all through TPK and Te Uri o Hau.
PG: And the need is great, it's fair to say the need is great
MTR: Yes, the need is great. Since our kaumātua units over here, nobody could live in them. It was not a safe place for them to go. It wasn't until we got the funding from Te Puni Kōkiri and the mahi was done, now each unit - there's four units there - and they're all filled up now. The whānau are happy there. It's comfortable, it's lovely, carpeted. It's neat. I want to go over there and just lay on the carpet, it’s so lovely and soft.
JK: After the kōrero with Patrick, Mihi showed me around her whare
MTR: Now I had a shower unit here, but this is a brand new, nice glass. All that's been done, a toilet, and that's been a real bonus because it's a dual toilet. Like you know, your half flush, full flush.
JK: What was it like before?
MTR: It was just a full flush, so a lot of water was going out, and I always had to worry about my little water tank out here, cause it's only, I think it's only - I don't even know how big that water tank out here is. It was always a worry about making sure the water tank was full.
JK: Did you ever run out?
MTR: Oh yes, I used to run out a bit over here on this water tank here, but because I have access to the raw water that I was talking about, and we do have access to it because it's our entitlement, we're entitled to that, and we won't be told not to collect water from our natural spring, from anybody. And so this was done, and that was a wash basin, and he did the ceiling.
JK: You were talking about the wall before
MTR: And the wall, yes, because I used to have a little washbasin here but it was just a waste of time and it was in the way. So they removed that, covered everything over, new boards, and I believe he also put batts in that, and also he replaced that, cause that was sagging, the ceiling was sagging, and just above the toilet here, just a little area, and he replaced that.
MTR: We go into the kitchen. And here as we walk into the kitchen, I had a couple of jacks, two jacks underneath the house here because that was a bit unstable, so that the fridge would wobble, and the stove would wobble. This part of the house would move, you'd walk past and everything would just wobble. Oh I noticed that for about three, might have been 3-4 years, it started to worsen. And the jacks stabilised it for another year and a bit, about two years. So it's lovely to walk through here and you know, if you walked over here, it was OK, but you could feel, it wasn't stable. And I would worry and worry.
MTR: Sink bench, cupboards
JK: What was here before?
MTR: I had a stainless steel bench here, but it was just so, over it. Just over it. It had to be replaced. Cause they were just old wooden doors, you open a cupboard and the handle would fall off. I sort of had little bits and pieces holding it together. A hood range, he got a hood range in there. He did a massive job, this whole floor he just cut it right out. It was amazing watching him work. Never seen anyway work so quick.
JK: Look at it now, much better
MTR: Oh gosh yeah, I was just so happy, they just did so much for me, there's no way that I would have been able to any of this by myself. Financially, there is just no way.
Coming out, if you come outside and what they've done, they did the water spouting, so that's with the new roof, and that's my water tank I have here. And that would supply we and my family, that supplied us for about the last ten years, until this arrived last year.
JK: And now you've got no problems with the water
MTR: No problems with the water. Just amazing. And then there's the new septic tank. The one that I did have, the lid had smashed, and it was just so unhygienic, just not safe, and healthy. And then they brought the digger in, and put a new one in. You can see the top end of the septic top there. I was just so happy, I was just so blown away. Tell you, how many times I got down and just thanked God, I don't know how many times I did, thanked him for such a great blessing. Cause it was, to me it was a blessing, because these people have helped me. The government have helped me.
JK: Mihi’s whare was repaired through the essential housing and infrastructure repair programme, delivered by her iwi, Te Uri o Hau and funded by Te Puni Kōkiri, the Ministry of Māori development. Te Uri o Hau seek to support the communities within their rohe, so that future generations have a decent and affordable place to live. Within the Kaipara district there are still many homes - like Mihi’s - which require urgent and essential repairs.
Tania Moriarty: That’s what we’ve found, definitely in Kaipara, we’ve had a lot of whānau come back from Australia, because they've had to. And whānau come back from Auckland, because they can't afford to live there anymore. So they're moved back to the papakāinga with big families. So that creates a whole lot of social issues, around overcrowding, there's health, and there's mental health. Because they get depressed, because they don't have what they had in the cities. The kids aren't used to it, the kids aren't used to living, because they weren't raised back by their marae, on their whenua, they were raised in the cities.
There's a lot of issues around that. So you get into the social issues, the mental health issues around depression, drugs and alcohol and all that sort of stuff. So, yeah there has been a big change with a lot of our whānau moving back, and the housing just isn't adequate. Firstly, the houses weren't maintained over the years anyway, because our whānau didn't have the money, and now on top of that they're bringing back their families, and living in these inadequate homes with overcrowding. We've had a few that have actually come back and they've got tents living on their whenua, because they can't fit in the house. A lot of our whānau that are coming through the door are looking for housing, and there just isn't anything out there, especially in the Kaipara.
