Peter Shelford is philosophical about life after the devastating Christchurch earthquakes but won’t be drawn on what he thinks the future might hold for the city.
“You’d have to be Nostradamus to know that,” he says.
At the moment he and his partner Tawhai Kimura (Ngāi Tahu – Ngāti Māmoe), are focused on caring for 11 whānau members who share the couple’s Woodend home.
Their home sags softly on one side, into land once owned by Kimura’s father. Inside, the old coal stove once used for both heating and cooking has fallen victim to the quakes, and now sits cold below a broken chimney. “It hasn’t been quite right since the first quake in September,” says Kimura.
Kimura’s daughter Polly and four grandchildren have come to live with them, after Polly’s Wainoni home was destroyed in the February 22 quake. Together with Shelford’s two mokopuna, the combined family now spills over into three sleep-outs, or “town houses” as Kimura calls them. The makeshift complex also includes an old shed that has been converted into a living space with lounge suite and chairs, a TV and a kitchen area. Pots and pans hang from beams where garden implements were once stored. Tins of food are neatly stacked on shelves against the wall. There’s a two-plate element on duty to feed 13 people.
“You just do it, don’t you,” says Kimura. “We’re family and we’re all responsible for each other.”
Kimura has land and she would like to build houses for her whānau, but her situation reflects the myriad of complex dilemmas that have marked and stalled the Christchurch rebuild.
She has 2.4 hectares, but according to the Waimakariri District Council Plan, she needs 4.04 hectares to build.
The Kimura/Shelford situation is familiar to hundreds of families faced with land, housing and insurance issues.
Ngāi Tahu earthquake recovery working group, Te Awheawhe Rū Whenua (TARW), is trying to work through some of those issues.
General manager Rakihia Tau (Ngāi Tahu – Ngāi Tūāhuriri) says three priority-setting hui late last year and earlier this year identified housing as one of five key areas to focus on. Tau says Ngāi Tahu is moving into the recovery phase, but it’s not going to be a quick fix. Plenty of consultation and planning has to take place.
The iwi is included in the discussion and decision-making process as a statutory partner with Christchurch City, the Waimakariri and Selwyn district councils, and Environment Canterbury.
“We’ve been involved in some of the thinking from a tribal perspective in the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) recovery strategy and have a number of opportunities we want to participate in,” says Tau. “At the moment it’s the planning stage. We are spending a lot of time sharpening the axe, getting ready to cut down the trees to build the houses.”
Tau highlights the need to take a broader view than just Christchurch City and include Māori populations who live in rural areas such as Kaiapoi or on Banks Peninsula.
“There are several impediments to building on Māori reserves, such as multi-owned land, council restrictions and building consents. All these things have to be talked through and solutions agreed on before anything can happen,” he says.
Chrissie Williams, science advisor at Te Rūnanga o Ngai Tahu, is collating initiatives to fulfil the need for quality, affordable housing for Ngāi Tahu whānau. She’ll present her findings to TARW in April.
“Some of the things I’m looking at include housing on Māori land, housing affordability and the quality of housing,” says Williams.
Affordability was an issue pre-quakes. However, the demand for housing since the quakes has made both owning a home and renting almost impossible for low income families.
“People who have been paid out for homes that were in the residential red zone can’t actually afford to buy anywhere else,” she says. “This planning stage is focused on options that will ease those impediments. For example, what schemes can we develop that will help Ngāi Tahu whānau move into new homes, and what multi-housing developments, such as cluster housing or eco-housing, will provide affordable good quality living?”
That means moving on from district plans that are all about one house on one title. “This is about thinking: ‘How we can get a different style of housing on this land?’ It’s an opportunity to do new things.”
However, the volume of planning work that has to precede any decision means decisions on future land use will take time.
Williams says the rebuild also presents a chance to improve the quality of houses.
“There is a real opportunity to improve the layout and insulation of houses and use better wastewater systems, to think about materials that are used and incorporate solar energy.”
At the most fundamental level, the rebuild focus for Ngāi Tahu has been to ensure that there is a Māori identity in the built and natural environment of a new city.
