It was in response to the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes that Visionwest Waitaha first began providing housing support in Waitaha Canterbury. Within months 22 properties (most in Rangiora and Kaiapoi) had been secured to house those who had been left without a home.
Twelve years on, our work in Canterbury (Waitaha) has increased significantly, helped immensely by our partnership with Oxford Terrace Baptist Church (OTBC) where the team has worked out of offices based in portable buildings in the church carpark. It’s been a real squash for our growing team which is now made up of 24 very patient staff – but now they have new offices and seven new apartments to add to the houses Visionwest Waitaha Community Housing manages.
Visionwest Waitaha – New Building
On Thursday 4 May 2023, new buildings on the OTBC site were officially opened. The new building, owned by OTBC is comprised of offices and social housing. The Visionwest Waitaha team will work out of the new office spaces and manage seven of the social housing properties – these have already been allocated to local whānau who may otherwise have had no place to call home.
Based near the heart of Ōtautahi Christchurch, the site is close to amenities and other support services – a perfect location for both the offices and the community housing.
Visionwest Waitaha – Opening Ceremony
The opening ceremony began with a karanga and included karakia and a special waiata sung by the Waitaha team. It is the tikanga to prepare the way, connect people to the whare, speak to the whare, and stand on the sacred calling God has called Visionwest to be a part of in this space – this was led by Matua Fred Astle, our Pou Whakarae Head of Māori Development, and other members of the Huia Mai Team.
Throughout the opening ceremony, acknowledgement was given to the work, the presence and the encouragement of OTBC, the ongoing partnership between OTBC and Visionwest, and the mahi that would be a part of that future relationship. As an organisation Visionwest is hugely grateful to OTBC for their partnership with us and for helping to make this community support dream a reality.
When OTBC pastor Andrew Meek spoke, he told of how the land the building now sits on was once a place where local Māori would camp to gather food for their whanau. “Today,” he said, “from this place, people will be housed, fed, and supported to move forward with their lives.”
As an organisation, we greatly admire the work of our Waitaha team. In just over a decade, they have gone from a small group focused on earthquake recovery to a team of 24 (with three to be added in the near future) that provides support to many and has seen many lives transformed. This includes their work overseeing about 133 properties that Visionwest now either owns or manages – that’s 133 whānau who have experienced homelessness but now have safe and warm housing. The team also oversees up to 70 cohorts in the Sustaining Tenancies programme.
Everyone at Visionwest is looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Visionwest Waitaha as they work to meet the needs of the people of Ōtautahi and the wider Waitaha region.