Auckland Council agency heads to human rights tribunal in lengthy legal battle
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Maori Party co-leader John Tamihere says the issue of social housing is more important than ever.
Auckland Council development agency Eke Panuku is going to the Human Rights Review Tribunal this month in an ongoing legal battle with the party’s former co-leader Maori, John Tamihere.
And according to the council-controlled organization’s chief executive, David Rankin, the agency and council have already spent $605,750 in legal fees related to the case.
Tamihere is chief executive of Auckland Te Whānau O Waipareira Trust – who has been locked in a standoff with Panuku over a property development in Old Papatoetoe’s Tavern Lane.
The agency originally planned to partner with Ngai Tai Waipareira Housing, which is half-owned by the trust, on a project that would have seen 60 or more homes built on the site of the former St George’s Tavern.
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But the parties argued over how much social housing would be included as part of the development. Panuku wanted it capped at 30%, while Ngai Tai Waipareira Housing wanted at least 67%.
Tamihere announced in 2019 that he would take legal action against the agency over the project, which he said violated the human rights law and discriminate against those who are excluded from the housing market.
And now with the first Human Rights Review Tribunal hearing now set for May 16, he remains convinced he can win.
Tamihere said the case is important for the central government and local government and will help clarify their social responsibilities.
“When you make a decision on public land, you have a responsibility to the poor and less fortunate to give them and the community an opportunity that middle-class New Zealanders take for granted.”
This Kāinga Ora social housing development in Rangiora, by Rohan Collett Architects, won a Housing – Multi Unit award. (Video first published in March 2022)
Tamihere said with more and more families shut out of the housing market, social housing was more important than ever.
He rejected the agency’s out-of-court settlement offer from last year, which included both property and cash to cover the $400,000 in fees it had accrued, in exchange the abandonment of the case.
“It was an offer from Clayton. The properties they offered us are the ones they can’t get rid of – that was a real slap in the face,” Tamihere said. “Panuku made it sound like he was acting in good faith, but that was a joke.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Panuku chief executive David Rankin confirmed that he had offered municipal property to Tamihere as part of his out-of-court settlement offer.
“As we have stated, Eke Panuku believes that the funds spent on defending these procedures could be better spent on forward-looking social and community projects and that the time and energy of all parties involved could be better used.”
Rankin said it was disappointing that the parties were unable to reach an out-of-court settlement and that the agency has since dropped its 30% cap on social housing in its developments.
According to Rankin, the St George’s Lane development site was sold to Papatoetoe Whare Tupu Limited Partnership early last year.
The development is currently in the design and consent phase and is expected to be completed in November 2024 and will comprise 80 townhouses.