Crowds gathered in the rain to celebrate the opening of a social housing development at Gladstone’s Hurunui-o-rangi Marae. PHOTOS/JADE CVETKOV

EMILY IRELAND
emily.ireland@age.co.nz

Rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of those celebrating the opening of a unique social housing development at Gladstone’s Hurunui-o-Rangi Marae on Saturday.

The marae, 10km east of Carterton, aims to provide affordable housing as well as advance the aspirations of the community.

Built with the support of $1.6 million from the Maori Housing Network [Te Puni Kokiri], the six-house development is made up of two two-bedroom homes and four three-bedroom houses.

Marae spokesman Henare Manaena said the project aimed to not only provide affordable housing for whanau but to recreate what was once a vibrant pa community.

It is one of the first new papakainga in Wairarapa for many years and it is also understood to be the first new social housing development in New Zealand on marae reserve land.

“Providing marae-based homes offers an opportunity to reconnect our mokopuna and whanau to their whenua, whakapapa, and learning about who they are and where they come from,” Manaena said.

“We are thrilled to see the homes finally built.

“It has been a long aspiration for our kuia, kaumatua and whanau of Hurunui-o-Rangi Marae.”

The three-bedroom homes are hoped to accommodate families, and the two-bedroom homes are hoped to accommodate single parents with children, or senior citizens.

In the past, Hurunui-o-Rangi Marae was a papakainga with a thriving community, Manaena said.

The revival of this papakainga concept is important in terms of the marae’s identity, and individuals’ sense of belonging in the community.

Each house was blessed during the official opening, which was attended by members of the wider Wairarapa community, project stakeholders, and representatives from other Wairarapa marae.

The papakainga project was not easy sailing.

It was originally expected to open in July last year, and then in April this year, but it was necessary for key agencies to buy into the idea to go forward, Manena said.

But he said the road blocks along the way served a greater purpose which was sharing the knowledge with other marae that were keen to embark on similar projects.

Manaena said the project would not have been successful without everyone’s help – from the tea and bread makers, right through to whanau who worked in professional fields and helped with “all the paperwork”.

He said interest in embarking on similar projects from other marae had been “phenomenal”, and Hurunui-o-Rangi Marae was looking forward to sharing the knowledge that came from the project.

The application process to live in the social development will be managed by Hurunui-o-Rangi Marae trustees and Trust House.