Neighbours living next to a ”nightmare” state-house tenant in Tauranga have been given a two-day taxpayer-funded hotel holiday after complaining to authorities.
The complainants say they have been subjected to fights, blaring music, constant partying, drinking, drugs, police and noise control callouts and gangs regularly visiting next door for years.
They have made more than 100 complaints and in response Kāinga Ora (Housing New Zealand) gave them a two-day break at a Tauranga hotel.
”It wasn’t even a nice hotel. It was sh***y so it wasn’t like we were staying in luxury.”
National Party leader and Tauranga MP Simon Bridges has slammed Kāinga Ora after intervening on behalf of the neighbours. He has had a “gutsful for them” and “a home should be a safe haven for families, not a place of intimidation and fear”.
The neighbours, who spoke on condition of anonymity for safety reasons, say they are at their “wit’s end” due to the constant incidents at the Kāinga Ora-owned property.
“We have made more than 100 complaints and I know of five other neighbours who have also complained,” the neighbour who stayed in the hotel said.
The hotel break came after the neighbours told Kāinga Ora “we are sick to death of it” and the department suggested the idea.
“I also wrote to MP Simon Bridges and after he made inquiries with Kāinga Ora, police and noise control on our behalf we did see a bit of action. Now we are just angry and at our wit’s end. It’s been a nightmare.
“Kāinga Ora is accountable because they told us they were just like any other rental agency but if that was the case the tenants would have been kicked out ages ago.”
Kāinga Ora Tauranga area manager Sharlene Karena-Newman said in a written statement the agency paid for the hotel break but it was a “one-off situation” and the department was “sympathetic to the neighbours and understand their tolerance'”.
The Bay of Plenty Times Weekend asked how much the hotel break cost, whether Kāinga Ora has paid for other hotel stays in New Zealand and the number and nature of the complaints made to Kāinga Ora about state homes in Tauranga.
The agency would not provide the information and the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend is now seeking these answers under the Official Information Act.
Karena-Newman said there had been a number of initiatives to help the tenant and neighbours which included a number of government agencies and families.
“In general circumstances, if there are issues with our tenants, we quickly engage them in a household action plan. This could be focused on property management, health, life or financial management skills.
“Kāinga Ora will certainly act on any complaint and investigate it within the bounds of our operations,” she said.
“We are sympathetic to the neighbours and understand their tolerance and also the pressure created on them by everyone trying to do the right thing. In this case, it also included two nights in a hotel for a neighbour to say thank you for your understanding.”
But Kāinga Ora was not the police and justice system, or local government authority, which all have powers and well-established systems based on natural justice and evidence standards to arrest or prosecute people who have broken the law, she said.
“New Zealand has a system of laws that set the threshold for determining illegal activities. This is not the responsibility of Kāinga Ora or any private property owner.”
She said Kāinga Ora tenants were just like any other members of the community.
“It is inappropriate to stereotype people because of their living circumstances just as it would be to do so by ethnicity or gender or salary.”
Kāinga Ora would continue to work on this matter with those concerned, she said.
But Bridges said it was the Government’s decision to axe evictions for anti-social behaviour that had meant tenants, such as this one, were being disruptive while families were forced to wait on the list.
He said it had got so bad Kāinga Ora was putting affected families up in motels wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.
Bridges blamed the Government’s soft on crime approach which has filtered down into Kāinga Ora.
National was purposing a remind, remedy, remove system under its Social Services Discussion Document.
“This would see housing providers providing a warning (reminder) in the case of poor behaviour; assistance to fix an issue (remedy); and in those cases where a tenant refuses to change, they should be removed. We believe anti-social behaviours such as violence and drug use should have consequences.
“It’s not right law-abiding New Zealanders are forced to leave their homes to have a break from their unruly Kāinga Ora neighbours.”
But Associate Minister for Housing Kris Faafoi said Bridges’ reaction to the situation was predictably knee-jerk and simplistic. He appreciated how difficult this was for the neighbours but suggested Bridges sits down with the tenant.
”I would also ask that if he thinks this person should be thrown out on to the street, where does he think they should go and how does he expect them to get the help and support they need for what I understand are a range of complex and inter-linked issues?”
A police spokeswoman said due to privacy reasons it could not provide details on callouts to a specific address but it had been to the area.
Tauranga City Council said it could not comment on noise control complaints due to privacy reasons.