Death threats and abuse: Pensioners terrorised by gang member, state-house neighbours

Lane Nichols, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 14 Nov 2021, 9:40am
(Photo / File)
(Photo / File)

Death threats and abuse: Pensioners terrorised by gang member, state-house neighbours

Lane Nichols, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 14 Nov 2021, 9:40am

Two pensioners claim they've fielded death threats from their state housing neighbours, including a Black Power gang member who allegedly threatened to slit an 82-year-old's throat and watch him "bleed out". 

And though they feel terrorised in their long-time home, the couple say Kāinga Ora is powerless to evict the offending tenants despite a prolonged campaign of intimidation and fear. 

Police have been called to the Whangārei property about 20 times since the family moved into it earlier this year. The pensioners - aged 69 and 82, who live in the neighbouring Kāinga Ora house - say they are at breaking point and suffering constant anxiety. 

"My husband is more scared than me," the woman said. "I won't tolerate the fear. I'm a fighter. I will not allow that fear to control me." 

In response to multiple complaints about the tenants' antisocial behaviour, Kāinga Ora has halved the couple's rent, paid for them to attend weekly counselling sessions and arranged for a security firm to visit the property five times a day due to safety concerns - costing taxpayers more than $5000. 

Police have served the tenants with a trespass order on behalf of the couple, who have also filed an affidavit detailing the harassment with Whangārei District Court in a bid to have a restraining order served on their unruly neighbours. 

Emotional and in tears, the woman told the Herald on Sunday, the couple had vacated their home and spent the night at their daughter's when the harassment became too intense. 

Kāinga Ora had offered to find the couple alternative accommodation but they did not feel they should be forced to move as a result of their neighbours' behaviour. 

The woman said a Kāinga Ora tenancy manager admitted the agency was powerless to evict antisocial tenants due to a "directive" that protected state housing clients. 

She was disgusted that people enjoying a taxpayer-funded property could terrorise residents without consequence or fear of eviction. 

"We are now having to leave because my husband's life has been threatened and she has threatened to kill me. It's appalling. 

"It's a privilege to have one of these homes and they've just abused the system. 

"We cannot have these kinds of people making their own rules. It's intimidation." 

The couple have filed a claim against Kāinga Ora with the Tenancy Tribunal. But they say they continue to face a daily barrage of harassment, and the woman physically "shakes" when passing her neighbours' property. 

The policy to protect bad tenants at the expense of law-abiding neighbours was perverse and unfair, the woman said. 

"How can the perpetrator get all the perks? It's backwards. 

"They can't keep candy flossing [the problem]. We want them out. We don't want gang affiliation in our street." 

The couple's daughter, who is advocating for her parents, said she was worried about their deteriorating mental health. 

"They are not coping and there is no support for the victims. 

"I just want my parents to live out their retirement in peace." 

She said a law change was needed to give Kainga Ora the necessary power to deal with antisocial clients who refused to obey the rules. 

National leader Judith Collins said the appalling situation was happening right across the country. She blamed a Government edict that prevented Kāinga Ora from evicting antisocial tenants. 

It meant good people were being forced to live next to gang members and having their lives turned upside down, she said. 

"Kāinga Ora needs to evict these tenants who are being antisocial and creating mayhem for their neighbours and everyone else in the community. 

"There are consequences but the consequences should be felt by the people who create the problems." 

Kāinga Ora denies there is any such directive but admits evictions are a last resort reserved for "extreme" cases. 

The agency's Auckland and Northland deputy chief executive Caroline Butterworth said it took complaints about disruptive behaviour seriously. 

Complaints often involved associates or extended whānau of clients. The agency worked hard to resolve problems and connect clients to help for things like financial pressures or mental health issues. 

While the agency had the legal right to evict tenants, this could result in worse long-term outcomes for clients and their families. 

Kāinga Ora preferred to "sustain" tenancies where possible, or find suitable alternative homes for its clients. 

Whangārei Police Acting Senior Sergeant Christian Stainton said police had responded to multiple calls to the property. 

"Police have intervened where appropriate, including around enforcing trespass matters, and have provided advice around keeping safe."