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What’s happening in Rolleston Street?

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By Peter Cooke
Mt Cook Mobilised is pleased that Housing New Zealand (HNZ) is redeveloping their apartments at 21 Rolleston St. Six decades old, the 54 apartments are not fit for purpose.

HNZ has provided scant information about their proposals. A complete rebuild could increase the number of tenants significantly. Eighty to 90 one- or two-bedroom units have been suggested, possibly doubling the population.

Accommodation blocks up to three storeys high are planned for street frontages, but up to five storeys high for blocks behind them. There will be some on-site parking, mostly accessed off Rolleston St, but at a lower ratio per flat than currently.

A redeveloped complex would provide much better quality homes, particularly if HNZ follows through with its proposal for on-site support for tenants, some of whom may have complex needs. The drug-selling ‘tinny house’ would be shut down, hopefully permanently. A community facility is included in the plans, modelled on that in Centennial Flats, Berhampore.

Work could begin early in 2019. Construction would add to the disruption that central Mt Cook is already facing. Work on the new Mt Cook Reservoir above Prince of Wales Park (see p3) and pipework on Wallace and Hargreaves Streets is set to snarl traffic for two to three years.

A Supported Living Unit (SLU)?
As part of the HNZ redevelopment the Wellington City Council is pushing central government to include accommodation for about 20 people whose alcohol or drug addiction problems otherwise see them homeless. On Hargreaves St, this SLU would provide care and support. Tenants would be able to continue drinking alcohol but the position in respect of illicit drug-use is not clear.

On 10 June, the WCC told us that planning is well underway. A private organisation or consortium of several welfare agencies would be contracted to run the SLU, while funding might come from central government. The SLU would be staffed (five plus a guard were mentioned) providing 24-hour support, meals and pastoral care.
Mt Cook residents have already expressed a range of views about the unit, both supportive and opposed. For close neighbours, the SLU proposal is creating uncertainty and concern. But there is also support for measures that will help solve homelessness if they are effective and well managed, staffed on-site round the clock, and funding is assured. So far, details about how effectiveness and good management will be assured are lacking, as are any assurances about safety.

This proposed unit appears to be experimental in several ways. It differs from similar services overseas (often called ‘wet houses’ as they focus only on alcohol), in that it would deal with both alcohol and drug dependency and mental health. Other unique aspects are its proposed location in a residential suburb (not a central business district or semi-industrial area), and its co-location on the same site as other social housing tenants who themselves may have complex needs.

More Information Please!
No studies, here or overseas, have been cited on the impact a SLU of this type might have on surrounding residential neighbourhoods.

So far, the obligation to consultation the community has not been met. A comprehensive picture is badly needed to provide a basis for effective consultation with the families and households who live, work and study in Mt Cook.

MCM is asking that:
• Independent and proper evaluations of the supported living unit are conducted, both now and after it has been operating for, say, 12 or 24 months; these must include effects on the community;
• Community representatives are included in the inter-agency planning for the HNZ site redevelopment and the SLU proposal;
• The consultation with the community includes meetings where all the agencies and service providers involved in both proposals are present at the same time, to ensure consistent and comprehensive information for Mt Cook residents.

Peter Cooke’s article was first published in the newsletter of MCM.

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