South Auckland community calls for abandoned polytech site to be used or risk crime breeding ground
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
A South Auckland community leader is warning that action needs to be taken to stop a former polytech site from becoming a breeding ground for graffiti and youth crime.
The property used to belong to the Manukau Institute of Technology and has been a landmark in Ōtara for generations.
In 2019, about 10 hectares of land and buildings from the campus were sold to the Crown for $43 million.
Paea said Ōtara’s community is mature enough to understand what it needs - and therefore, how what is fast becoming a derelict building could be utilised as.
“We need services for education, for youth justice. We need service all right across the board and [instead] we get all the crumbs.”
“So we sit here and we watch this building year after year since MIT moved - and this could be an asset that is beneficial to our community.”
Youth crime in Ōtara has increased, he said, because the community lacks somewhere it can develop for its people.
“Ōtara needs a place where we can build ourselves and it never happened.”
Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga/ the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development said the former polytech is being primarily held for future state housing.
Since the site has been vacant, there has been graffiti, a fire and reports of buildings stripped of metal.
The ministry acknowledges how difficult it is to prevent things like theft and vandalism. It does, however, employ round-the-clock security guards at the site.
Mohammed Khan, a business owner in the nearby Ōtara shopping centre, described the area as looking like a ghost town since MIT relocated to newer facilities.
‘You need more public facilities, not less’
“Without asking - they didn’t even think about that. The shopping centre is gonna die,” Khan said.
Long-time Ōtara resident Diane Black said the site was an eyesore.
She said she could not believe the space was not being used another way - including for the homeless.
“Is it because we’re not an affluent community that it’s allowed to sit there? It’s getting worse.”
Former Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio is disappointed at the state of the place he said is rich in history and a public asset that is falling apart.
Aupito said Ōtara is really the capital of South Auckland.
“They need to get down there and talk to the locals about how to make use of that building so that it’s serving the people of Ōtara.
”I’ve heard young people talk about a hub for youth because the Ōtara sports centre there is too small. You need more public facilities, not less.”
Despite moving to new premises, MIT’s branding is prominent on the graffitied buildings.
MIT said it is “looking a little unloved at present”. However, the ex-site is located in the heart of Ōtara and it wants to remain visible to car and foot traffic.
The ministry says the developer will propose a master plan for the site which could involve reusing some buildings, but was not able to provide a timeframe.
Hero image: Otara legend Sully Paea has advocated for the local young people for decades. Photo / Mary Afemata