National | Housing

Ngāti Ngararanui opposes housing development that may affect its awa

The Waiteti River, which Ngāti Ngararanui hopes will not be affected Photo /Herewini Waikato

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development is aiming to build 350 new homes in Ngongotaha, Rotorua, as a solution to housing stress and related community impacts.

However, local hapū Ngāti Ngararanui of Ngāti Whakaue Te Arawa is concerned that water infrastructure from these homes will affect their ancestral stream Waiteti.

At the second public meeting held at the Ngongotaha Community Hall more than 500 people attended, sharing their concerns and uncertainty over whether to support such a building development.

Marcus Jacobson from developer Watchman Residential, which is designing and working on consents. said they wanted to talk about where they were with the process in terms of working with the flood modelling.

“This really just informs what the design is going to be, so we still are early in that process,” he said.

Among the boisterous audience seeking to get a chance to ask questions was Guy Ngatai of Ngāti Ngararanui Hapū Trust, who raised concerns about the three-water infrastructure models these houses would follow and what stress they would put on his awa, Waiteti, which is next to the chosen site of the build at 31 Ngongotaha road on 15.9 hectares of land.

More housing... on more Māori land?

‘Bringing city problems’

“We do not agree because these are floodplains, the land is sacred and it is being built next to our river,” Ngatai said.

He said there were five sacred sites where the build would take place, and three sacred treasures of Ihenga, a Te Arawa ancestor, in the Waiteti stream.

“We don’t have a problem helping with housing shortages but, if it’s about building for those who are homeless, we don’t have that issue. They never came to us and asked ‘do our people need housing support?’ We are okay. But they are bringing problems from the city and other areas to us,” Ngatai said.

Where the housing development will go Photo / Herewini Waikato

 Not on the floodplains - developer

Close to 60% at the meeting raised their hands objecting to the plans to build on these lands because they would be building on floodplains.

However, Jacobson was adamant this was not the case.

“We are not building on the floodplains. We are designing to build around those floodplains and, where it may encroach into those floodplains, we will build them up so they don’t become floodplains,” he said.

Consent plans have yet to be worked through with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and others before any builds can start. More discussions between all parties in small focus groups are soon to take place.