Far North homeless families sent to dilapidated campgroundby Zac Fleming
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One tenant likened it to living in a prison cell.
The rūnanga bought the campground on 30 June, with some Te Puni Kōkiri funding, for $775,000. It was reopened a month later as an emergency housing facility.
Historical reviews of the campground have labelled it "old, rundown" and "in a state of neglect", and its capital value has halved since 2008 - from $1.42 million to $710,000.
Kaeo resident Kane Rifi stayed there for a week several years ago and said it was like living in a prison cell.
"Concrete floors, concrete walls, you're not really looking at anything. Just the quality of the place, it's been forgotten about."
He said he felt it was unsuitable for families to live at.
Rūnanga head defends campground
Repeated requests to view the campground, speak to tenants, or speak to someone from the rūnanga were all declined, and Checkpoint was told to leave after visiting the site on Tuesday.
After learning of the campground visit, rūnanga chief executive Toa Faneva contacted Checkpoint and defended the housing arrangement.
Mr Faneva denied the water at the campground was undrinkable, saying the group of tenants that claimed they were having to drink bottled water were wrong, and the rūnanga recently replaced the campground's water filter after a complaint from one tenant.
"We have given all the tenants heating. This is not the Sheraton, most homes in New Zealand don't have carpet," said Mr Faneva.
"We provide them with a bedding package, we make sure they're safe, warm and dry, that is what we're providing. We've only purchased this complex in the last month, and we're still working through how we can improve on what we currently have.
"It's winter and we're not going to have families in tents or living in the backs of cars when we have a complex that we can get up and running."
'Simple, but clean and warm'
The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) declined to be interviewed, but in a statement deputy chief executive Scott Gallacher said the Ministry was "confident that the accommodation and support services Te Rūnanga o Whaingaroa is providing for families is meeting their needs".
"The accommodation is simple, but clean and warm. The units have oil fin heating, warm bedding, floor rugs, kitchenettes and TVs.
"The rūnanga has worked hard to get [the campground] to where it is today and further work is planned. They have just finished their wānanga room for their courses, and their office will be finished next week so they can have more staff on site and so tenants have access to computer and office facilities while looking for employment and permanent housing."
He said the accommodation met council standards, and had been assessed by a Ministry assessor as meeting the contractual standards expected to keep people warm and safe.
"Those teething problems that have occurred have been dealt with swiftly, with a focus on what is best for the families.
"In recent days, while a water problem was sorted out, 20-litre containers of water were available to tenants as an added precaution."
Government targets say families should not be at the campground for longer than three months, and should have a permanent home to move into by then.
A young tenant told Checkpoint the ministry had told her family they could stay longer.
"If we can't find a house then we can just sign up again to stay here," she said.
This article was originally published by RNZ.
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