Jasmine Taankink is a mother, a student, a labour organiser for Unite Union, from Taranaki Tūturu, Ngāti Porou, and Pākehā descent. This year, she is running for Porirua Eastern Ward with Housing Action Porirua on the platform “No one left behind!”
Organise Aotearoa presents this kōrero with Jasmine about her campaign and the struggle against gentrification.
How long have you been living in Porirua and what is your relationship to this city?
I moved here from Wellington with my parents when I was four (30 years ago). I’ve grown up here and have lived here my whole life. My children’s family who are from Rarotonga and Tongareva also have a long history here. I’ve chosen to raise my kids here so they can be surrounded by whānau, their languages and cultures.
What inspired you to run for council?
To be honest this isn’t a place that I ever saw myself. Ultimately though, councils make big decisions that impact all aspects of our lives and it’s important that we have people on councils who will bring the collective voice to the table. Big changes are coming to Porirua East, our group Housing Action Porirua have been working on researching and challenging aspects of the upcoming Porirua Development all year. Running for council is an extension of this work and I’m running because I’ve been asked to.
You’re running with Housing Action Porirua and have been organising against gentrification for a number of months. Could you speak to why housing has become such a key site of struggle in the region?
Housing has been a struggle for a long time. Years of neglect from Housing New Zealand has left a lot of the state housing in the area in need of serious repair. This has lead to really scary health statistics in the area.. We have a lot of people with different disabilities, large families and intergenerational living. Our current housing stock isn’t meeting the needs of the people.
Last year in November Labour announced a $1.5 billion regeneration of Porirua, targeting Porirua East. HLC a subsidiary of Housing New Zealand will lead this project with Ngāti Toarangatira (mana whenua) and Porirua City Council as partners. On the surface the plan looks good, thousands of new houses will be built and state housing will finally get some attention.
The problem is that the majority of the houses built (in the thousands!) will be houses for purchase, these houses will be built predominantly on existing state housing land and the surrounding properties. There are major concerns for tenants in the area. Other similar developments have seen state housing tenants moved from their homes to other areas and private tenants having to fend for themselves( if their landlord sells to the development company) in an uncontrolled housing market.
At last check, in May there were 230 applicants on the Housing New Zealand Waiting list for Porirua East. Initially the Porirua Development promised 150 extra state homes, then is was up to 150 and now it’s up to 150 including the 50 ish houses that Housing New Zealand is building now.
Porirua Development is a 25 year plan – state housing tenants can not wait for urgent repairs and upgrades needed to their homes and those without a home need to be housed urgently. Similar developments have lead to decreases in state housing stock, we can’t let that happen here.
How does racism and classism factor into the housing crisis?
If we look at the areas under attack from these regeneration projects the demographic is usually mainly working class families (including those not currently in work) and Māori and Pasifika. I don’t believe that the government would try and go into a middle class predominantly Pākehā area and try and “use our land better” as they put it.
These projects do not take into consideration the social and economic contributions that Pasifika and maata waka have made to our communities, the work that’s gone into building spaces to protect our languages and cultures and our connections to each other.
Many don’t think of the greater Wellington region as an integrated city. To what extent does gentrification in Porirua represent a greater regional issue?
Housing prices in Wellington have always been high which has lead to working people for many years having to live in areas like Porirua and Wainuiomata and travel to Wellington to work. People are now being pushed further afield to places like Levin and Ōtaki due to skyrocketing house prices. This has an impact on them financially and a huge impact on our environment.
Apart from housing, what are some other pressing issues facing people in Porirua
Low wages – Living Wage and Unions are getting some good gains but there’s still a lot of work to be done. A lot of our people are working multiple low wage jobs to get by.
Environment – Housing and road developments are contaminating the harbour and we don’t have adequate infrastructure.
Accessibility – Parts of Porirua and most of the housing are hard to get around for some, there’s more to making spaces accessible than just slapping a ramp on.
Youth services – we are the only city in the region without a dedicated youth health service.
What tangible steps can the council take towards solving the housing crisis?
As a partner in the project, council can advocate strongly for the needs of the community – they initiated this project and have an obligation to ensure that it’s good for our people.
Council could also look at investing in more council homes for those who don’t qualify for state housing.
Council gives resource consents, they have an opportunity here to ensure that what’s being built is what is really needed and that developers have sound plans in place for waste management and management of dust and run off.
Council could reverse their decision to opt for a streamlined planning process which takes the power away from the community to make decisions and gives it to central government.
What are some of Housing Action Porirua’s other plans?
Housing Action Porirua will continue to advocate for more and better state housing, accessible homes and spaces and secure and unionised employment for our people.
At the moment the main focus is our election campaign but we are also continuing to research and inform the community and connect with other groups.
At the moment the situation in Porirua East is urgent and requires our immediate attention but we also want to change the narrative about state housing. Currently state housing is seen as a drain, there’s a stigma around state housing and no security for tenants. We know that it hasn’t always been this way and it doesn’t need to be. State housing should be seen as an asset. More houses need to be built and the entry criteria loosened. There’s currently rules that prevent people from having a secure state home, for example you can’t live in a state house if you’re on home detention and you can’t go straight into a state house when released from prison. All this needs to change – everyone needs a safe secure place to base themselves from.