Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Hamilton family in fear after brawls and shootings - but couldn't get a Housing NZ transfer

The woman was frightened to live in Norrie St, Hamilton. Photo / Alan Gibson.
The woman was frightened to live in Norrie St, Hamilton. Photo / Alan Gibson.

A Hamilton state house tenant was too scared to drive her children to school after repeated brawls and shootings in her street, but she couldn't get a transfer to another area.

The mother said Housing NZ told her she and her children aged 11, 9 and 2 did not qualify for a transfer because the violence was "not a direct threat to us".

In the end she sold the children's toys and most of her other belongings to raise the bond money to move to a private rental where the family now pays $390 a week - almost four times the $104 rent they paid in the state house.

"I can't afford it, but for my safety and my children's safety I thought selling most of our belongings was more worth it than staying in a place that could have been really risky," she said.

The family's nightmare started when they moved to Hamilton from Northland in January and went to stay with an aunt.

The aunt's three-bedroom house was already overcrowded with the aunt, her five children and two grandchildren. The woman and her three kids slept in the lounge at first, then in their car outside the house.

They moved into a state house in Norrie St, Bader, on April 7, and were happy at first.

"There was nothing wrong with the house. To be honest, I thanked Housing NZ for giving me a house," the woman said.

But on June 16, a 17-year-old boy was shot outside her house - the third shooting in the street in 16 months.

"That shooting happened literally right beside our gate," she said.

After that, the electricity box outside her house became the meeting place for constant brawls.

"My house was right on the corner. I think the rival gangs lived on either side, just from watching. We were right in the middle of the two streets. There were brawls nearly every Thursday, at least once a week," she said.

Patched gang members regularly walked across her lawn. Once her son saw someone outside his bedroom window at night.

"Another time another guy jumped over my fence and whacked into my carport, which I had covers over," the woman said.

"I was sitting on my doorstep. I said, 'Were you looking for something?' He was fiddling with my stuff that was underneath the carport."

She asked her father to visit to protect the family.

"I rang up Housing NZ and said my dad's coming, I'm scared, I'm even too scared to drive out my driveway to take the kids to school," she said.

"I rang them up every time [an incident] happened. They said it was not a direct threat to us so they couldn't transfer me and my three children."

Housing NZ regional manager Darren Toy said the agency invited the woman to apply to the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to request a transfer she sought.

MSD deputy chief executive Kay Read said the woman rang MSD on August 10 and booked a phone appointment to request a transfer.

"At her phone appointment, two days later, we told her we'd need some evidence about the concerning situation she outlined in order to consider her application, and she was encouraged to provide a police report. [She] was unhappy with this request and hung up," Read said.

"She called us a week later to tell us she had the police reports. We asked her to bring them in to her local service centre so we could add them to her records and consider her transfer request. She didn't do this.

"On September 12 we met with [her] at her local Community Link and approved additional payments of $217 per week to help her pay her rent at her new rental.

"I'm pleased that [she] has been able to find a place to stay where she feels safer and that we've been able to help her financially to do so.

"I'm sorry if [she] felt that we made it difficult for her when she was going through a stressful time. However, we do need to be able to independently verify the information people are giving us about their situation to make sure that they are receiving the help they are entitled to, and to ensure we are helping those who are most in need."

- NZ Herald

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