JK: We spoke with Tania Moriarty from Te Uri o Hau. Tania is the Tangata Lead of the social service team, with Kaimahi based in Whangarei, Dargaville and Kaiwaka. Her team is responsible for delivery of the tribe’s housing programmes.
Ko Tangihua te maunga, Wairua te awa, Tangiteroria te marae, Te Parawhau te hapū, Ngāti Whātua te iwi. Te taha o toku whaea, Toku Toku te maunga, Kaipara te moana, Ngā Tai Whakarongorua te marae, Te Uri o Hau te hapū, Ngāti Whātua te iwi. Ko Tania Moriarty ahau.
Te Uri o Hau settled their claim in 2002, October 2002. I think it might be the 17th even. Our rohe is quite big, so we go as far as Te Hana, Mangawhai, back up to Ruawai. Not quite Dargaville but Pouto, yeah. Quite a bit stretch. Oruawharo, yeah, all around there. So, it's quite a big area. At last count I think they said it was 7,800 beneficiaries, all across though. And growing.
So we did have the Māori Housing Network essential repairs contract. It was great, that was great. So we were contracted to do up to 30 homes, and we actually did 37. In the budget, tight, tight right to the last penny. And it was good, it was great. There's still a lot of homes though that we couldn't get to.
I mean, really grateful and the whānau are really, really grateful for the repairs. But I mean, it was quite sad going into some of our homes, and seeing the state that they were actually in. Loved the contractors, so I mean that's good. And it is hard, because you go out there, you do the work, and then you get a lot of others that will contact because they heard that their whānau had got work and they didn't know about it and all that sort of stuff. How far do you... we spread the word as far as we could, but we're only limited in terms of funding and what we could do. I mean, 45K per house actually wasn't enough for a lot of the homes, there were repairs up to 100,000. So, that is part of feedback we gave. At what point do we actually put on a whole new... you can get homes moved on there for less than that, for less than 100K. So you just sort of patching up. And I know we're not there to renovate the whole house, and make it all pretty and everything, but actually these were essential.
What we did do, whānau are so grateful. Lot of learnings, that next time we know. The hardest thing I suppose for us in the Kaipara was finding contractors. I suspect it would be the same for up north and mid north. My dream was that those that get repairs done through us, with the funding, that we sit down with them and do a maintenance plan going forward. But we just didn't have the time. We were pushed for time, because it was hard for us to get an adequate project manager, to manage them, and then the delays were in getting the contractors. Getting plumbers, getting the builders, getting electricians, because a lot of them were working in Auckland. Are they going to give up a million dollar contract for a 20K, 30K sort of thing. But then we had some contractors that really came on board and gave us priority, which has been fantastic. But then it stopped. So, you know, is there are any work coming? I said to them, guys you just need to take on, do what you have to do and take on other work, because we just don't know what's happening. They've got to feed their whānau. With whatever happens next, if there's another contract, then we're back at ground zero again. Starting to get our contractors back on, because then they would have started other projects. But that's just how it is, that's it, there's nothing. So you need to be looking at other options.
I mean, some of them that have come in like that, that are really in dire, luckily we have our whānau ora navigators who can go in there and try and find other options for them. We've got different avenues that whānau come into our services. We've got family start, which is 0-5, so that's about parenting and babies' development and all that sort of stuff right up till they're 5 if they need it. If they come in through that door, that's a whole whānau-centred approach, that's looking at bubba, when mum's hapū, right up till they're 5. But it's looking at educating parents on baby's development and growth. Also looking at the health aspects of the whānau. So is the house adequate? Is it warm? Is baby safe within the housing environment? And that looks at healthy homes really.
So we deal with the social issues as well as education of parents, and that encompasses everything. Health, housing, all that sort of stuff. So they will support them, the social workers will support them, through anything that they need for baby. Same with our social worker. If there's housing issues, we've also got a partnership with Manaia PHO, with Manawa Ora. So, any of the homes that we go into, we know that we've got Manawa Ora support there that we can link them into. If there's mould, it needs insulation. All our tamariki getting sick all the time, because we've got that contract with Manaia to do housing assessments. I suppose part of my role as a Manager is looking at all those partnerships and those opportunities. And even if they're little, sometimes it's not even about the pūtea actually that we get from those contracts, it's about actually having a service where my social workers can hook whānau into as well, like Manawa Ora, like the healthy homes, like Te Matarau. Having that education part, pastoral care for some of our parents, to get a qualification.
One of our Māori housing whānau that we work with, we did repairs on their whānau home. Young parents, just had twins. He was at Northtec doing carpentry, way out in Tinopai and their vehicle wasn't safe, with the tyres and all that. He was travelling a long distance just to get to course, plus with their babies. Through another pot of pūtea that I had, we could assist them to get brand new tyres, so that their car was safe. And so that he could get to course, so that he could finish his qualification. Cause he was keen as, and that same whānau then were able to hook up with one of our contractors that was doing some repairs for us, so that he could get some experience and money. It's that whole approach, looking at other opportunities - that we can get contracts through, yep, but also that they align with what our whānau will need, wrapping all of those services around them. And that works.
