18 Jul 2018

Letter warns of 'suspicious things' from HNZ clients

8:55 pm on 18 July 2018

An anonymous letter sent to neighbours warning them Housing New Zealand had bought a nearby property has caused outrage in the North Waikato town of Tūākau.

State houses in Northcote

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The handwritten letter, delivered to letterboxes in the street, told neighbours to be vigilant as their new tenants would be low-income earners and Work and Income clients.

Locals said they were shocked at what they believed were racist and classist attitudes.

Mary Astle has lived at her rental property for two years and said the neighbours looked after each other.

"That shocks me because we've got Māori, we've got Indian and European and Chinese people in our area."

Ms Astle said her landlord previously owned the property and told her about Housing New Zealand (HNZ) buying it.

The letter, she said is discriminatorily towards Housing New Zealand tenants and beneficiaries.

"You can only assume that from the nature of that letter it's sounding like it's discriminatory from a racial and social-economic point of view."

Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said the author of the letter was being over the top.

"When we saw it on Facebook we couldn't believe the number of people who replied but fair enough, it is a bit of an exaggeration."

The letter warned residents to look out for suspicious activity and things going missing

The neighbour said while the quiet cul-de-sac had its share of parties, she believed the new Housing New Zealand tenants should be treated the same as everyone else.

"Who's going to want to move in now with all the publicity around it."

Tūākau local Keryn Stevens has been a Housing New Zealand tenant in the past and was appalled by the contents of the letter.

"I just think it's a really close-minded person."

Ms Stevens said she saw racist attitudes come to the fore on local community social media pages. Her home was robbed and users on Facebook community pages immediately started pointing fingers at local Māori boys.

"We found out a little while later that it was actually a middle-aged man that wasn't even from Tūākau."

And she had a message for the author of the letter: "Definitely don't judge somebody based on what they look like or what sort of things they have."

HNZ confirmed it purchased the house on 28 June. In a statement it said it encouraged its tenants to act as good neighbours and expected them to be responsible, considerate and tolerant.