Housing New Zealand staff who have been moved out of a South Auckland community have been banned from attending their own farewell - apparently to stop them talking to the media.

The outreach office at a house in Wiri closed yesterday and its two tenancy managers have been reassigned to other areas.

The RaWiri Residents' Association, representing tenants in Rata Vine and Wiri, organised a cake to farewell them, but the two tenancy managers did not turn up.

"They have been more than our tenancy managers, they knew our kids, our mokos, they went above and beyond their role," said association co-founder Liz Kiriona. "Through no choice of their own, they just got told no tenancy managers are allowed to attend anything like this because 'media want them to fail'."


Manurewa Local Board chairman Daniel Newman said Auckland Council was negotiating to lease the house, and a similar house in Clendon, for use by the local communities.

But similar community houses in Northcote (Auckland) and Enderley (Hamilton) have been closed and returned to the state housing pool.

In Whangarei, 155 Community House co-ordinator Carol Peters said the Otangarei Trust and other groups have lodged a proposal to take over a community house in the low-income area, where they run a tool lending service for tenants. Housing NZ staff moved out of the house last year.

In Rotorua, community group Ko Te Tuara Totara O Fordlands has run a community centre and tool lending service in a Housing NZ house for the past few years, and chairman Marnie Flavell said it had been given no indication of any changes.

Auckland Council's Northcote community worker Jill Nerheny said she lobbied for a similar arrangement, but now plans to run the tool lending service from a van.

Michael Ofanoa, 35, a solo father of two who came to the Wiri office yesterday to file an income statement and supporting documents, said he needed to get the documents to Housing NZ urgently, otherwise the agency would raise his rent to market rental. He was told to try the Manurewa office.

"I've got a car but no warrant and no registration. I'll go home and get my bike," he said.

Rotorua tenant Kathy Hillman-Te Rupe, 39, received a letter saying her rent would go up from $50 a week to the market rental of $232 from tomorrow unless she provided documents proving that she had changed her surname after fleeing to a women's refuge.


She sent the documents by mail yesterday, but was worried they might not arrive in time.

Housing NZ general manager of tenancy services Kay Read said two call centres would now handle most inquiries formerly handled by tenancy managers.

Where an urgent housing need or a needs assessment was required they would arrange to meet or phone customers as quickly as possible at a location that was convenient for them.

* Housing NZ offices open for needs assessments by appointment only.
* All other issues handled by call centres.
* Tenants with "social issues" will be told to ring other agencies.