David Seymour's letter to Epsom residents about an impending Housing New Zealand (HNZ) development has been slammed by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) which say the letter stigmatises mental health.
However, a resident of the street marked for the development says they asked Seymour to organise the meeting to help them make their voices heard after HNZ was unresponsive.
In a letter to residents, the Epsom MP and Act party leader invited them to voice their concerns at a public meeting and said the development would put pressure on local infrastructure.
He added: "There is also a chance that some of the future residents will have social and mental health issues who will need to have special support measures in place."
HNZ has applied to the Auckland Council to replace a run-down residential building with a five-storey, 25-unit complex on Banff Ave, Epsom.
The public meeting on Thursday was a fiery affair, and Seymour was forced to step in after residents became furious at HNZ officials.
Housing Minister Phil Twyford said the Epsom MP was scaremongering by using such language in his invitation to residents.
The MHF also criticised Seymour, saying stigma and discrimination were two of the biggest barriers to recovery for people living with mental illness.
"Seymour's letter and comments serve only to reinforce negative stereotypes and portray people living with mental illness as a public nuisance, or something to be feared.
"It is simply irresponsible, incorrect and disrespectful to continue to feed into the misguided and sensationalist narrative that people living with mental health problems are inherently unsafe to be around."
They called on Seymour to retract his letter and comments and to learn more about the reality of living with mental illness, the effects of stigma and discrimination and the importance of being inclusive.
Banff Ave resident Jackie Smith said in a letter addressed to the housing minister that residents of the street had asked Seymour to help fight the complex.
"David didn't initiate this, we did! Not one other MP or councillor turned up!"
"We have lived for the last eight years, with drugs, prostitution, gang-related activity, people being accosted and threatened."
Smith said it was disappointing the letter had been singled out for one mention of mental health when the problem was bigger than that.
"I don't want to keep calling the police on neighbours, I don't want to have to go to court because someone beats up a woman in front of our house, I don't want to see people weeing on a tree in front of our house, I don't want to be threatened with gang violence ...
"I don't want to hear that women and children cannot walk down our street without concern."
Earlier today Twyford was called on by Seymour to front up to the Banff Ave residents and discuss concerns about the development.
"The people of Epsom are decent and kind. However, until now, Housing New Zealand has ignored their concerns about anti-social behaviour at its existing properties.
"If we are to have this social housing development, I will work with the residents of Banff Ave and Housing New Zealand to create a model project which includes appropriate amenities," Seymour said.
Seymour defended the letter, saying sometimes "you need to tell it like it is" and the truth in this case was "that people in this neighbourhood have been victimised by Housing New Zealand".
Housing NZ was not required to notify the neighbourhood about its plans, and some residents complained at the meeting that they had been left out of the loop.