In 2015 when the Aorangi Māori Trust Board opened an eight-home papakāinga in Waipatu, Hawke’s Bay, only two whare were owned by whānau.
Five years later with the development of stage two on a neighbouring land block eight, of the 12 houses are owned by Aorangi descendants and four are affordable rentals with security of tenure.
Stage one was supported by the then Social Housing Unit and when Te Puni Kōkiri assumed responsibility in 2015 for Māori housing funding, it continued to support Aorangi Māori Trust Board with funding towards feasibility studies, infrastructure cost and capital grants towards the rental homes.
Increasing home ownership has been a high priority for the Board after a long, hard struggle by tupuna who were left landless and homeless.
“We wanted to see our young people and our rawakore in affordable housing and we wanted those who could afford it to have the opportunity to purchase their houses. I think that’s worked,” says Hēnare Hūtana (Aorangi descendant) who is one of the board trustees and a resident of stage one.
Striving for home ownership
The eight new home ownerships are first home buyers ranging in age from early 20s to late 50s.
One of them is Hiraani Hūtana (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu) who shares her story to provide valuable insights for those who have similar aspirations. When the first papakāinga was planned she applied for a loan and was turned down flat.
“I went into the bank and was told no. I was given quite a big list of things that I needed to improve in my financial area of living. The three main aspects were to clear a $30,000 debt, get a healthier deposit, and double my wage.
“Although I huffed and puffed out of that meeting I was quite taken aback. I hadn’t realised what it took to get a home ownership loan. But I did it in two and a half years,” she says.
Hiraani urges others like her to strive for that goal by making the necessary changes in their lives. For the Hastings teacher the sacrifices along the way are well worth it.
She and her partner have six tamariki between them and after living with in-laws and saving for three years, the move into the new house means the world to them.
“I don't want to pay off someone else's home. I want to pay for my own home and to know that my tamariki, my partner and I won't be having to move out or move on.”
One of her greatest pleasures has been working with the papakāinga project manager, Paora Sheeran, to design the spaces and décor.
“I wanted lots of room for my tamariki, and open plan so that we could see into the middle parts of the papakāinga and be part of the communal living. I also have quite funky design ideas and I’m really grateful to Paora who’s allowed me great freedom and rarely said no.
“There’s a basketball court going in and a communal garden. That’s what I want for the tamariki – real easy Māori Aotearoa living, the good life.”
From aspiration to completion
Go to almost any recent papakāinga development in the Hastings area and Paora Sheeran’s (Ngāti Kahungunu) name is likely to pop up as the project manager. His break came during the first stage Aorangi build when the board gave its backing and commitment to fund the initial position.
At the time they were new to the work, struggling to get “from aspiration to completion”. Once a focused resource took on the responsibilities of, for example, talking to the Council, liaising with tradesmen and reporting back to Government against funding support, progress was rapid.
Paora’s project management business Sheeran Associates Ltd has since grown, taking their experience and skills to new papakāinga builds beyond Hastings into Masterton, Bulls, Raglan, Te Tai Rāwhiti.
“I have a great team and we’re all passionate about what we do. Papakāinga is probably the most affordable way to get into homeownership and into a brand new, double glazed, fully insulated home with all of the mod cons.
“With a Kiwibank Kainga Ora loan you don’t own the land (land ownership stays with the Trust), you own your house. It really helps whānau to see there is a pathway and owning a home in a papakāinga is not as scary as it might seem,” Paora says.
The power of whanaungatanga
Paora will also be one of the first to reiterate that papakāinga outcomes go beyond providing homes.
During the Covid19 lockdowns of 2020 his whānau experienced the manaakitanga, whanaungatanga, kaitiakitanga and wairuatanga that underpin the communities.
His parents moved on to the first papakāinga in 2015. During the March/April lockdown Paora’s seriously ill mother came home from hospital where their neighbours supported the whānau with kai.
“Then when Mum did pass, the day of the tangi we kept to our bubbles at the urupā and managed to have a tangi,” recalls Paora.
“To our surprise, when we came back to the papakāinga there was a marquee set up around Mum and Dad's house with a big hākari. They welcomed us back as you do in te ao Māori. Nau mai hoki mai ki te ao mārama.
“For my whānau to experience that … everyone was blown away,” he says, brushing away a tear.
Whanaungatanga has also taken on a special meaning for Tarisse King, a homeowner in the first papakāinga and mother of three tamariki. She is from Australia, “of the dreamtime people”, and her partner at the time is Ngāti Kahungunu.
“Being so far away from my whānau I feel like I inherited more whānau, a culture and language. With my children going to kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa all the tamariki on this whenua kōrero i te reo Māori,” she says.
Like Hiraani, Tarisse has a Kiwibank loan that is manageable and she feels secure knowing her children are “always going to have a roof over their heads, even long term”.
“That's what the papakāinga is. It's somewhere they can always come back to.”
Hēnare Hūtana calls it “a beautiful community settlement under that kupu ‘papakāinga’.”
Perhaps Paora Sheeran best sums up the compelling case for more papakāinga developments, “We’re building communities and we’re building whānau.”
Photography: Josie McClutchie
Videography: Te Amokura Productions