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Break ins and 'crackheads' scare pensioners

NIGEL MOFFIET
Last updated 05:00 02/05/2014
Elderly residents
Faith Lodge

FED UP: Yvonne Hawkins, left, Ron Hatch and Carolina Randall say all-night parties and suspicious behaviour at their Housing New Zealand complex is a grave concern for the elderly residents.

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Burglaries, drugs and drunks are taking their toll on a group of Housing New Zealand pensioners who say the stress is damaging their health.

Elderly residents at a 60-unit complex in the south Auckland suburb of Otahuhu say they have grave concerns about their safety and have noticed an influx of young illegal tenants living in apartments that used to be for pensioners only.

All-night parties at the flats are keeping many of the sick residents awake throughout the week and on weekends.

Resident Ron Hatch says he and other "legitimate" tenants are very grateful to have the accommodation but are at their wit's end, claiming nothing is being done to fix the problem.

"I have prostate cancer and asbestos on my lungs and I don't want anymore trouble," he says.

"This complex is intended for older people and if we are to have peace and quiet, there is no reason why some of the tenants can get away with breaking the rules.

"We have worked hard all our lives and believed we had a peaceful living environment to look forward to when we retired or got older."

Fellow resident Yvonne Hawkins has had her apartment broken into three times in the past two years. The area has become very unsafe in recent months with the number of intoxicated people and "crackheads" roaming the complex, she says.

"By the time we ring the police, it's too late and they're gone... I'm not scared but it's not secure."

Resident Carolina Randall says struggles to sleep at night.

"I go out and come home and find my neighbours having parties. They've been having parties every night.

"I've been unwell, in and out of hospital - all the stress happening here is causing a lot of it.

The block was originally a council owned pensioner housing complex.

Housing New Zealand took over in 2000, lowering the age of tenants from 65 to 55.

Area manager Miranda Dawson says younger people are not signed up for the apartments but the corporation is aware of non-legal residents staying there.

"From time to time we are made aware of people staying at the complex who are not legal tenants.

"This can be because a tenant is unwell and requires the support of a caregiver for a period of time. Housing New Zealand assesses this on a case-by-case basis.

"Police make regular patrols through the complex and tenants have been advised on how to give timely and accurate information to police should a particular incident occur.

"The Housing New Zealand tenancy manager is also at the complex for a period of time on most week days and wears a fluorescent vest so that he is readily identifiable," she says.

But Hatch says that isn't good enough.

"The tenancy officers have a hands-off approach on these issues now. They go around and talk to people but they've got no authority to do anything," he says.

Hawkins says elderly residents were forced to take matters into their own hands a couple of years ago by starting their own Neighbourhood Watch group.

Local businesses donated vests and torches and the pensioners took turns patrolling the complex, making sure doors were locked and the flats were secure.

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"While we were doing that there wasn't one robbery or one loud party in the middle of the week but then we realised we weren't covered by insurance so we stopped."

- Manukau Courier

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