Sandra is a senior crimes and justice reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times.

More homeless camping out in park

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Temoanaroa Rikirangi, 57, is one of a number of homeless people camped out at Graham Park, off Takitumu Drive.
Temoanaroa Rikirangi, 57, is one of a number of homeless people camped out at Graham Park, off Takitumu Drive.

A second homeless person has set up camp in Graham Park, off Takitumu Drive, and nearby residents fear more people may soon join them if council does not move them on.

Last month, the Bay of Plenty Times featured a story about Temoanaroa Rikirangi, 57, who moved into the park a few weeks ago.

Mr Rikirangi told our reporter yesterday that he found himself homeless after being evicted from "kaumatua flats" and he was also there in protest over an iwi land dispute.

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Earlier this year he spent time at Tauranga Moana Night Shelter, he said.

Mr Rikirangi said despite council staff, police and fire service personnel having visited him, he was yet to receive a trespass order. He said at least two other people were living in the park but they were making themselves less visible, including a homeless man who was already living there when he moved in.

Another camper also living in a tent partly hidden in the dense bush declined to comment.

Former regional councillor Andrew von Dadelszen, who lives nearby, said he had spoken to Tauranga City Council several times about the problem, and did not believe council was doing enough to move these people on.

Despite Mr Rikirangi's camp being well set up, he had no proper toilet facilities, Mr von Dadelszen said.

"We can't have people living in parks and defecating in the bush. Walkers and runners in the park are telling me they feel intimidated by these people. I think council is procrastinating and hoping the problem will go away.

"If council does not act quickly enough more people could join them. Anyone who is genuinely homeless council should be looking to find them some emergency housing. My worry is that someone could do something to one of the campers," he said.

Margaret Batchelar, the council's customer services manager, said homelessness was a complex community issue to which there were no easy answers and the council was working with other agencies to come up with a solution.

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"It's not as simple as moving the person off the land. Our monitoring staff work closely with police, the homeless shelter, social workers and the District Health Board in these situations.

"We're also facilitating meetings with various organisations and agencies to see how we can best address homelessness and emergency housing needs. We don't have any reason to believe there are any safety concerns in this particular case."

Ms Batchelar said in these situations council referred behavioural issues to police or other appropriate agencies if they needed to. Issuing a trespass order and asking police to enforce it would be used as a last resort.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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