Who put the rabble in charge?

by Matt King, Member of Parliament for Northland

I have seen it all in my time as a police officer and a member of parliament.

Moreover, what continues to astonish me, particularly lately, is how small groups of troublemakers and rabble-rousers can intimidate entire streets and even communities while the government strips authorities of their powers to act against them.

Our primary public housing provider, Housing New Zealand, has under the ‘guidance’ of the present government enacted a zero-eviction policy even for the most extreme cases. Cases such as the tenant who has been visited by the police 80 times in the last three years! Moreover, it is happening in Dargaville.

During one of my recent visits to Dargaville, I was briefed on the troubles and ongoing problems being caused by the tenants of four state houses in three streets in the town.

Complaints about them include intimidating behaviour, theft, drugs, fighting and booze-fuelled partying. Neighbours the media and I spoke to won’t give their names — such is the fear factor caused by this small rabble.

So, what are the authorities doing about these tenants? Well, the police say they are in ongoing discussions with them. Housing New Zealand says they are doing the same. Nevertheless, they both also say the same — beyond ‘talking’ to the tenants; there is very little they can do. Their hands are tied by legislation, largely enacted by the present government, that comes down firmly on the side of tenants, even if it is at the expense of landlords, other Housing New Zealand tenants and the surrounding community.

Housing New Zealand’s zero-eviction policy is a farce. It means tenants such as those causing trouble in Dargaville are allowed to continue to do so while someone in Housing New Zealand or higher up has decided that the problem can be solved by referral to addiction services.

I am not too sure how many police, let alone neighbours, would agree with that.

My view is that the zero-eviction policy should be revoked. We should give police and other authorities more powers, not fewer, to take swift and effective action against those who cause and continue to cause so much trouble in our communities.

It is not hard-line politicking — it is common sense, and it is overdue.