Key Points:

McGehan Close is a street where "helplessness is ingrained, a dead end, a place where rungs on the social ladder have been removed", according to National Party leader John Key.

And the residents of the Owairaka, Auckland, street agree with him.

Lisa Tafili was sitting in the park minding her own business when three young teenagers came up behind her and smashed a bottle on her head.

In the same park, Antonina Usumanu's two boys aged 12 and 9 have both been cut by broken bottles left by drunken youths. One boy needed 11 stitches in his leg.

A few doors away, a Somali refugee who was too scared to give his name watched from an upstairs window as a group of youths put newspaper over the windscreens of two cars outside his house in the middle of the night, apparently planning to smash them.

He didn't call the police because the youths knew he had seen them.

"They might think we called the police on them and because of that they might react next time and really take it out on us."

Residents of McGehan Close and next-door Delphine Close said Mr Key was right to cite their neighbourhood as an example of areas terrorised by youth gangs.

In his "state of the nation" speech yesterday, Mr Key said there were "streets in our country where helplessness has become ingrained ... dead ends for those who live in them ... places where rungs on the ladder of opportunity have been broken. I'm talking about streets like McGehan Close in Owairaka, Auckland."

Ms Tafili, 28, who is on an invalid's benefit with schizophrenia, said groups of youths aged around 15 to 17 often drank in the park beside Oakley Creek, behind their two-storey Housing New Zealand duplexes.

"I used to hang out with those people. Now I don't since I got assaulted," she said. "Sometimes I can't walk outside the house because I know those boys are there."

Ms Tafili and her Samoan-born father, Eddie Tafili, her fulltime caregiver, believe they have been targeted because they have sometimes called police when there have been fights between gangs or noisy partying.

"We complained because they were making a lot of noise. And not only that, but after drinking they throw the empty beer bottles around and they burgle houses. Our house has been burgled too," Mr Tafili said.

In January 2002, two Somali youths were charged with murdering a 21-year-old Tongan, Elikena Inia, in a night of brawls between Somalis and Pacific Islanders in McGehan Close. The pair later walked free after a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence of who stabbed Mr Inia through the heart.

The Tafilis said the teenagers involved now were mostly Tongans. The locals belonged to a street gang called DMS ("Dope, Money, Sex"). Sometimes they got into fights with rival teen gangs who came in from Grey Lynn or West Auckland.

"There's a lot of drugs involved. There's a lot of drug houses round here. They come here, they buy. It's mainly 'P' and marijuana, especially marijuana," Ms Tafili said.

The Somali refugee a few doors away, a 27-year-old former business student who is now on the sickness benefit, said the youths were school-aged but seemed to hang around even during school hours.

He saw the youths pull down several fences in the street. "What I found scary was that some of their parents saw the kids doing it but didn't do anything about it. I can't understand that."

But Mrs Usumanu, a Samoan solo mother with three children aged 12, 9 and 6, said she called the police when youths started drinking and listening to loud music because she didn't want her children to join them.

"The police say they [the youths] are not targeting me and my family, but they forget that my kids are watching all the time," she said. "They say to me, 'Mum, they are ripping the fence,' 'Mum, they are smashing the bottles.'

"I'm scared because whenever the police turn up they [the youths] look at my house and they know it was me. I'm so scared because it's only me and my children - they might come and burn my car."

Everyone who spoke to the Herald in the two streets yesterday said they wanted to leave, but had been unable to get a transfer from Housing NZ.

Mrs Usumanu is on a tenants' committee for the two streets formed just before Christmas and has been to see local MP Phil Goff. But she has been unable to get the city council or the police to come to meetings.

"You want to solve the problem but there is no way to solve the problem ... I have to live with it."