Elderly Whangārei couple with PTSD after neighbour's death threats demand more compensation from Kāinga Ora

An elderly Whangārei couple terrorised by their gang member Kāinga Ora neighbours for months is demanding thousands in compensation after one of them was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The couple, who asked to remain anonymous, say the neighbours had noisy parties, violent fights, smashed car windows, abused and yelled at them and on one occasion threatened to slit the husband's throat.

After months of complaining to Kāinga Ora and the police, the neighbours were eventually moved on - but only after the couple took their fight to the Tenancy Tribunal. 

The couple says their experience with Kāinga Ora was terrible and the agency did nothing to help them.

"After all the warnings and five months of the way we were treated, abused and violated by this family due to Kāinga Ora's non-eviction policy, they have offered us no compensation," the woman said.

"It went to the Tenancy Tribunal to actually get these people out. After all we went through, they refused to move that family out prior to us going to the Tenancy Tribunal."

Neighbours from hell

The unruly neighbours moved in on June 15, 2021 and the woman said there were problems the very first weekend.

She said they threw a party which was attended by several Black Power members. Shortly afterwards, five more people moved into the home and abused and harassed the neighbours.

"We couldn't walk down our driveway without getting abused, my daughter's car when she was visiting was threatened to have the windscreen smashed in, they threatened to burn our house down," she said.

"[They] threatened my husband because he started the motor up on his boat around 9:30am… and he [neighbour] said, 'Oh you want to be careful or I am going to get your throat slit so you bleed to death in the water'.

"One day I was just humming outside and the woman shouted out, 'go inside, lock yourself in your house and shut your mouth up'."  The couple is still dealing with the fallout.

The woman says she wants an answer from Kāinga Ora about how the neighbours were allowed to move into the house in the first place. 

"We've still got a lot of unfinished business. I have been diagnosed with PTSD [but] there's been no compensation. They [Kāinga Ora] haven't really acknowledged it - we've had no written apology, nothing," the woman said. 

Kāinga Ora has recently changed its stance on evictions after it was revealed its 'sustaining tenancies' policy had resulted in no evictions in the last three years.

While the policy was originally meant to ensure stable housing, neighbours who were terrorised by tenants said it turned into a 'no eviction' loophole.

Under the new rules, the agency has the green light to use a 'three strikes' complaint scheme to move on unruly tenants. Previously troublemaking tenants had to agree to be moved. 

While they are now demanding $10,000 in compensation, the couple had already been granted $3500 in compensation from Kāinga Ora by the Tenancy Tribunal.

The Tribunal found Kāinga Ora had already reduced their rent by a cumulative value of $4000. As a result, the Tribunal said the rent reduction was "effective compensation" and thus no additional amount was owed to the couple.

But the woman says she wants Kāinga Ora to acknowledge the trauma she suffered. 

"I'm still getting counselling. I get triggered… I hear a car or something coming down the driveway and automatically I think it's something to do with them," she told Newshub.

"I see someone who looks like them… that triggers me. I am still triggered all the time. We got violated and abused by this family."

As well as more compensation, the couple wants a letter from Kāinga Ora and all the executives involved apologising for their treatment. 

"It took five months to get them out and people should not wait that long. Now they [Kāinga Ora] are saying there is no compensation. My counselling is my compensation, would you believe that? I am actually disgusted."

Kāinga Ora responds

Kāinga Ora regional director for Te Tai Tokerau and Northland Jeff Murray told Newshub the couple have recently been given a letter apologising and have been apologised to verbally multiple times.

"[The couple] are long-term customers of Kāinga Ora and we acknowledge the distress and trauma they have recently experienced," Murray said. 

"We want to repair our relationship with them and continue to engage with them regularly through meetings with our senior managers, and phone calls and emails. Most recently, I met with [them] to provide both a written and verbal apology for their recent experiences.

"Kāinga Ora staff also gave verbal apologies to [them] prior to this meeting."

The woman confirmed to Newshub she received the letter but said she felt the agency didn't take responsibility for what they went through. 

Murray said Kāinga Ora took steps to address the issue as soon as the couple raised concern. Along with trying to stop the neighbour's disruptive behaviour, he said Kāinga Ora halved the couple's rent for six months, provided security for their property and have and continue to pay for counselling sessions. 

Murray also pointed to the Tenancy Tribunal decision, which found Kāinga Ora had adequately compensated the couple, and said Kāinga Ora had introduced several tools to address the most "severe and persistent disruptive behaviour more effectively".

"These changes include boosting our customer-facing teams to provide a greater level of engagement with customers, closer engagement with specialist support agencies, launching an expert internal review group providing guidance and endorsement of action, and taking up new provisions in the RTA enabling us to relocate customers when absolutely necessary.

"Each disruptive behaviour case is carefully assessed and managed by our teams as we look to find a positive outcome for both our customers and the community around them. We work to discover the root cause of the issue and bring in assistance from specialised support agencies as needed. Where there is illegal activity we always support police involvement."

Murray said Kāinga Ora doesn't conduct background checks on tenants because the criteria for state housing is determined by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

He also said their tenants are often those most in need and having a home is "foundational to being able to make positive life choices". 

"Kāinga Ora is a housing provider for New Zealanders who qualify for the (MSD) waiting list. Our tenants are those who are deemed most in need of a property, and the customer in question qualified for public housing." 

He said he is working extremely hard to repair their relationship with the couple. 

"We value our relationship with [them], and improving it is important to us. Our goal is to move forward in good faith with them, to continue to hear their concerns and address them as best we can within our remit. 

"We understand it may take some time for this relationship to fully heal, and we will continue to offer opportunities for them to engage directly with us to address their concerns."