Government’s ‘no evictions’ policy giving gang members free licence to cause intimidation and fear: Judith Collins

The Government says the behaviour of Whangarei state house tenants who have terrorised their elderly neighbours is completely unacceptable and admits Kāinga Ora processes to resolve the standoff haven’t worked.

And National leader Judith Collins has attacked Kāinga Ora’s handling of the case, saying its no evictions policy gives violent gang members free licence to cause “extreme intimidation and fear”.

Associate Minister Public Housing Poto Williams was grilled this morning on the case of a pensioner couple who say they’ve received death threats from the Black Power neighbour, who allegedly threatened to slit the 82-year-old husband’s throat and watch him “bleed out”.

The situation came to a head at the weekend when the pensioners were forced to cower in their home as the next-door tenants threw a drunken party attended by patched gang members.

The principal tenant was arrested for assaulting a police officer and put into custody. Another partygoer tried to steal a patrol car.

Williams told reporters she had seen video of the incident, published by the Herald last night.

“It’s completely unacceptable and I know arrests have been made.

“I’m not defending their behaviour but there are children implicated in this and we have a responsibility to have housing for everybody and making sure we don’t put people into homeless situations.”

Williams said everyone had a right to feel safe in their homes. Though Kāinga Ora worked intensively with complex cases to resolve issues and keep people in their tenancies, “it doesn’t always work”.

“This situation now has moved into the justice system.

“We have to do everything we can to ensure everybody is safe in their homes and that families with some very difficult and complex situations have opportunities to put down roots.”

The Government has come under growing pressure over its “sustaining tenancies” policy after it emerged just three state housing tenants have been evicted since Labour came to power in 2017.

A Herald investigation in recent weeks has highlighted a string of horrific cases involving innocent people being subjected to campaigns of intimidation and abuse by their Kāinga Ora neighbours, forcing some to seek restraining orders through the courts and others to sell their properties and move towns to protect their families.

Williams admitted she had instructed Kāinga Ora to review the sustaining tenancies policy in light of recent cases to see if changes were needed.

But she stressed it wasn’t just state housing tenants responsible for antisocial behaviour.

“Bad neighbours don’t just occur in Kāinga Ora homes.”

Collins attacked the Government this morning, saying its no evictions policy was causing “mayhem” in communities and putting good people at risk of violence and abuse.

“This Government changed the rules, they changed the policy to stop evictions of badly behaved people who intimidate and cause mayhem in their communities.

“They say they need somewhere to live. But actually so do the people who are just trying to live their lives.”

She said it was “heartless” for Kāinga Ora to suggest shifting the elderly Whangārei couple to an AirBnB “instead of shifting the Black Power gang member out”.

Taxpayers were paying for social housing and expected state tenants to be safe from gang members.

“The Government’s get out of jail card they’ve given them is causing extreme intimidation and fear amongst people who are otherwise vulnerable. They don’t have a choice to shift houses.”

Collins said people’s behaviour should determine whether they had the right to a state house.

“When you’ve got the house that should not give you a right to intimidate and destroy other people’s peace of mind.”

Litigation lawyer Adina Thorn is advocating on behalf of dozens of people with similar stories and considering a class action to hold the Government to account.

She said she had heard from people who were terrified of their neighbours, some of whom had weapons and machetes.

“They tell stories of people desperately wanting to move; who have moved; or some living next to multiple tenants who have very anti-social behaviour. The mental health impact is unimaginable.”

Thorn questioned why the Kāinga Ora board had remained silent on the issue.

“The board members need to actually see for themselves the hell these people are living with. I’m happy to go to The Warehouse, buy them sleeping bags and new masks, they can spend a few nights on the floor on the lounge and find out for themselves. Do they want to start this week?”

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