David Seymour refuses to apologise over 'mentally ill' letter

  • 23/05/2018

ACT Party leader David Seymour has refused to apologise after sending a letter to his constituents warning against mentally ill state housing tenants in his area.

Housing New Zealand (HNZ) proposes building a 25-unit complex in the wealthy Auckland suburb of Epsom, leading Mr Seymour to warn of the risks the new tenants could pose.

Appearing on The AM Show on Wednesday, Mr Seymour said he was representing his community, and doesn't regret his letter at all.

"I don't apologise and I don't resile from describing the situation accurately," he told host Duncan Garner.

"I haven't stigmatised anyone. What I wrote, that people who live in this development may have mental and social health issues and may require additional support is true."

Epsom residents say previous HNZ tenants have held orgies and done hard drugs. Others claim past tenants have urinated in public and abused and harassed women, leaving residents living in fear.

Mr Seymour says his constituents have been "victimised", and has called on residents to express their discontent over the lack of consultation for the new complex.

"The experience for people in Banff Avenue for the last decade has been that Housing NZ does not do a good job," he says.

"They may very well end up in this development. The question is - and people have a right to ask the question - what is actually being proposed, what is being developed and what sort of support will be in place."

However the Mental Health foundation claims Mr Seymour's comments are "irresponsible".

"Stigma and discrimination are two of the biggest barriers to recovery for people living with mental illness," it said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Mr Seymour's letter and comments serve only to reinforce negative stereotypes and portray people living with mental illness as a public nuisance, or something to be feared.

"It is simply irresponsible, incorrect and disrespectful to continue to feed into the misguided and sensationalist narrative that people living with mental health problems are inherently unsafe to be around."