Unfair to single out Kāinga Ora tenants over crime complaints - public housing advocates

Felix Walton for RNZ

Community members and public housing advocates say it is unfair for an Auckland business group to single out Kāinga Ora tenants in complaints over crime.

Over the previous two months, the Parnell Business Association said it had traced 40 incidents back to a nearby Kāinga Ora apartment block.

"Antisocial behaviour is regular, shoplifting is regular, but we've also had some quite serious break-ins," general manager Cheryl Adamson said.

"Thefts of some valuable items, we've tracked stolen scooters and bikes to that area. It's really a mixed bag."

A worker at a dairy across from the Kāinga Ora block said petty theft was becoming more common.

"Compared to years before I'd say there's definitely been an increase, there's been an increase in break-in attempts," he said.

"I'd say 99 percent of the people who come here are pretty well-behaved, but there's always that one percent that cause a bit of trouble."

Kāinga Ora said it was not responsible for what tenants did outside of their homes and criminal activity was a matter for the police.

But Adamson said the agency needed to accept some responsibility.

"I've seen the pushback, and I understand that they're saying it's not their problem what happens offsite," she said.

"But I think as good citizens, whether you're a school or a corporate you all want to be good citizens to your neighbours and I do believe Kāinga Ora has a responsibility for these facilities."

Residents living in Parnell were not too concerned about the reported uptick in crime.

Shaquille Hape, who lives near the Kāinga Ora facility, said he felt perfectly safe despite some dodgy behaviour.

"It's safe as, I feel good as in this area," he said.

"There's a few bad people down there, but I don't actually see them doing crime. I see them smoking drugs and stuff, heaps of people smoking bongs."

Local celebrity and shoeshiner Larry Woods, better known as Mr Sunshine, said Parnell was a good neighbourhood with a few bad eggs.

"It's like all neighbourhoods, you've always got a few knuckleheads," he said.

"When you see a lot of crime, it's because of the people... when you put them in a position where they feel desperate."

He said people in public housing did not deserve to be treated like criminals.

"This is an issue all around the world, they should be more open to people that are lower than them," he said.

Public Housing Futures spokesperson Vanessa Cole said it was unfair for the Parnell Business Association to single out residents in public housing.

"There's thousands of people who live in public housing, people are being painted with [the same] brush," she said.

"There's this idea that public housing itself somehow causes antisocial behaviour, but actually it allows people to live stable, safe and secure lives."

An independent review of Kāinga Ora is set to be led by former prime minister Bill English.

Cheryl Adamson said it should consider full-time on-site management and security.

"I would just like the review to incorporate a view to the on-site management, we're just asking them to broaden the scope," she said.

"Everything they've included so far is critically important, we're just asking for this facet to be included."

Adamson clarified that she did not want the public housing block to be removed, but she hoped it could be managed better in the future.