Kāinga Ora admits serious privacy breach in neighbourhood spat

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 13 Apr 2022, 1:58pm
Residents in a Woolston street say they are being terrorised by a former skinhead. Photo / George Heard
Residents in a Woolston street say they are being terrorised by a former skinhead. Photo / George Heard

Kāinga Ora admits serious privacy breach in neighbourhood spat

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 13 Apr 2022, 1:58pm

Kāinga Ora has apologised for a serious privacy blunder and launched an urgent investigation after mistakenly sharing sensitive details about a tenant's mental health with a neighbour. 

The tenant is a former skinhead and alleged white power sympathiser accused of terrorising his Christchurch neighbours in a prolonged campaign of intimidation and abuse. 

The state housing agency says the wrongful release of customer information is "completely unacceptable" and the matter has been referred to the Privacy Commissioner's office. 

"We have apologised to the people involved – there are no excuses for what happened here and I'm very sorry for any distress or harm this may have caused," Kāinga Ora CEO Andrew McKenzie told the Herald. 

"We have robust processes and policies for managing private information, but in this case, we got it wrong and we are committed to learning from it." 

The state housing agency is also accused of informing the tenant's family that the neighbour who received the information had complained to Kāinga Ora about the family's antisocial behaviour. 

The complainant was later assaulted by a member of the family, who was convicted for the attack. 

However, Kāinga Ora "strongly refutes" identifying the complainant during the complaints investigation process and is urging him to provide evidence to support the claim. 

In December, the Herald reported the ex-skinhead and his associates were accused of violence and harassment dating back almost a decade. Armed police have been deployed to the Woolston street, a children's pool shot out with slug gun pellets and threats made on the life of a 4-year-old girl. 

Neighbours claim swastikas were painted on the street, and that the man was seen giving the Nazi salute and celebrating the mosque terror attacks. 

One petrified family were ordered to "get down on the floor" and "get safe" when Armed Offenders Squad members stormed the man's home in 2020 after reports of a firearm. 

Christchurch residents believe their Kāinga Ora neighbours shot out a kids' swimming pool with slug gun pellets. Photo / Supplied 

Another neighbour said he was attacked with a pitchfork during a mass brawl and had a gun pointed at him. 

Residents question why the family still enjoys the privilege of a taxpayer-funded home. 

The complainant, who the Herald has agreed not to name, received an email last week from a Kāinga Ora government relations adviser which mistakenly included several high-level briefings about the case to the office of Associate Housing Minister Poto Williams. 

One briefing says the clients in question "have an adult son who has serious mental health concerns". 

Another asks for an "urgent update" for the minister following publication of the Herald's earlier story. 

The response notes the "sensitivity" of some personal details and warns the information is not intended for "wider release", but only as a "head's up" for the minister. 

The document says there had been ongoing conflict on the street, much of it between the client's son and the complainant. 

It claims allegations and convictions "sit on both sides of this conflict, with the [complainant] who has spoken to the Herald having his own significant criminal history". 

The document says staff attended a meeting with concerned residents in December. 

While most of the allegations were "historic", concerns emerged about a recent TikTok video posted by the son that allegedly included a threatening comment about burning down his neighbour's house. 

"There was [otherwise] nothing new to report ... other than allegations of being given dirty looks or verbal abuse." 

After querying whether he was supposed to have received the documents, the complainant received a second email last week apologising for the error. 

"You are correct that this represents a breach of privacy, and I will be reporting this for investigation through our privacy breach response process," the Kāinga Ora staffer wrote. 

She also said the agency was looking into claims a case manager had informed the tenants about the man's complaint, prompting the assault. 

"This is indeed something we take seriously and do not consider acceptable, so again I apologise." 

Kāinga Ora boss Andrew McKenzie says the mistaken release of personal information about a client's mental health completely unacceptable. Photo / File 

Speaking to the Herald, the complainant said Kāinga Ora had breached both his privacy and that of his neighbour. 

The briefing documents contained several misrepresentations, he said. 

He confirmed having a historic criminal record, but said he'd never been convicted in connection with the neighbourhood conflict. 

It was ludicrous to describe the concerns raised by neighbours as historic, as police and the fire service had been called to the street due to the family's actions in recent months. 

Another neighbour said she had ongoing concerns about threats and abusive behaviour directed towards her family, which she claimed included their swimming pool being shot out last summer, tampering with their gas bottles, the threatening TikTok video and the 2020 firearms incident. 

"To call these incidents historic is a straight out lie." 

Kāinga Ora said it took cases of disruptive behaviour seriously. Any allegations of unlawful behaviour should be reported to police. 

Herald investigation last year into antisocial Kāinga Ora clients terrorising neighbours revealed that just three state housing tenants had been evicted since Labour came to power under a controversial "sustaining tenancies" policy. 

Fallout from the investigation resulted in new measures to crack down on unacceptable behaviour, including tougher provisions to relocate troublemakers to new homes. 

- by Lane Nichols, NZ Herald