In July 2020, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta turned the earth on a 14-home papakāinga at Te Māhurehure Cultural Marae in central Auckland.
It was an emotional moment for the chairperson of the marae, Christine Panapa, and her husband John as the Prime Minister dug into the ground to mark the beginning of the project and a “dream come true” for the marae.
“The housing asset will stay with the marae forever, it’s not to be sold. John and I know when we leave this earth, we leave a legacy for our children and all the other whānau who are a part of Te Māhurehure Marae,” says Christine.
Te Puni Kōkiri invested $3.4 million in the one, two and three-bedroom apartments. The marae is contributing land and $3.3 million. Tenants will come from the Social Housing Register, giving “mums with their children, kaumātua and kuia” the opportunity to receive keys to a new home.
The development marks another milestone for Te Māhurehure hapū. It is the latest expression of their commitment to whanaungatanga and manaakitanga.
Humble beginnings were born of necessity. Like many Māori leaving their rural homes for the city in the 1960s, the hapū wanted to stay connected with each other. In 1969 Christine’s whānau bought an old rugby training shed on four acres in Point Chevalier for $29,000.
“We all come from Waima, a little settlement in South Hokianga. In the early days they had to come to Auckland to find work – many of them at the meat works and on the wharves. My mum’s brothers, cousins, uncles needed somewhere to get together. So, Mum and Dad started this marae with the help of extended whānau.”
The purchase came with a mortgage of $500 a month, a substantial financial commitment at the time. So began an ongoing round of fundraising from cake stalls, raffles and socials.
“Mum was a wonderful cook and baker. She worked hard selling her famous cream puffs every weekend. That is why we are still here,” says Christine.
Three years later the place was freehold but by then the socials had become so popular – and so profitable – that they continued.
Māori showbands like the Volcanics, and later in the 1990s entertainers like the Yandall Sisters, Prince Tui Teka and Bunny Walters, drew huge crowds every weekend. Sunday sports events brought in more funds. The thriving social scene ensured strong tribal connections were maintained.
From a bare-floored shed and adjoining field, Te Māhurehure evolved into a busy urban marae and hub for the wider community. In 2009 a new marae facility was opened to welcome thousands more visitors.
Advancing the papakāinga dream
Christine Panapa is a strong figure at the centre of the marae. She has led the upgrade of the facilities for the benefit of generations of descendants to come and says the papakāinga project was a logical next step for the site.
“We set our goals like our parents did. They had a vision for what they wanted, they had chook raffles to pay the power bills. We’re a bit luckier today as we have many resources we can rely on,” she says.
There have been different challenges for Christine’s generation of trustees. The land behind the marae where the apartments will be built runs down bush-clad banks to a creek. When the trustees first approached Te Puni Kōkiri for advice and support, the land along the creek was zoned an open space.
“We had to get the zoning changed to residential. I attended over a hundred meetings on Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan and it took nearly three years,” says Christine, adding that she and John are “a pretty pushy couple”.
“We’re so very grateful to staff at Te Puni Kōkiri. We’d never have been able to do this without their partnership, or support from Auckland Council and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.”
With the 2016 passing of the Unitary Plan, intended to help meet the city’s economic and housing needs, the land could be rezoned. Under the ‘Special Purpose – Māori Purpose Zone’ allowances in the plan, Te Māhurehure got the green light to build a papakāinga.
Te Kāinga Atawhai papakāinga
At the ceremony to mark this new beginning for the land Minister Mahuta commented on the range of solutions required to address housing needs across the spectrum from “homelessness to home ownership”.
“It takes a different way of thinking to bring to life our aspirations for housing. Kaupapa Māori approaches like this provide innovative solutions, tailored by Māori to provide warm, safe, dry homes for whānau,” she said.
The development is an ongoing expression of the tradition of manaakitanga at the marae. Its name ‘Te Kāinga Atawhai’ was given by kaumātua, Rereata Makiha, because the marae encapsulates this approach – to look after all people, not just your own.
A new company, Te Kāinga Atawhai Housing Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Te Māhurehure Cultural Marae Society Inc, will have full responsibility for the project. Meanwhile, the marae is taking the necessary steps to become a registered Community Housing Provider.
Although it will be some months before the apartment complex is built Christine and John Panapa and Te Māhurehure whānau can take pride in their achievements.
“We are helping whānau come off the waiting list and because we’re working through the Ministry of Social Development we are going to have good tenants and we know the rents will be paid.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of heartache, a lot of tears to get things done, to make housing part of the marae. But we know we have a good business plan and good administration. It’s not going to be a burden for the next generations,” Christine says.
The fourteen new homes are expected to be completed by December 2021.