The smell was unusual, but it was the flies that alerted neighbours that all might not be well.

Police found the body of a 78-year-old man in the Housing New Zealand apartment block on Dixon St in central Wellington at about 3.30pm yesterday.

Marcus Pohio said he had only seen his neighbour six times since moving next door to him two months ago.

The pair exchanged the odd good morning. "He was always in a hurry to go somewhere."

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Mr Pohio first noticed a strange smell last Tuesday but initially thought someone might have defecated outside, as has happened before. Such events were unusual.

"It's a lovely place to live, clean and tidy."

But yesterday he noticed flies and rang the police. "My mate said it smelled like someone died around here."

Today he was reflecting on the fact he could have been the last one to see the man alive.

"It's just shocking it happened so close. I wish I'd got on to it earlier."

Mr Pohio wants to pass on his regards to the man's family.

Other neighbours were saddened to hear what happened. Rick Shirley, who has lived there for 12 years, said the news was terrible. "It's really awful the way some people get isolated. We need more community in this building."

There was the odd communal event, such as a St Vincent de Paul dinner and the mingling that takes place during fire drills, but that was about it.

"These flats are really quiet and most people stick to themselves, which is a shame when you're sharing space with other people.

"I make a point of being friendly to everyone."

Police said the man was last seen a couple of weeks ago, but were unsure when the man had died. It is not yet known how he died but it did not appear to be suspicious.

The body is the third previously undetected corpse found in Wellington in just over a year.

The body of 78-year-old Jim Grant was found in an apartment complex in central Wellington in March, after he was thought to have died two months earlier.

Last year Dean Stewart died in his Newtown house and wasn't found for months.