Beneficiaries, low-income earners running out of places to live on Waiheke Island

Corazon Miller
Source: 1News

Low-income earners and beneficiaries on Auckland’s Waiheke Island are running out of options for places to live.

The tourist hotspot has just over a dozen state homes, and few emergency housing providers - a situation which is just getting worse.

A key provider of emergency accommodation on the island - at the Living Waters church - has been told they have to tell all bar eight of their current residents to leave.

As it stands the options here are of fairly low standard. A rusty old bus at the back of a cluster of units is the option of last resort for those who come to the site on The Esplanade in need of emergency accommodation.

Many of those who have walked through its doors are people who many others might not give a chance.

Paul Herbert is an ex-prisoner and an ex-meth addict. He says Living Waters gave him a second chance.

“I have been down the dark path myself,” he said. “Coming through here has helped me be who I wanted to be.”

But the future of one of the few emergency options for locals is now in doubt. Church Pastor Wiremu Henare Te Taniwha has been running the site with the help of charitable donations.

But he says the budget does not stretch far enough for him to do what he would like - provide stable, warm, self-contained units for those in need.

Instead Te Taniwha says he’s had to make do; with a collection of makeshift accommodation options, old caravans and the rusty old bus.

He currently has more than 20 living on site - a number beyond what he has consent for.

“We don’t know where they are going to go to,” he said. “And for those people who would have been utilising our services in the future, there will be nothing here to help bridge that gap.”

A worrying prospect for those who have nowhere else to go - like solo mum Sophie Marshal Makaea.

A two month search for a new rental has been fruitless and she says without it, she faces a struggle going back to work.

“If I could get a rental, so that I know we have somewhere to live, I can go back to full time work, which would help me pay for the rent.”

Going back to Auckland is also not an option for her, as she says her work, and her community is on the island.

Auckland Central MP Chloe Swarbrick wants the site to become an official emergency and transitional accommodation provider. She also wants to see it get more financial support.

“Waiheke, it is perceived as this paradise that of course people come to for the sake of tourism and wineries,” she said. “But there is also an immense amount of inequality.

“It should be a flourishing community that everybody on the island is proud of.

“Right now it feels like a dirty little secret.”

Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner for Auckland, Mark Goldsmith, said there were grants for emergency housing made available at Waiheke motels “from time to time when needed and if motels have space available”.

“Space is tight, as it is in many parts of the country,” he says. “We would encourage anyone who is in need to get in touch with us so we can discuss options.”

Meanwhile Kainga Ora said it was working to assess future demand for all forms of housing, across all communities around New Zealand.

In the meantime, the Waiheke Island Community is stepping in to fill the gap.

Paul Carew is the chair of the Waiheke Community Housing Trust. It was established in 2016 with a vision of building affordable, permanent rentals.

At the site 1 NEWS visited in Auckland, the trust was in the process of building three separate units that would house up to nine people.

He says in the time since it was established he’s seen the need that was felt solely by low income beneficiaries to one that is being felt across the board.

His hope is to offer homes to those most in need.

“So single people, retired people and a lot of working families. These are the three groups we feel are most at a disadvantage.

“They are the backbone of the community,” he says. “If you don’t have a community and you have only visitors it is just a theme park.”

He expects to get around 200 applications per property - a number symbolic of just how critical a need there is for homes on the island.

Taara Herbert once took up a spot at Living Waters and had moved away after finding herself a home. But she has found herself homeless again - living in a shed with three children.

She says there is nothing out there for her at the moment.

And with the Living Waters site full, and funds running dry - the concern is there will be more like her with nowhere to call home.