Kōkihi officially opens: Minister Megan Woods wields the golden shears

Kōkihi, the latest instalment in the Marutūāhu and Ockham partnership, was formally opened by Housing Minister Hon Dr Megan Woods on Friday 25 June. The Waterview development – 95 new homes including 47 KiwiBuilds – was hailed by the Minister as an exemplary collaboration and partnership.

The auspicious day had dawned with a sort of Scott Base vibe. Three tohunga took assembled guests through the three buildings in a moving whakawātea (blessing ceremony) which concluded outside the residents’ lounge with an iwi haka that honoured Kaiwaka, a star of special significance to Marutūāhu. It was wonderful, it was stirring, it was cold. Breath exhaled in slow, floating clouds, hands were kept firmly in pocket.

The official opening ceremony starring Minister Woods was originally intended for the residents’ lounge, but a standout turnout saw it pushed outside to the Kōkihi carpark. Moments before the scheduled 10am start, an untimely winter tempest forced the implementation of Plan C – downstairs to the Building B basement carpark. Downstairs to the bunker!

Behold, the magnificence of Ockham’s basement architecture!

However, the stellar cast of attendees looked unconvinced. Minister Woods had been joined by two colleagues, the Empress of Kelston (and local MP), Hon Carmel Sepuloni, and the Queen of New Lynn, Dr Deborah Russell. Auckland councillors in the house included Cathy Casey (Eden-Albert), Tracy Mulholland (Whau), Pippa Coom (Waitematā and Gulf), Shane Henderson (Waitākere) and Josephine Bartley (Maungakiekie-Tamaki). An enthusiastic array of local board members, along with housing and urban development big guns rounded out the official party. Speeches began.

“We’re just trying to make things a little bit better...”

Ockham first-five and captain Mark Todd lauded the partnership with Marutūāhu – and also praised the government’s “for normalising New Zealand’s relationship with social housing.

“Look at any successful large-scale (housing) project around the world,” he said. “There’s massive input from local and central government.

“We love doing urban projects,” he continued, referencing Ockham’s work over more than a decade (including 13 completed projects). “We love city buildings...  we love sharing. We love learning. We’re just trying to make things a little bit better.”

Marutūāhu: The centrality of partnership

Marutūāhu Iwi chair, Paul Majurey, was next to speak. “Whanaungatanga – the world of relationships – is a fundamental part of the Māori world,” he said. “It’s a part of our architecture: indeed it all comes from that. For the people of Marutūāhu – the tribes of Ngāti Pāoa, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Whanaunga, Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngāti Rongoū – whanaungatanga is at the heart of what we’re about.”

The whanaungatanga relationship Marutūāhu and Ockham enjoy is something quietly remarkable. Majurey: “It is a very special partnership that comes out of people sharing world views and aspirations – a long-term outlook.

“An emphasis on quality communities and homes and not on money – and also some very long-term aspirations around the built environment and leaving a legacy for Tamaki Makaurau.

“Beautiful homes, beautiful places and beautiful communities.

“Having a safe, warm, dry home is so interrelated with our lives in terms of health, access to education and welfare. It is the whanaungatanga we have with government and associated groups and entities – HUD, Kāinga Ora, KiwiBuild, Panuku and others – that made this happen."

The objective, Majurey concluded, was simple and yet everything: “To put people in homes.”

“Two exemplary feted apartment complexes”

Barely resisting the temptation to talk about cricket – the Minister is a slightly fanatical fan of the newly crowned world champion Black Caps – Dr Megan Woods lauded the mahi and teamwork of those behind Kōkihi.

“It’s an honour to be here today,” said she, “to celebrate the opening of this beautiful housing development, delivered ahead of schedule, modelling the pace of delivery this government is seeking. I’d like to acknowledge the vision, the commitment, and the passion that this team brings to not only building houses but building homes, right across Auckland.”

Minister Woods was also quick to emphasise the P word.

“This development is a good example of a partnership approach, where we can use the Crown’s Land for Housing Programme, and the successful partnership of Marutūāhu and Ockham – four developments to deliver these 541 quality apartments, including 199 KiwiBuild homes.

“This collaboration has already resulted in two exemplary feted apartment complexes with these instantly recognisable brick façades and motifs.”

“Constructing 95 high quality apartments on land where seven homes once stood…”

The Minister cited the Kōkihi development as an excellent example of the ‘density done well’ ambitions of the Auckland Unitary Plan. “The partnership has maximised the use of the land and increased the supply of new homes by constructing 95 high quality apartments on land where seven homes once stood. And that is a number I think we need to stop and consider. The fact that we have taken seven homes and created 95 new places where dreams can be fulfilled, and children can grow up, and people can make their lives."

The Minister mentioned several government initiatives designed to encourage more Kōkihi-like developments such as the Land for Housing programme, pending RMA reform, the National Policy Statement on Urban Development, and its $3.8-billion fund to drive infrastructure improvements. And then she, very generously, gave us another shout-out.

"Thank you once again for the speed and the quality of this development that you’ve worked so hard to deliver. Thank you for your passion and your vision for your city, and your country. It’s incredible to think I signed the agreement for this project in October 2019 and now, less than two years have passed, and the apartments are complete and ready to move into.

“Next week there will be people that start making their lives in these homes.”

Kōkihi: Built for Auckland

It’s a cheering end to the Minister’s speech – an uplifting housing story in a city that needs some – but there was still one final formality to be done. Brandishing Ockham’s golden shears, flanked by Westie MPs Sepuloni and Russell, Minister Woods snipped the ribbon with rare rhythm.

Kōkihi – Built for Auckland – was now open.

Photos: Adrian Malloch.