“Māori designers need to be involved from the beginning of the process,” says Williams. “Whether it’s a new stadium or convention centre, if everyone is talking about Christchurch having a point of difference, Māori designers need to be there from the beginning.”
Tau says the Māori identity has to be more inclusive.
“There are places that we know are important to whānau, sites that are wāhi tapu, and we’d like to reassert Māori names of places and hunting grounds that existed in the city. We have a target of 5000 place-names by the end of 10 years.”
All headings in the CERA Recovery Strategy appear in Māori and English, and Ngāi Tahu is recognised in the leadership section of CERA’s recovery strategy, as opposed to the cultural section.
“They are small things, but they get the ball rolling in the right direction,” Tau says.
The Central City Plan and Recovery Strategy still have to be finalised, and negotiations continue to find the best way forward for everyone.
Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu kaiwhakahaere Mark Solomon says the iwi appreciates there will be big issues to work through. “We won’t always be in agreement, but the channels of communication are working well.”
Time and patience are the watchwords at the moment, however hard they might be for people to hear
However, the immediate challenge of finding out what people need now still remains. Ngāi Tahu health provider He Oranga Pounamu is also the iwi’s front-line earthquake response organisation.
Contracts manager Robyn Wallace (Ngāi Tahu – Ngāti Kurī/Ngāi Tūāhuriri) says 238 families are placed with their support programme, or Kaitoko Whānau.
“Each family has a kaitoko of which there are 15 in Christchurch. They help the family tap into the resource and assistance programmes that are appropriate for their individual circumstances,” she says. “The great strength of the programme is that it puts the family in charge and allows the family to prioritise needs, and we support them to do that and to get the right help.”
He Oranga Pounamu is co-ordinating its efforts across a range of Māori support agencies, churches, welfare organisations and charities to get greater reach into the community, while allowing the kaitoko to help the family work on a whānau plan.
“That’s not just looking at the ‘right now’ but figuring out where do they want to be in the future and how do they achieve that,” Wallace says. Tawhai Kimura says the four generations of her family living in the house, including the youngest, nine-month-old Shyla Roberts, have really valued the support from Pani Ruwhiu, Te Puāwaitanga ki Ōtautahi Trust, and the Māori Women’s Welfare League Tuahiwi.
Determining whānau needs, like those of Kimura and partner Peter Shelford, is the top priority for He Oranga Pounamu. Wallace says a comprehensive needs analysis is due to begin soon. In addition He Oranga Pounamu has been collating data from the kaitoko, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu whakapaka unit, CERA, and other sources to map Ngāi Tahu families around the city.
That information will be overlaid on a GIS mapping system that shows the city’s functioning schools, early childhood education centres, health and recreation centres, parks and shops.
“If we can see there are no schools in areas where there are Ngāi Tahu whānau now living, it allows us to think about what our tribal response to that will be,” says Wallace. “That information will also allow us to identify any emerging trends. We are already seeing an increase in mental health issues and increased truancy at schools because children don’t want to travel away from home.”
She says being able to base services near vulnerable populations will make a significant difference in helping ease the daily challenges for whānau.
As part of the kaitoko initiative, the kaitoko are also undergoing emergency preparedness training.
“As well as that, we’re looking at emergency preparedness at all marae to see where the gaps are, what needs to be brought into the mix and what training people need. The goal is to have a network of teams that provide an iwi response in a disaster as part of a wider Civil Defence Emergency Management plan for the future,” Wallace says.
Mark Solomon hopes this experience will help Māori communities around New Zealand in the future. “It took us about eight days to break into the process after the quake, not because of any resistance, but because there was no avenue for Ngāi Tahu to enter the upper levels of the decision-making. How do we make it run smoothly next time? We drew the short straw this time but disasters can happen anywhere.”
At the most basic level however, Solomon believes a successful recovery for the city lies in a resilient and optimistic community; so whānau wellbeing continues to be a priority for Ngāi Tahu as the iwi works on determining people’s needs.
Tawhai Kimura’s daughter Polly knows what’s going on top of her list when she fills out her needs analysis form: “An oven. What I wouldn’t give for a great big roast to feed the whānau. It’s been a year since I last had one.”