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Petition Presented To Parliament

Updated: Oct 1, 2023

Petition Opposing Kainga Ora Development in Ohakune Presented to Parliament

A petition signed by 1200 residents and visitors to Ohakune opposing a controversial Kainga Ora social housing development in the tourism town was presented to Parliament today.

Kainga Ora and Ruapehu District Council (RDC) plan to build a large, high-density social housing estate of around 150 dwellings over three stages.

The plan is being sold to the community as a mix of social housing, ‘affordable first homes’ and ‘worker accommodation’. However, Official Information Act requests show no plans, policies or documents exist to support the claim of mixed housing, meaning it could easily become a full-scale social housing scheme in the small Central North Island tourist town, population just 1000.

The deal, which has a conditional sale of public land to the state housing agency, was kept secret from the community, with many residents still unaware of what is being proposed.

Barry Murphy, spokesperson for those directly affected – a group representing over 150 concerned residents – says the location of the development and secrecy surrounding it has angered many.

“Not only does Ohakune have limited social services and job prospects, it’s very expensive to build here because of its isolation. This also adds extra costs to things like food, fuel and power for heating too – it’s an expensive place to live, where jobs are seasonal,” he says.

“There is no medical centre, yet alone a GP in Ohakune, so this is just going to add extra financial burden to those who have to travel for basic medical care.

“This is such a ludicrous location for a development of this size, made worse by the fact there are only 13 individuals or families in need of housing in Ohakune. These people could be housed tomorrow in warm, dry and safe dwellings if RDC and Kainga Ora would consider existing stock currently on the market, but they simply won’t.

“RDC and Kainga Ora keep carping on about an ‘urgent need’ for housing, and projected growth, but when asked for data to support that claim they’ve repeatedly failed to produce anything which suggests it is mythical.”

Mr Murphy says many signatories are equally concerned about the social housing scheme being located right next to the famous Carrot Adventure Park.

“Aside from Ruapehu, the Carrot Park is the town’s top tourism attraction and pulls in over 100,000 visitors annually. It is a regional and national icon, and many residents and tourists to Ohakune are worried about the social impacts that invariably accompany these large-scale housing schemes.

“There is concern that this will have negative flow-on effects for the town’s other tourism ventures, which will hurt local businesses already battered by Covid and questions hanging over the future of the ski fields they rely so heavily on."

“We’ve seen what’s happened in Rotorua, where the town’s image has been severely impacted and many tourists have turned away. We don’t want that for our town.”

Mr Murphy says many residents and ratepayers are appalled by the lack of transparency from the local council, as well as the absence of foresight and leadership.

“They’ve tried to push the consent for this project through unnotified, claiming there are no affected parties, and there’s been zero consultation. Only now, after they’ve lodged the consent, are they calling meetings to ‘hear from the community’ but the reality is they’re just telling the community what is going to happen. We find that offensive, and so is the dismissive way they have treated any concerns raised by members of the community to date.

“RDC should be safeguarding the future of the Central Plateau’s top tourism town, but they’ve proven to be a visionless council blinded by the Covid cash they got handed from the Government for this pointless project.”

The project has been further marred by revelations that one of Kainga Ora’s lead planners for the Ohakune development failed to reveal a conflict of interest – owning a holiday house on the boundary of the Kainga Ora site where he positioned a large reserve to shelter himself from the development.

“This speaks volumes about the way Kainga Ora has handled the project,” says Mr Murphy. “It’s hardly surprising though, nationally Kainga Ora has a track record of riding roughshod over communities—it’s an organization out of control and appears they can print their own money and do whatever they want.

“A line needs to put through this project to save tourism and save our town – that it was the petition is asking of Parliament.”

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