Carmen is a social issues and rural reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Vacant Tauranga house sparks fears for children

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Te Tawharau o te Ora manager and Merivale resident, Kellie Kioa, says a Housing New Zealand House in Kesteven Ave has been vacant since December and attracting unwanted attention when there were homeless families in need. Photo / John Borren
Te Tawharau o te Ora manager and Merivale resident, Kellie Kioa, says a Housing New Zealand House in Kesteven Ave has been vacant since December and attracting unwanted attention when there were homeless families in need. Photo / John Borren

An empty state house in Merivale has been described as a rubbish tip and "a playground for truants" by angry residents who want the property cleaned up.

Concerns have also been expressed about why it is not tenanted considering Tauranga's rental crisis.

However, following inquiries from the Bay of Plenty Times, Housing New Zealand said the house in Kesteven Ave had undergone testing for methamphetamine contamination and was being prepared for a new family. Housing New Zealand has confirmed the house tested negative for methamphetamine.

The house had been neglected and there seems to be nothing happening. The other concern we have is we have whanau associated with the school as well that don't have a place to sleep at night and here is an empty house, it's crazy.
Dave Merton, Merivale School teacher

Merivale School teacher Dave Merton said the previous tenants moved out late last year and it had become a haunt for "truant kids using it as a place to smoke and drink".

Read more: More state houses failing methamphetamine tests

"We have picked up bottles as they have moved on to school grounds. We picked up rubbish during the holidays at the house but now you can see it's all over the place."

Parents were going to the school on a daily basis to ask about the house as their children have to walk past it, Mr Merton said.

He also understood people had forced windows open to get inside.

Mr Merton said the school had contacted Housing New Zealand.

"The house had been neglected and there seems to be nothing happening. The other concern we have is we have whanau associated with the school as well that don't have a place to sleep at night and here is an empty house, it's crazy."

A neighbour, who did not want to be named, said they had taken photos of three young men sitting on the deck at the empty house. It was a worry because "they are messing about and making trouble, it is getting scary".

Rats had also been spotted in the long grass at the house.

Te Tawharau o te Ora manager Kellie Kioa said there was a desperate need for housing and she drove past the Kesteven Ave property all the time. "Who are these people that have been coming to this house? Are they homeless? Or if it's children, someone needs to be responsible to get them back to school."

Merivale Community Centre manager Tauha TeKani said the property had not come to his attention but everyday he had anxious, stressed out people who were needing accommodation.

When the Bay of Plenty Times visited the Housing New Zealand property, a mother, who did not want to be named, was searching for her truant teenager.

Read more: Never too old to marry

She found a plate and dish at the house from her own kitchen.

Housing New Zealand area manager Teresa Pou said the house in question had been tested for methamphetamine contamination but it had come back negative.

A family would move in shortly, she said, and "it's vital that we follow these steps so that we are not taking any risks with the health and safety of our staff, contractors or tenants".

However, it was concerned to hear that people had been illegally entering the property, she said.

"We will also be getting in touch with Merivale School and the Merivale Community Centre to talk to them about their concerns."

She also encouraged anyone with concerns about Housing New Zealand properties to contact them directly or the police if they witnessed any illegal activity.

By the numbers:

* The Ministry of Social Development is responsible for taking applications from people needing social housing.

* Anyone who is in need of a house should contact the Ministry directly to apply.

* Housing New Zealand has 1, 277 properties in Tauranga.

* It has a small number of properties that were vacant, either because they are undergoing or awaiting repairs, are for sale because they are no longer required by Housing New Zealand, or they are between tenancies.

- Housing New Zealand

- Bay of Plenty Times

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