An Auckland marae that has been caring for the city’s homeless is taking the Crown to the Waitangi Tribunal for its failures to house Māori.
Te Puea Marae is leading the claim as it asks for reparations from the Crown for its past failures, and a commitment to do more for its future generations.
The marae chairperson, Hurimoana Dennis, hopes the hearing will be the “beginning of the end”.
“This is when people are allowed to turn up and tell their stories and talk about the ongoing failings of government agencies, and their policies, to adequately support and house whānau Māori into homes.”
The claim before the tribunal is being supported by a number of community groups nationwide working with Māori.
They say the Crown has for years failed to support and enable Māori into housing, that the current laws and practices have been prejudicial and have had a negative impact on the social and economic wellbeing of Māori.
Chief executive of social agency Whanau Ora, John Tamihere, says housing is a key issue for Māori.
“Middle class New Zealand takes [housing] for granted, but two-thirds of the Māori population really struggle,” he says.
“One third of the Māori population is on the move every three years. You can’t get your baby a good education when you are that transient.
“We have to fix this issue, of being able to settle whānau, to give them a good education, to give them a chance at welfare and a chance to be good citizens.”
Mary Moeke is an MIT lecturer in early childhood education who found herself unexpectedly homeless in 2018.
“I was living in a van, with my three young boys, on and off for eight weeks,” she says.
Because she fit within the middle-income bracket she was not eligible for support from the Ministry of Social Development.
But expensive legal bills, and money tied up in property, alongside challenges finding a rental, left her with no choice but the streets.
“It was scary and uncomfortable, but we really didn’t have any choice.”
She came to the marae, which gave her the support she needed to get on her feet and find a home to call her own.
Te Puea Marae’s helped more than 500 people - 178 families - into homes over the past five years.
Dennis says finding a house is often the easiest part of the puzzle for people in need.
“They come with a lot of challenges: personal challenges, substance abuse, family violence, historical abuse, budgeting issues, mental health issues,” he says.
“They are the real issues that need to be addressed. We try to take a lot of those issues away before they land in the place.”