We do have a vision, a long term 15-year plan. And what we want is more home ownership, we want out whānau to be owners of their own homes. And we have had workshops, we've called on a bank that we've used for years, and we've utilised them to have workshops out on our marae, for whānau that are wanting to get into home ownership. We've had Westpac do one at Otamatea, and so those are the sorts of things that we're looking at. So that whānau are ready. What do they need to do to get into home ownership? So that's been cool. The other side to that is, because we have first right of refusal properties, our partnership with the Crown, we've had a few come through. And so we've been able to get some of our beneficiaries in them. Our whānau ready for home ownership, so when these properties come up, they're ready. Do you want it? But at least they're ready.
So we're trying to get them ready before then. Start working on them now, so that if they come up, we can say yep we've got a list of them, that have been through that process, are ready, and just need the bank to say yep, pre approval. So that's the plan, we are wanting to get more into home ownership. We just need our whānau to be ready. And we've got quite a few out there that really want to own their own home, rather than rent. So that's great.
MTR: My family now, we’re confident. We feel confident. It’s hard when you’re in a house that’s falling down around you. You come home to an ancestral land, that you've been here or your tūpuna have been here, and it's like nobody cares.
We're lucky to actually have this. We are lucky. We're lucky to have... we've only got 100 acres left of the original 20,000 acres. We've only got two whānau mana whenua that are here. That's all, this is all we have. And we're lucky to have it. It's like, disconnection, thank goodness we've got the kaumātua flats here and that access, when our kaumātua have access and they're living there, that generation, their generation will follow up.
JK: And then you're trying to bring all of the scattered pieces back, and get to know each other again. What keeps those home fires burning? You need the people at home.
MTR: That's right. We need to be home, we need our old people home, and they're children come home, so we all get to meet each other. And that's how I've found it, since the kaumātua flats are now filled up with whānau from, kaumātua from Auckland. It brings their families homes. And our children get to integrate with each other again.
JK: That's what we want, to bring our whānau back to the whenua
MTR: I know, I used to be like that, I used to be down in the city before I came home. I used to feel so disconnected, even though I was raised here. I felt disconnected from the land, but I'm so glad I'm home.
JK: So important
MTR: It is. If you don't have a house here, what are you going to do? Are you going to live in a car? People are living in cars. This is what's so incredible. People are living in cars in the city. I feel sorry for them, I feel real aroha for them, I can't imagine a life like that.
JK: Because of the housing stress, particularly in Auckland, are you getting more whānau who are wanting to move home?
MTR: When they come home, they think they've got nothing here for them. Like, work wise. You've got to make your work.
JK: You've got to make a job for you. Find ways to be resourceful.
MTR: That's right
JK: Takes getting used to I think, if you've been used to a certain mindset and way of living. You just think oh, there's nothing here. Well that's not true.
MTR: Yeah. They think, how do I fit in? Don't worry about it, you'll fit in, you're home, you don't have to prove anything. You don't have to prove anything. If you can come home, come home. It just makes as stronger as a whānau, as a people out here, as a hapū. Cause that's what it's all about.
JK: Indigenous Urbanism Aotearoa Edition is a production of Te Matapihi. Sandy Wakefield does our sound recording, editing, and mixing. Our theme was composed by Thomas Burton. I’m Jade Kake, your host and Executive Producer.
For more information about today’s show and other episodes of Indigenous Urbanism go to indigenousurbanism.net. You can drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you like what you’re hearing, please give us a review or rating on iTunes.
Coming up next on Indigenous Urbanism, we visit Whangarei, Northland’s largest city, and speak with tohunga whakairo Te Warihi Hetaraka, about the role of carvers and visual artists in creatively interpreting our cultural narratives and re-inscribing our identity as tangata whenua into the urban fabric.
We also talk to two Māori planners, who work with hau kāinga communities in Whangarei, about how together we can decolonise the city through better urban planning.
Bernadette Aperahama: I don’t see that Whangarei, visually, looks like a Māori City. I mean, the people of course. It's not represented in the built environment. And that's sad to me. It must be sad for our people, and it must be sad for our tangata whenua. How do they see themselves in the actual City?
Te Warihi Hetaraka: And it's that kōrero you know, hutia te rito o te harakeke, kei hea koe koromako e ko. We may go he aha mea nui te ao, he tangata, he tangata, he tangata. That's saying several things, that tauparapara. That's saying several things. One, it starts with the environment. But the environment will cease to exist if the mentality of humanity isn’t in balance with it.