Until recently, housing was readily available in Kakahi. In terms of buying houses, residents felt that houses were selling quicker both to ‘outsiders’ purchasing them as well as by people who used to live in Kakahi or grew up there who are returning to the area.
“I think in their heart, it’s still home to them. They are ex-Kākahisians, they want to come home. They’re not in their retirement age but just about, you know? So that’s why they want to come home. But also, a lot of outsiders from Auckland, they are looking for places here because we have some famous rivers here, not too far from the mountain, from Lake Taupo, we are central to the whole of the North Island. So location, I think, has a lot to do with it. And as once upon a time **** said, there’s no ringing of the phone and no roar of the traffic. It’s the peacefulness. And the fishing!”
Further impacts of lack of housing was expressed in a number of ways, including people not moving to the area because of lack of available houses or land, or in terms of people living in unstable housing situations.
“(My son) just wants to leave Wellington and he’s waiting to move up here. Because it’s such a magnet. Yeah, yeah, he wants to build. And he’s a different demographic, he’s young. He’s got energy and imagination, he’d do something.”
“I think there’s a future for Kakahi; when sections come up, they are selling to outsiders. I don’t think there is anything for sale at the moment. They just don’t come on the market.”
“There’s two or three families here, just squatting a bit, but they want to stay here. There’s no houses for them at the moment.”
In Kakahi there are a few rental houses, though none are presently available. People often ask at the local shop (a central point of the community) about rental availability. There is a perception that rental housing supply has decreased due to rentals being purchased by people in cities selling their houses on retirement, realising equity on their city houses and moving to Kakahi for ‘a better life’.
“It’s going up. Outsiders sell up their property, buy something here and they’ll still have a million dollars left. Even in Hamilton prices are soaring. They sell in a city and they can clear their debt and still have a big investment left to live off in their retirement”.
“I think people are sick of the city, a lot of people, it’s a false way of living, and this is back to the bare roots and it’s real. And (name) says he could never afford a house in a city. He’d rather live here.”
“We’ve had a few more coming to the community meetings, they’re keen to be part of the village. And the internet gives people the opportunity to work still can come and work here.”
“I was talking to the real estate agent and she’s got a list of people wanting houses, and they want them on the river. That small block with a little house on it is what they want. Kakahi is on the international site for one of the best places to fish in the North Island. So you do get a lot of visitors.”
Some felt that the relative isolation of the community, from time to time, attracted negative elements.
“I know of people who want property in Kakahi for the wrong reasons, because it’s hidden away. You know what I mean? You can’t have it perfect. You try to ignore it, but it’s there. But you have people who come to the area for its beauty, its peace. That’s how I see it. You have to take the good with the bad.”
In terms of the quality of the housing stock, participants felt there was variability in the village with some houses of very poor quality. An overall improvement in the quality of the housing stock was noted in recent years due to legislative requirements coupled with initiatives by local health organisations to improve housing quality.
“Our rental is managed through a property management company, so it has to be up to standard. But for people just renting privately there are a lot of those sort of houses (i.e. substandard) out there, you can sort of get away with it.”
“With the government regulation now they’ve got to have the proper insulation now. I saw one here got the underfloor insulation and everything.”
“We live in an old railway house. We spent 20 years freezing in that house. But Kokiri helped us. They got the ball rolling.”
“It was through the Kokiri Trust. And it was always followed up.”
The residents of Kakahi felt that it was affordable for people to keep their houses warm over winter due to local community responses, in particular firewood provided to the local population through the Marae.
“At the Marae, if they drop forestry or wood that is not suitable for milling, if you’re part of that community – you don’t have to be part of the Marae – you can go up with your chainsaw basically and, if you’ve got the right safety gear, you can go up there and cut up some wood.”
There was a strong perception from the community that electricity for heating houses was unaffordable, however:
“What’s not a help is our lines company, yes! We are the only region in the whole of New Zealand where you’re separated between your lines and power charges. We’ve got two different charges here. Years ago they said it would be beneficial for all the people living around here because the bill would be smaller. Now the lines bill is more than our power which is really tough for a lot of people around here.”
“The combined impact of that is massive. Think of someone on a pension or retired. It’s crippling, especially in winter. We all have our tricks (to save electricity) we are all trying to.”
“My next-door neighbour, she’s elderly. She switches off her hot water before she goes to bed and all the things that she thinks would take up power, even doing laundry. And I’m one of those ones, once the kids are in bed after seven at night, I’ll start vacuuming because it’s cheaper after 7pm. So I do all my laundry and all the jobs I would have done during the day. So I’m not in bed until 11:30, 12 o’clock.”
“When I moved here from Wellington, what we paid to be connected was about three times more.”