Ōrākei barrister seeks restraining order against neighbours, alleges 21 months of hell

Residents from an affluent Auckland suburb say their unruly neighbours are destroying their lives, with one woman taking court action to end nearly two years of what she considers intimidation, harassment and abuse.

The Ōrākei residents have called police, Auckland Council and Kāinga Ora dozens of times since the state house tenants moved in just before the first lockdown last year.

They claim the couple’s extreme antisocial behaviour has shattered the once peaceful street’s idyllic amenity and their lives are now filled with anxiety, sleepless nights and constant fear.

The neighbours have spent thousands of dollars installing motion-sensing security cameras and high perimeter fences in a bid to stem the tenants’ belligerent activity.

This allegedly includes fighting, swearing, screaming, throwing heavy objects and wet toilet paper at neighbouring houses, revving a car engine or running a lawn mower needlessly for long periods, scrawling offensive messages on the road, aiming fireworks at neighbours’ properties and prolonged tirades of threats and abuse.

One of the neighbours, a barrister and solicitor, this week filed a signed affidavit with Auckland District Court in support of a restraining order against the tenants, cataloguing 21 months of suburban hell.

“The collective effect of the campaign she has been waging against me has caused me significant stress, anxiety and distress,” the affidavit says.

“It is seriously impinging on my ability to work at home, is impacting my mental health and makes me afraid for my safety and the safety of my children.”

The barrister told the Herald she had called 111 numerous times to request help when she claims her neighbour was “trying to bash down my driveway gate or embarking on her tirades”.

“It appears any disreputable, unruly and antisocial person can be randomly housed next door to upstanding, law-abiding citizens, [and] behave as badly as they like with absolutely no consequences and impunity.”

Police say they have issued several warnings and trespass notices to the tenants in response to 111 callouts to the property.

Auckland Council has sent a noise control officer to the home, animal management officers have responded to five complaints relating to barking or aggressive dogs, and contractors have responded to six complaints of illegally dumped rubbish.

And despite Kāinga Ora serving five breach notices under the Residential Tenancies Act in response to 30 separate complaints, neighbours say the agency admits it’s powerless to evict the offending individuals due to a “directive” that protects antisocial state housing clients.

The barrister says she and her neighbours don’t want to be identified because they arefearful of retribution.

The restraining order was sought, she said, to curb the barrage of harassment her family had suffered – a situation made more unbearable during the 11-week lockdown.

The woman also claimed police were assessing whether the tenants’ action constituted criminal harassment but there appeared to be a “high bar”.

It beggared belief that Kāinga Ora tenants who’d been given a taxpayer-funded home valued north of $1.5 million could intimidate the neighbourhood without facing eviction, she said.

In her view, it was particularly galling given the long waiting list of deserving families desperate for state homes.

In an email to Kāinga Ora last month, another neighbour said she’d experienced a “multitude of antisocial behaviours and aggressive events” since the tenants arrived in January 2020, which she described as a “daily stressor”.

In her opinion: “They violate our sense of safety, mental wellbeing and deprive us of a peaceful living environment.

“It is unfair and unacceptable and there needs to be a resolution to this intolerable situation.”

The neighbour told the Herald residents met last year with a Kāinga Ora manager who said her “hands were tied” due to a policy that prevented staff from evicting state housing clients.

The neighbour felt there were no repercussions for bad eggs, who seemed to have “more rights than the rest of us”.

Kāinga Ora Central and East Auckland regional director John Tubberty acknowledged it could be extremely frustrating living next to people “who do not give you respect or who undermine your sense of peace and security”.

Though the agency had the legal right to end tenancies, “we hold that right in reserve for extreme situations”.

“This is because ending a tenancy means a customer does not disappear, they simply cycle through emergency, transitional and/or state housing, with the upheaval and public expense that comes with that often resulting in worse long-term outcomes for the people involved and those around them, particularly their family.”

Kāinga Ora had other tools to manage clients whose behaviour was disruptive or intimidatory, but fell short of breaking the law, Tubberty said.

“It may seem to neighbours as though no action is being taken, even when there is a plan in place.”

A police spokeswoman said: “We understand these types of incidents can be extremely upsetting and frustrating for members of our community and we urge them to call 111 if they are in a situation where they feel unsafe.”

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