Sonya is a social issues reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Homeless woman kicked out of caravan after complaint


A woman living in a caravan on a friend's lawn has been forced to move out because she breached city rules by staying there for more than three months in a year.

Mount Maunganui woman Judy Randell let her friend Karen, who did not want her last name published, live in a caravan on her front lawn after Karen had to leave her flat and could not find another place to live.

But a neighbour complained and Miss Randell received a Tauranga City Council letter in April saying Karen has to "cease using" the caravan by July. This was due to regulations that meant a person could not live in a caravan on private land longer than three months in one year.

We didn't know what to do. I thought it was ridiculous that there's this massive housing crisis and I had to kick her out.
Mount Maunganui woman Judy Randell

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said this was a last resort and, during the city's housing crisis, the council would only enforce this regulation if a complaint was made that could not be resolved.

Miss Randell was shocked to receive such a letter, particularly as Tauranga was facing a housing shortage.

"We didn't know what to do. I thought it was ridiculous that there's this massive housing crisis and I had to kick her out.

It would cost at least $2711 to get a non-notified resource consent. A notified resource consent would cost at least $5415.

"They [the council] were going to fine me $300 first up, then $300 a day until Karen moved out.

"She had absolutely nowhere to go."

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Tauranga City Council would not confirm what the consequences were for a person not meeting the regulations for living in a caravan.

In response to Bay of Plenty Times questions, Rebecca Perrett, general manager - environmental services said in a written statement: "council will always seek to work with people to find a solution where these regulations are not met to help people comply with the rules or to legitimise the activity".

The preposterous thing is you can have a caravan on your property for 100 years perfectly legally but you can't have someone stay in it longer than three months.
New Zealand First MP Clayton Mitchell

Karen has temporarily moved in with her partner's mother after moving out on August 1. Miss Randell was looking into building a sleepout on her property so Karen could have a permanent home.

"I think it's a ridiculous rule that needs to be changed in today's housing climate. A caravan is such a good solution. And you can get away with it if you don't get a complaint."

Miss Randell believed the letter was in response to a complaint from a neighbour. She said Karen had always been quiet and, with a young family, Miss Randell said she would have kicked Karen out herself if she had been noisy or caused other problems.

Neighbour Graham Hales confirmed he complained about the caravan.

He said the first complaint he had made about the caravan was about its proximity to the boundary fence. Mr Hales was also annoyed by Karen's cat defecating on his property.

The caravan was, in his opinion, a "disgrace". "I'm not regretting what I've done," he told the Bay of Plenty Times.

Mr Hales said he was not the only annoyed resident.

When asked about whether it was right to kick someone out of a caravan when there was a housing crisis in the city, Mr Hales said: "That's not my fault, that's the Government's poor management of the country".

He said Karen had been living in the caravan against the city council's regulations and he was looking after his property.

Karen had been going between the caravan and her partner's mother's house since February but in April, when they were asked to move out of the house, Miss Randell allowed the couple to live in the caravan.

"This has pretty much made us homeless. It has caused a lot of stress for me and my partner.

"With the housing crisis, finding somewhere that allows pets is really difficult."

Not knowing what to do, Miss Randell turned to New Zealand First MP Clayton Mitchell for help.

Mr Mitchell approached councillors to see if anything could be done, but discovered it would take a lot of time to progress any changes.

"It's bureaucracy gone mad. The preposterous thing is you can have a caravan on your property for 100 years perfectly legally but you can't have someone stay in it longer than three months.

"That's not helping our housing affordability problem."

Mr Mitchell said he had been helping people move into caravans in people's yards.

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said because of the current housing crisis, council staff had been briefed to work around this regulation wherever possible.

"Our staff have to act on a complaint . . . Because of the current housing crisis, they have current elected members' support not to be so hard and fast on the three months."

Mr Crosby said staff spent an enormous amount of time trying to broker non-enforcement solutions in these cases and usually had success with that. For example, the owner might move a caravan to a different part of their property, which would appease the complainant.

"At the end of the day, if the neighbour is still adamant it has to go, we do have to enforce that. But it's very much a last resort."

Ms Perrett said the owner of the caravan was advised they could apply for a resource consent to formalise the permanent use of the caravan for accommodation purposes.

"Homelessness is a significant and complex issue that council is very concerned about."

The Homelessness Steering Group, set up in June, had developed a plan to find short and medium-term accommodation solutions and was looking at strategies to deal with the problem in the medium to long-term, she said.

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