Ghetto born from state housing neglect

MATT STEWART
Last updated 05:00 19/01/2013
Durham Crescent
KEVIN STENT/ Fairfax NZ
UNKEMPT: A property on Durham Crescent.

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Vacant and neglected Housing New Zealand flats have turned a Lower Hutt street into a ‘‘ghetto’’, disgruntled neighbours say.

Tenants were relocated and houses boarded up on Durham Crescent in the suburb of Fairfield about two months ago, after 23 buildings were deemed earthquake-prone.

The properties had since deteriorated until work crews came in to cut waist-high grass and tame unruly gardens following a story in The Dominion Post last week, neighbours say.

Housing New Zealand has denied the clean up was prompted by media coverage.

Homeowner Elizabeth Marks, who has lived on Durham Cr for 10 years, said the agency ‘‘does not care’’ who tenants the properties.

‘‘It’s the Bronx man, seriously,’’ she said.

Although the street was mainly friendly and crime-free it was ‘‘a dive’’, and the houses were health hazards that should be torn down, she said.

Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said the houses’ unkempt appearance was attracting vandals and thieves.

She said Housing New Zealand had turned the formerly quiet and family friendly street into ‘‘a ghetto’’ when it tenanted a group of flats with gang members in 2009.

The woman said she has had her tyres slashed, been called a ‘‘nark’’, and had been stalked after complaining to police and Housing New Zealand about the problems.

In May last year there was a near fatal stabbing on the street and the woman said there had been an ‘‘explosion in crime’’ since the tenants had moved in.

Detective Richard Gibson said police had not noticed a ‘‘radical increase’’ in crime since 2009.

Gang members had lived in the street, but Durham Cr was not ‘‘a hotspot for gang tension or confrontation’’.

Police patrols in the area had been ramped up, he said.

Housing New Zealand regional manager Jackie Pivac said she was ‘‘not aware of any criminal activity relating to the properties’’.

The buildings would be assessed to see if it was viable to bring them up to earthquake standard before a decision about their future could be made.

Hutt City mayor Ray Wallace met with Housing New Zealand yesterday to discuss residents concerns over the ‘‘eyesore’’ houses.

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He also plans to meet with police to discuss the issue, he said.

‘‘I will also be informing the Minister of Housing... of our meeting and our intention to protect the interests of our residents.’’

- The Dominion Post

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