Woman flees gang to overcrowded flat

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 05:00 12/05/2012

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A woman who fled her home because of intimidation from gang members is sharing a one-bedroom flat with her young daughter and five other people.

Problems at a block of flats in Newtown's Coromandel St were highlighted last week after the woman abandoned her Housing NZ accommodation because of behaviour by a group of men staying with another tenant.

She said her car tyres had been slashed, threatening notes demanding money pinned to her door, and an ex-partner beaten with weapons including a golf club.

Other angry residents were also upset at the group, with another woman saying she had moved out in December after a Black Power member wiped his nose on her son because he was wearing the colour of a rival gang.

Housing NZ responded by threatening to issue trespass notices for the troublemaking visitors, but so far no action has been taken.

The woman, who left last week, said she had tried to go to Women's Refuge for help but they were unable to assist her because her problems were not related to family or spouse.

Housing NZ had told her she was on the urgent list for relocation, but she was upset they had not acted sooner on the complaints about the Newtown flats.

A staff member had helped her move some of her belongings to her temporary accommodation but she had heard little since.

"I'm stuck in a one bedroom house with five people, you can imagine with a little girl just learning to walk what that's like."

Yesterday, a tenant's representative met Housing NZ, police and community worker Denis O'Reilly, a Black Power life member and former gang member, to discuss the situation at the flats.

Mr O'Reilly said the aim of the meeting was to ensure people's safety and get to the root of the problems.

After arriving in Wellington several days ago he had discovered there were conflicting details about some complaints.

For example, he had been told a gang member had not wiped his nose on a child but instead wiped the boy's own snotty nose on the shirt to clean it.

There was, he said, some "completely unacceptable" behaviour at the flats, but he denied it was a gang issue. "This is not a gang issue, this is human beings and bad behaviour."

Some tenants had been apprehensive about attending yesterday's meeting. He hoped for a broader meeting next week.

Housing NZ would not comment on individual tenants but said they were "in the process of considering all the information that has been gathered, including new information that has come to light this week and will be talking to the tenant and her advocate directly about what action we intend to take".

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The manager for tenancy services, Jackie Pivac, said they were working "as quickly as possible" to resolve the issues.

"The corporation takes complaints of this nature very seriously and we will not tolerate antisocial behaviour or illegal activity in our properties.

"However we can only issue trespass notices when we know who is responsible for the behaviour so we encourage our tenants to call police immediately and notify the corporation as soon as possible."

- The Dominion Post

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