A group of residents on Mangakahia Road, outside Kaikohe, are up in arms over a plan to use a Housing NZ address to accommodate former prison inmates as they are integrated back into the community.

The four-bedroom house, which is on a shared drive, was until a few months ago used by Te Roopu Taurima o Manukau Trust, which provides accommodation for the intellectually impaired.

Now Northland/Auckland Community Probation and PARS (formerly known as the Prisoners' Aid and Rehabilitation Society of the Auckland District) are looking at using it for prison inmates.

The neighbours say the prisoners will still be serving their sentences, and may live their under restrictions, including electronic monitoring. They may already be working in the community, and will be accommodated there if they have no other suitable address to go to.

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PARS, a charitable organisation based in Auckland, provides services to prisoners from Cape Reinga to the Bombays under a supported accommodation services agreement.

According to its website its purpose is to provide prisoners, former prisoners and their whanau with practical assistance that enables them to access essential services at the right time and with the right support.

It describes itself as a well-established organisation that works as a transition group between prison and the community.

The Mangakahia Road residents are not happy though, but insist that it's not a case of 'Not in my back yard' (NIMBY).

Roger Henwood, whose house is on the shared driveway, said he had only found out what was proposed when he talked to a telecommunication worker.

There had been no consultation from Corrections, Probation, Housing NZ, PARS or anyone else. Corrections had since confirmed that the residents would be electronically monitored, but that was of little comfort. It was 4.2km to Kaikohe, 4.5km to the nearest supermarket and 3.7km to the nearest school.

The nearest house was approximately 30m away and directly opposite.

The occupant's family, including young nieces and nephews, were regular visitors.
Warren Clark, whose home is also on the shared driveway, lives with his wife and three young children.

Sharon Henwood said her grandchild visited regularly over school holidays, and she was worried for their safety, and the ability of authorities to monitor the residents.

Mobile and landline coverage were not unfailingly reliable, and she was worried about the time it could take to respond to a breach, not least given police staffing levels in Kaikohe.

Cell phone coverage ranged from "average to none" — mostly none according to some residents — and they doubted that the landline junction box was big enough to cope with off-site monitoring.

The neighbours are collecting signatures in opposition to the proposal, and are also asking why Housing NZ isn't offering the home to a needy family.

They are also asking why prisoners were not being put to work building houses and learning skills on prison land outside the walls at Ngawha.

They also noted that jobs were hard to find in the Kaikohe area, with many residents working in Kerikeri, Paihia, Kawakawa and elsewhere.