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Community narratives indicate it used to be easy to pick up an inexpensive house in Ohura. Prices of houses have increased markedly in the past five years and there are fewer houses on the market.

“There’s slim pickings.”

“There’s some real nice ones for like, proper money. But not so many of the skody ones left anymore for cheap money. There used to be abandoned land sales and you could get really cheap ones, but they’ve all be snapped up now. Bought by people like us, relative newcomers. Now there’s one for $150k up the road and that’s really nice.”

“It’s all outsiders. People who come through the town and fall in love with it. Though some are local, yeah! There’s a bit of a mix really. Some of the properties are being rented out and I know of one that’s been rented and it was a really nice home and the people that own it are from Auckland. You get the ones who want to live here, you get the ones who want to buy here, rent it out for extra income. There’s still a couple of cheapies in Matiere.”

“My house cost me $20,000 and I paid for it with my KiwiSaver. I couldn’t be mortgage free anywhere else in New Zealand at my age. You just can’t. It’s not affordable now because you just can’t get a house in that price range now.”

Participants felt that Ohura and Taumarunui were ‘on the up’ and more people were coming to live in these areas.

“I think the thing is people have got to go somewhere and a lot of people can’t afford to buy in the cities and towns. Even at $110 it’s still affordable. You’re looking at $300 grand in New Plymouth. It’s a beautiful area, it’s not just the affordably, but if this was a real shit hole then it would be different.”

“That’s what we all used to think it was, didn’t we?! Taumarunui and Ohura were the shitholes. Oh my God! What are you doing living there? But now it (Taumarunui) seems cleaner, it’s got nicer shops again, now it’s got gift shops and cookie stores and unnecessary shops that are lovely to be there.”

“And I think people are coming to realise the rest of the country is so unaffordable and just becoming same-same. You can’t go anywhere that’s still small town and with all – I mean real small town, not made up to look like one. So people are looking for something authentic.”

Rental houses are not usually available in Ohura, though there are a number of houses which are unoccupied for various reasons.

“I think you’ve got to wait for it. They’re not easily available, it’s just a shame there are a few houses here that aren’t being rented or lived in, they’re just standing empty. Some of them belong to families and a lot of them can’t agree what to do with them. There’s a three-bedroom iwi house that’s been empty about 10 years now. Just standing there.”

“That would be a factor in it, I think with all the new government stipulations about insulation, it puts up the cost of doing up your rental massively, but you can’t recoup it here because you can’t put up the cost of the rental to cover the costs of getting the job done.”

The quality of housing in Ohura was considered overall to be poor. Some residents wished to build tiny homes to overcome housing unavailability but felt they were coming up against bureaucratic barriers resulting in people living in substandard or unhealthy housing situations. Furthermore, the cost of getting tradespeople to Ohura was prohibitive, if they were available to come at all.

“In general quite poor. A lot of it went in the 60s if it wasn’t pulled down in the flood. In 98 a lot of houses went when we had a big flood here. You’re not allowed to build in Ōhura now unless you’re on the hill.”

“We’re having a hard time with the tiny home craze in this town. We’ve bashed heads with the Council and there are a couple of other people trying to build tiny homes too and because of the resource consents in the flood zones you’ve got to lodge a $1500 resource consent to build in the flood zone, and then you’ve got to have a Horizons consent and building consent and a $20,000 waste treatment plant and this is for a 10 square metre house. So now we’ve got older people living in caravans and sleeping in shacks and cars”.

“It’s not that they can’t find houses to live in. Like there was a lady down the road who wanted to do a tiny home, she was keen and had the plans and had it all available and the Council said no so now she lives in a caravan. And she lived in a tent for a while. And this is a lady who is really on to it. She’s resourced, she’s smart, she’s a professional.”

“We had an old bloke, he didn’t die here, and he spent the winter in his car because he was too scared to sleep in his shed because he had visits from Council saying, ‘You’re using this as a dwelling are you?’ And there you can see that Councils need to get up to speed with what communities need for housing.”

“It’s the affordability of the new requirements. Who’s got 20 grand to spend? I don’t even have $5000 I could spend on a septic tank.”

“You have to pay travel for the tradies to come out so I don’t call them at all. If you can even get them to come out. They’re just too busy, they’re like, ‘I’m sorry, just melt down then.’ The plumber said it will be three months before they’ll even look. And for them to even come out and eyeball it it’s $100. I’ve done everything through YouTube myself because I can’t get someone to come out. I’ve got the money for it. I just can’t get someone to come out.”

Unavailability of appropriate housing has proved a barrier to local schools recruiting teaching staff.

“For staff I had a job going last year for a second teacher and could not find a house for them. Luckily a local farmer said he had a house available they could stay in. Before that he was travelling from town every day to our school. We’ve also had families in crowded houses living with other family members because of a lack of houses in our area. There’s nowhere, nowhere anywhere to rent.”

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