Neighbours complain of 'horrendous' behaviour from Kāinga Ora tenants, but Govt says evictions 'very rare'

The Government denies having a hard-line 'no eviction' policy.
The Government denies having a hard-line 'no eviction' policy. Photo credit: Newshub.

By Anneke Smith of RNZ

The Government cannot say what it would take for a Kāinga Ora tenant to get kicked out of one of its houses.

It denies having a hard-line 'no eviction' policy despite not evicting any Kāinga Ora tenants in the past three years.

Families that RNZ has spoken to say they are at their wits' end after months of neighbourhood brawls, property damage and even death threats.

Among them are Sarah's elderly parents, Kāinga Ora tenants themselves, who recently got new neighbours in Whāngarei.

"From the first night the tenants moved in we had smashed windows, door trims pulled up and a woman being dragged from a car," Sarah said.

"So from the very first night it was horrendous and it hasn't settled."

Sarah said incidents escalated over time and recently came to a head when one of the tenants threatened to kill her 82-year-old stepfather.

"It was about 9am when he went to turn over his boat motor to get ready for fishing. The guy came out, he'd obviously been woken up and he wasn't very happy.

"That's when he made the threat that he was going to slit his throat and watch him bleed out in the water. My stepdad hasn't started his boat since."

Sarah said Kāinga Ora had halved her parents' rent, paid for counselling sessions and organised regular security checks but only eviction would address the stress.

"They're not coping. There is no help, there is no support and they're just sitting there every day waiting for this to end. A pin will drop and my mum's going to freak out. They're going to have post-traumatic stress from this."

James and his wife live near a Kāinga Ora property in a housing complex in Papakura, Auckland.

The incidents there started with smashed car windows but recently escalated to domestic violence.

He started asking around and found out there had been dozens of police call-outs - somewhere in the vicinity of eight - to the property.

"What do these people have to do to get evicted? To me, I would have thought engaging in threatening and intimidating behaviour with your neighbours and other residents in the community would probably be something I'd imagine would lead to somebody getting evicted."

The Government insists it doesn't have a hard-line 'no eviction' policy but rather a 'sustainable tenancies' policy that has been in place since April 2017.

Associate Minister of Housing Poto Williams says evictions do happen in "very rare circumstances" but could not detail what these circumstances would be.

When RNZ put a fairly serious example to her, grievous bodily harm, Williams could not say if this would warrant an eviction.

"It's speculative. You can say a lot of things. I can't judge that because I don't know, that's not a situation I'm aware of. That would probably require a police intervention and a charge of some sort I would have thought."

Williams says she's concerned about Sarah's parents' case and has asked officials for an update.

But National's housing spokesperson Nicola Willis says these families cannot wait.

"The question I have is what will it take for this minister to agree to an eviction? I'm concerned that Kāinga Ora is going to end up with blood on its hands because its policy allows people to continue to terrorise and abuse victims with no fear of consequence."

James says he cannot relax in his own home and believes the Government has a responsibility everyone, both Kāinga Ora tenants and their neighbours, feel safe.

"The Government has a moral and ethical obligation to protect people who are subject to tenants that they've placed in their area. At the end of the day, Kāinga Ora is a Government department, they're placing their tenants within areas like this and I think the obligation is on them to make sure that the residents within the community are also safe."

While Kāinga Ora has not evicted any tenants in the past three years, it has worked to relocate 159 households over antisocial behaviour in the last 12 months.