Two senior political leaders have hit out over violence and fear in a Rotorua street – and expressed frustration at the lack of police and council action.
Councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait describes the people causing the problems in Tania Cr as ‘’rotten’’ and says it's as if police and Rotorua Lakes Council are ‘’blinded by the problem’’.
Rotorua MP Todd McClay describes the situation as ‘’horrific’’ and believes the council has turned its back on the street’s residents and police are under-resourced.
Rotorua MP Todd McClay. Photo / Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post.
In response, the council says everyone deserves to feel and be safe in their home and neighbourhood and it's a council priority. The council is keen to better understand the issues and will be talking to police.
The comments come after Local Democracy Reporting on Wednesday revealed some residents of the suburban street are feeling unsafe in their own homes after an escalation of anti-social behaviour, including a riot on Waitangi Day.
Skid marks on Tania Cr on Wednesday. Photo / Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post.
One resident, known only as Michelle*, says she sleeps with a baseball bat by her bed and is afraid she could be shot if she stands up to the perpetrators.
She believes it's only a matter of time before someone is hurt on the street, such as a child being hit by a speeding car.
Residents say they have called on the council and police to take action, but claim neither have done enough to help.
Raukawa-Tait says it seems the police and Rotorua Lakes Council are “rooted to the spot, blinded by the problem and not prepared to meet it head-on".
“The truth is we do have some rotten families in Rotorua.
“They live by their own feral rules and couldn’t give a stuff about anyone else. I’m over them and have every sympathy for families living close by who have to put up with their bullsh*t behaviour.”
She believes troublemakers are “usually tenants”.
"If social housing tenants, it should be made clear they will be tipped out for unacceptable behaviour. No ifs, no buts."
Public houses being built on Tania Cr. Photo / Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post.
She believes when complaints from third parties happen, there should be “swift intervention” from the police, landlords and the council.
“If the problem is with gang members, I would talk to the local chapter president. Get them to do their own policing. They don’t need any additional heat and police attention brought on by the dumb actions of their members.”
Rotorua MP Todd McClay says the situation on Tania Cr is “horrific”.
“Law-abiding citizens in our neighbourhoods shouldn’t have to sleep with baseball bats under their bed in fear of what’s happening around them.”
He believes the council has turned its back on the residents of Tania Cr and police are under-resourced.
He believes the issue is growing in Rotorua.
He says police on the beat want to clean up streets like Tania Cr, but he's not convinced they have the support and resources to do it.
"This needs to be dealt with - and quickly - before someone is hurt.”
He has “huge respect” for police, who put their lives in danger to keep people safe in Rotorua every day.
“It feels very stretched in Rotorua. We’ve had police at MIQ, plus we’ve had emergency housing and gang problems growing … I know that they feel under pressure lately.
“If the police are under-resourced in Rotorua, the Government needs to meet their promises to us to make sure the police are able to do their job.
“It’s for the police to decide where they put that resource, it feels like the back’s been turned on Rotorua.”
His message for the Police Minister Poto Williams is: “You need to start paying attention to us”.
McClay intends on meeting with the concerned residents of Tania Cr soon to “understand better what’s going on”.
After that, he will meet with the council and police with residents, he says.
Council community wellbeing deputy chief executive Anaru Pewhairangi says everyone deserves to feel and be safe in their home and neighbourhood and safety is a council priority.
"We are keen to better understand the reported issues happening in and around Tania Cr and we will be talking to the police and community safety contacts to see where [the] council could assist.”
He says there are no records of any formal contact about public disorder concerns in Tania Cr this year, but one request for traffic calming on Tania Cr was made on March 15.
"A response letter was sent the following day. As Tania Cr has not been previously assessed for traffic calming, the letter outlined the process for assessing roads for traffic calming and an indicative timeline for when that would take place – within four weeks.”
He says his team is aware of the “riot” but hasn’t received further reports from the police or others about increasing crime or antisocial behaviour in the area.
The council committed an additional $1.13m to deliver its initiatives in its community safety plan in the 2021-2031 Long-term Plan.
At the end of 2021 the council announced it would extend community safety efforts across the district, not just the inner city and city suburbs.
Police Rotorua area commander Inspector Phil Taikato says police are "absolutely committed" to the safety of the community and will always respond urgently to immediate threats to people's safety.
"Our officers are members of the Rotorua community too, and care deeply about the people we serve.
"There may be instances where non-urgent matters are reported to us and we are unable to respond immediately due to other demands on our staff."
He recognises this could be "frustrating" for people.
"I want to reassure everyone in our community that we will still investigate these matters and hold offenders accountable.
"The pandemic has been a stressful and difficult time for people in our community and I know many people are facing significant challenges.
"We want our community to be safe and feel safe and our officers are working hard to achieve that."
Waiariki MP Rawiri Waititi and Rotorua-based Labour list MP Tāmati Coffey were approached for comment.
Public housing to be expanded in ‘riot’ street
Meanwhile, Local Democracy Reporting can also reveal Kainga Ora is building five public homes on the besieged street.
Kāinga Ora Bay of Plenty regional director Darren Toy. Photo / George Novak / Bay of Plenty Times.
Kāinga Ora Bay of Plenty regional director Darren Toy says its housing support team contacted Kāinga Ora customers in the Tania Cr area to check they are okay after the incidents the area.
As part of that, Kāinga Ora was also “made aware” none of its customers had been involved, he said.
Toy says the organisation is building on an existing Kāinga Ora site in Tania Cres, replacing a single dwelling with five one- to three-bedroom “warm, dry homes”.
“These are among the 35 houses which are being built as redevelopments on existing Kāinga Ora sites across the city.
“Across the city all up we have 191 homes currently under construction or being planned to help meet the urgent need for more houses for whānau and tamariki to call home.”
Poto Williams, also the Associate Minister of Housing (Public Housing), says the issues in Tania Cr are “no doubt upsetting and distressing for the residents” but they are not related to Kāinga Ora properties.
Associate Housing (Public Housing) Minister Poto Williams. Photo / Mark Mitchell / NZ Herald.
“The overwhelming majority of the almost 200,000 people that live in Kāinga Ora homes are good neighbours and members of their communities.
“Kāinga Ora works closely with its tenants to ensure they settle in well to their new homes and new neighbourhoods, and the vast majority do just that.”
She says if extra help is needed, Kāinga Ora workd with other agencies to ensure support so a person or family lived well in their home.
* Name has been changed.
-Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air