Porirua project like 'déjà vu' for community liaison rep

By Te Ao with MOANA
Maria Meredith (R) says Porirua community concerns are like "déjà vu" for her.  Photo/File.

The Porirua community's concerns about a government project to regenerate the area are like "déjà vu" for a community liaison representative who experienced the transformation of Tāmaki in Auckland.

Maria Meredith, who is the Chair of the Community Liaison Committee of the Tāmaki Regeneration Company, says, "It was like déjà vu for me, like reliving what we had lived in the Tāmaki community. So I can totally understand and connect with... that feeling of uncertainty and having that anxiety over change.”

She told Te Ao with Moana that as well as uncertainty the Tāmaki community experienced anger and resentment.

"In the early days, when they kind of announced that the developments were going to occur, there was a lot of anxiety. Of course, you had lots of rumours and then there was a shift to being angry about the changes and, of course, that culminated with a lot of public meetings, protests.

"When we moved towards a phase of, you know, the houses being removed from the community, that’s when there was a lot of anger and resentment," she says.

Meredith acknowledges the positives regeneration has brought to the Tāmaki community, such as "better, healthier, warmer houses", and says many families who left the area because of the developments have now returned.

“Some people moved out of the community and some people moved to the outskirts of the community, but over a phase of probably over a time period of 3 to 5 years many people had moved back into the community. And this was evident with attendances at church where it had dropped to half the congregation.”

Meredith was joined on Te Ao with Moana by Chris Aiken, the CEO of HLC, one of the organisations charged with rolling out the Porirua regeneration plan.

He says it is important to listen to the concerns of the community and find joint solutions.

“The only way you can achieve that is to have genuine engagement all the way through and codesign of the solutions that are needed.”

Aiken says the relationship with Ngāti Toa is integral to meeting the needs of the community. 

“We’ve got an excellent operational relationship with Ngāti Toa, but the relationship they’re entering into with the Crown is a special relationship which is beyond what we deal with. We’re guided by what comes from that," he says.

"Needless to say, in our conversations with Ngāti Toa they have expressed a very strong willingness to be engaged and support and assist us. They have deep roots in that community right through, not just with housing, but also going through to primary health care and other things.

"They’ve got a very strong ability to pull together a very cohesive regeneration story, which obviously isn’t just about the housing.”