At the recent 2017 CHA Impact Conference members of the opening plenary panel each supported All New Zealanders well housed as a fundamental right. Yet there are a number of barriers, they say, to achieving this.Discussing all New Zealanders well housed were: Girol Karacaoglu, Head of the School of Government at Victoria University of Wellington; Hurimoana Nui Dennis from Te Puea Marae in South Auckland, and David Rutherford, New Zealand Human Rights Commissioner.
What we heard from the panel was moving, inspirational, and practical. The discussion was led by Stephen Selwood, CEO of Infrastructure New Zealand, who described housing as an issue for all New Zealanders.
“Everyone is impacted in some way by the housing crisis.”
Each member of the panel brought a distinct and personal perspective on the importance of adequate housing as a foundation for the wellbeing of New Zealanders.
Each supported All New Zealanders well housed as a fundamental right. That means all New Zealanders having warm, dry, safe housing, as well as the ability to own their own home.
“We need to change the way we do things,” Stephen says. “Partnerships and collaboration need to replace bureaucracy and silos. We need to think in different ways and streamline and align our processes. Why not partner with private capital? If we want to bring international capability to New Zealand, we need to scale up, stay focused on the vision, and be very clear in how we go about doing things.”
Girol Karacaoglu says, as a community, we need a common vision. We need those at the top of the pyramid to have the vision before anything else can happen.
Poverty, says Girol, is about exclusion.
“Poverty is a highly politicised issue, but there is no doubt in my mind that poverty in New Zealand is getting worse. If you walk around the country, as I did during the Tackling Poverty project, you will see it. The fact is that housing in New Zealand is becoming less and less affordable.”
The long-term sustainability of wellbeing requires trust, Girol said.
“Trust in systems, trust in institutions, and trust in government.”
Hurimoana Nui Dennis shared insights into Te Puea Marae’s Manaaki Tangata. This indigenous homeless service delivery model uses well-known Māoriprotocol and processes to ‘let the marae do what the marae does’.
“Our vision is simple. It doesn’t matter how big or challenging the task, get on and do what needs to be done.”
Hurimoana said there was “much to be done” when Te Puea Marae opened its doors in May 2016 to “mums and dads and kids suffering a poverty of everything”.
“They had no home, no nothing.”
Looking at the sheer scale of the problem, Hurimoana asked how something as big as this was missed.
“People died. Kids were sick. Families were humiliated and separated. Did no-one see it coming?”
Back in 2010, a report to Treasury prepared by the Housing Shareholders Advisory Group stated that the “availability of healthy, affordable housing is dwindling in New Zealand. An increasing number of people are renting a home because they cannot afford to own one, and, even with Government support in place, some people with the highest needs are missing out on shelter”.
The report, Home and Housed: A Vision for Social Housing in New Zealand[i], alerted officials to a potential housing crisis and set out what Hurimoana considers were “spot-on recommendations” to ensure New Zealanders had access to social and affordable housing in the future.
At the time, however, government agencies questioned the basis of the findings in the report.
“Nothing was done. Then the crisis happened.”
Hurimoana is concerned at the lack of accountability for what happened and supports a Commission of Enquiry.
“If we don’t learn from what happened, we’ll be back here in another 10 years.”
Human Rights Chief Commissioner David Rutherford believes that New Zealanders need to call our politicians on the decades of failure to meet New Zealand’s obligation to adequately house all New Zealanders.
“Human rights are not owned by any political party. Since 1948, New Zealand governments have promised repeatedly to provide adequate housing for all New Zealanders. It’s an international human right.”
David believes it will take longer than any single Government’s time in in power to deliver adequate housing to all New Zealanders and too often “political point-scoring and egos” get in the way of progress.
“I say we need a New Zealand Homes Accord, and I believe all political parties should work together to help form the Accord.
David believes that if we draw on global capital, unusual alliances, investment opportunities, and innovative thinking, together we can make a real difference.
“We need to work collectively. Agencies need to work together with a focus on the customer. The mana and dignity of each individual must be respected.”
David refers to the disability community’s catch cry for meaningful participation—‘Nothing about us, without us’.
[i] NZ Government; T2010/1003: Housing Shareholders' Advisory Group report “Home and Housed- a vision for social housing in New Zealand.”