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An election issue -no getting away from it

Are you aware?

· Nine low-cost pensioner units in Whitianga are owned, maintained and administered by the Mercury Bay Community Fund Trust (MBCF Trust - seven members).

· There is a low-cost pensioner housing crisis in Whitianga with a waiting list of over 40 low income pensioners.

· The MBCF Trust has spent ten years talking to Council, enduring terminal niceness but never any decision or action.

What has been experienced as lack of support from the Mercury Bay Community Board and TCDC to make a decision, regarding allocation of land and securing a lease for land to enable more pensioner units to be built, has led the Trust to do all they can to put this issue in front of the candidates standing for this election to our local bodies on Saturday, 8 October. Alison Henry Chairperson, and Yvonne Franklin, Secretary, approached The Informer on behalf of the Trust.

“The indecisiveness by our local board and the council is detrimental to the needs of the elderly in Whitianga who are on this waiting list and it is inconsistent with the Council’s Ageing Strategy,” says Yvonne Franklin, Secretary of the Trust.”Council has a positive ageing strategy/ policy. One of the first key tasks is to provide housing - they have simply not embraced it.”

The Informer was made aware that resolutions have been passed but nothing else. Suitable land has been identified. “We have pensioners sleeping in garages. They have only their pensions. We need to make this an election issue.”

Some History: In early 1984, a group under the chairmanship of former Hospital Board member, Howard Clark, was exploring the possibility of building a home for the frail and elderly. They soon concluded that to progress this, they needed to form a Charitable Trust.

In 1993, the Thames Coromandel District Council expressed a wish to sell the nine rental units in Kenneth Avenue, Whitianga.

Nine years and three Councils (elections) later, in November 2002, the Trust signed an agreement to purchase the units and lease the land. Any profit from this venture forms a fund for the health and welfare of the pensioners. The Trust ensures this and continues to lease the land, carry out the day to day management of the nine units, and with the support of funding grants, undertakes to maintain and upgrade the units.

The nine units are fully occupied. In addition to the waiting list of 42 pensioners, the Trust notes that there are additional pensioners in need registered with Whitianga Social Services.

For ten years the Trust has been in discussion with Mercury Bay Community board to identify suitable land for pensioner housing. The Trust does not have the funds to purchase land for this, but could raise the funds to build the units, if a lease is secured.

This is in line with the Board’s responsibilities. Our last submission was in 2021 to the Reserve Management Plan Review. The Trust seeks a location that is central, to enable access to supermarkets, shops, and medical services for the pensioners.

Alison says, “The units we have now have this access; they are small, but we look after them very well. People are so grateful. It’s a nice way of life.”

Three possible sites identified

- A portion of the School Road Reserve behind the Art Centre (noted as under-utilised in the Reserve Management Plan).

- Surplus land at the Bowling Club site in Cook Drive (currently leased by the Club).

- A portion of the Moewai Park Reserve (not top preference due to distance from town, but could be considered).

Where to next? “Our question to each candidate is, Would you support the Mercury Bay Community Fund Trust to gain the lease of suitable Council land for pensioner housing?

“It won’t be easy to achieve this goal, but it’s essential and urgent; we need to see far more than what has happened in the last ten years.”

To quote Margaret Mead, famous cultural anthropologist. ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, that’s all that ever has.”


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