There are fears that plans to rejuvenate the troubled Lower Hutt suburb of Pomare have stalled, with empty homes turning it into what one resident calls a "ghost town".
In Farmer Cres, vacant homes are boarded up, unmown grass attracts rats, and water from a burst pipe pools dangerously near a children's playground.
"I would say we've been forgotten," Farmer Cres resident Metua Taura said. "It's like living in a ghost town."
Another local, Molly Maria Skudder, said the area was in danger of becoming "skid row". Unmown grass outside empty homes was attracting rats. "Our spirits are slowly being eaten away."
She had stopped her children from using a nearby playground, after a burst pipe flooded it months ago.
"The swings will entice them in there."
Farmer Cres came to national attention last year, when Mongrel Mob members were accused of terrorising a single mother into leaving her home.
Housing New Zealand has battled in court to try to evict three gang-linked women and their families from the street.
Rimutaka MP Chris Hipkins said there were at least 53 empty state houses in Pomare. Some appeared to have been permanently abandoned. "That's a total disgrace," he said.
Housing NZ needed to ramp up efforts to renovate or replace run-down houses.
"All these empty houses are having a real impact on the entire community.
"[Housing Minister] Phil Heatley made big promises before the last election about upgrading state houses, but residents of Pomare are still waiting for him to get out of electioneering mode and into doing something mode."
Mr Heatley said plans for Pomare's regeneration were well under way. Housing NZ was working with other parties, including Hutt City Council and police, to find better housing and conditions for residents.
In December, The Dominion Post reported that hundreds of families on state housing waiting lists had refused to move into vacant homes in Farmer Cres.
In 2009, more than $5 million was set aside to start work on revitalising the street.
The proposal included bulldozing two- storey unit blocks, and replacing them with standalone houses with decks and gardens.
Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace said more needed to be done to improve living conditions in Pomare.
"I am looking forward to meeting Housing New Zealand later this month about their plans to revitalise the area."
A Housing NZ spokeswoman said its contractors mowed the lawns of vacant sections in the area.
"We will ask them to mow the berm as well from now on . . ."
A city council spokeswoman said a contractor would inspect the water pipe at the playground. There was no record of any complaint, she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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