An unnoticed death in Wellington is another in a string of grim finds at city council flats.

Stephen Ngahere lay dead in his home for a month before his body was found.

The 62-year-old lived alone at Granville Flats in Berhampore. His death was kept quiet by council officers who weighed up his family's wish for privacy and the timing.

The incident coincided with the story of 19-year-old Mason Pendrous, the Canterbury University student who lay dead for up to four weeks in student accommodation, hitting headlines.

Advertisement

A council spokesperson said they didn't make an announcement at the time as media had not become aware of the death, but were ready to address any queries.

At Granville, the hallways are gloomy with many of the small windows on tenants' front doors covered with cardboard.

Paint is peeling from the walls of the stale stairwells. Red lino stretches across the hallway floors scarred with black marks.

It would be eerily quiet on the floor where Ngahere lived but for his old neighbour, Vincent McCarthy, who has the TV on and his door open.

McCarthy said there were few signs to indicate anything was wrong across the corridor.

There was no lingering smell as in other cases of deaths going unnoticed.

"Thank god it was winter. If it was summer, it could've been a different story," McCarthy said.

Stephen Ngahere, 62, was found in his council flat in Wellington a month after dying. Photo / Supplied
Stephen Ngahere, 62, was found in his council flat in Wellington a month after dying. Photo / Supplied

"I always used to hear him going in and out and then I didn't hear him for about a month. I thought he'd gone to see his sister."

Advertisement

The alarm was raised by Ngahere's sister Lola Kiel, who asked Police to conduct a welfare check after care workers were unable to contact him since August 27 this year.

The interior of the Granville Flats where Stephen Ngahere lived. Photo / Georgina Campbell
The interior of the Granville Flats where Stephen Ngahere lived. Photo / Georgina Campbell

It was only in the final week, when calls from care workers ramped up, that Kiel decided to act.

"Until then I felt that he was just out with his mates, he never kept any certain hours, when I got in touch with his friends they said yeah it's okay we've just seen him."

But the recollection of that group of friends wasn't accurate and the other group assumed Ngahere was staying with Kiel over the hill where she lives in Martinborough.

Ngahere was an alcoholic. "He lived for his alcohol and his alcoholic friends and that was his life and he was happy", Kiel said.

When she learned of her brother's death she was sad, shocked and felt a pang of guilt.

"I didn't act earlier, I just didn't feel anything was wrong, I just thought he was out and about with his mates."

A post mortem showed his death was not suspicious and the Coroner didn't see the need to conduct an inquiry.

Stephen Ngahere's death is just one of several grim finds at Wellington City Council social housing blocks in the past decade. Photo / Georgina Campbell
Stephen Ngahere's death is just one of several grim finds at Wellington City Council social housing blocks in the past decade. Photo / Georgina Campbell

Ngahere was separated from his mother at birth to be raised by his grandparents in Murupara.

He shared the same mother as Kiel but the pair had different fathers.

They had only just started reconnecting over the past three years after decades apart.

"I wished we'd talked more I always felt impatient with him he was like a child. He was very young in his heart and his mind", Kiel said.

Kiel was now dropping in to see her mother, who also lives alone, more regularly since Ngahere passed.

"That's one thing that's come out of it for me, you just don't know.

"Just drop in, see they're okay, you don't have to stay, just making sure they're okay."

Another tenant in the same flats was found dead in January 2015.

Dean Richard Stewart, 63, was discovered after someone noticed a strong odour coming from his flat.

The man was known to keep to himself and police said he had laid dead for "some time".

In June 2009 Wiremu Whakaue, 68, died in the exact same one-bedroom council flat as Stewart was in, but his body was not discovered on the floor of his bedroom for another eight months.

His death shares several similarities to that of Michael Clarke, 87, whose body was found in his fire-damaged one-bedroom Newtown flat in August 2011, more than a year after his death in July 2010.

The Granville Flats. Photo / Georgina Campbell
The Granville Flats. Photo / Georgina Campbell

Wellington City Council said deaths in properties occurred on occasion, though only very infrequently did such deaths go undetected for any period of time.

"The council appreciates a number of tenants may wish to live a very private life and may choose not to interact with others in the community or council officers, whilst other tenants may experience a degree of social isolation for various reasons.

"Where tenants live in such an isolated way, pay rent by automatic payment, and have limited contact with either family or the council, a death can go unnoticed for some time."

Social Housing and Housing Partnerships portfolio leader councillor Fleur Fitzsimons said it was a heart breaking situation and extended her sympathy to Ngahere's family.

She said she was not previously aware of the matter.

"I have asked council officers for a thorough briefing about our approach to welfare and support of tenants. I know that a balance must be struck between respecting the privacy of tenants and supporting their wellbeing."