Tania Cr: Rotorua MP Todd McClay, councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait weigh in over besieged street

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 described the people causing the problems in Tania Cr as “rotten” and said it was as if police and Rotorua Lakes Council were “blinded by the problem”.

Rotorua MP Todd McClay described the situation as ”horrific” and believed the council had turned its back on the street’s residents and police were under-resourced.

In response, the council said everyone deserved to feel and be safe in their home and neighbourhood and it was a council priority. The council was 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 were feeling unsafe in their own homes after an escalation of anti-social behaviour, including a riot on Waitangi Day.

One resident, known only as Michelle*, said she slept with a baseball bat by her bed and was afraid she could be shot if she stood up to the perpetrators.

She believed it was only a matter of time before someone was hurt on the street, such as a child being hit by a speeding car.

Residents said they had called on the council and police to take action, but claim neither had done enough to help.

Raukawa-Tait said it seemed the police and Rotorua Lakes Council were “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 believed troublemakers were “usually tenants”.

“If social housing tenants, it should be made clear they will be tipped out for unacceptable behaviour. No ifs, no buts.

She believed when complaints from third parties happened 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 said the situation on Tania Cr was “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 believed the council had turned their back on the residents of Tania Cr and police were under-resourced.

He believed the issue was growing in Rotorua.

He said police on the beat wanted to clean up streets like Tania Cr but he was not convinced they had the support and resources to do it.

“This needs to be dealt with – and quickly – before someone is hurt.”

He had “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 Police Minister Poto Williams was: “You need to start paying attention to us”.

McClay intended on meeting with the concerned residents of Tania Cr soon to “understand better what’s going on”.

After that, he would meet with the council and police with residents, he said.

Council community wellbeing deputy chief executive Anaru Pewhairangi said everyone deserved to feel and be safe in their home and neighbourhood and safety was 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 said there were 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 said his team was aware of the “riot” but hadn’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.

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 said its housing support team contacted Kāinga Ora customers in the Tania Cr area to check they were 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 said the organisation was 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), said the issues in Tania Cr were “no doubt upsetting and distressing for the residents” but they were not related to Kāinga Ora properties.

“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 said if extra help was needed, Kāinga Ora worked with other agencies to ensure support so a person or family lived well in their home.

Police, Waiariki MP Rawiri Waititi and Rotorua-based Labour list MP Tāmati Coffey were approached for comment.

* Name has been changed.

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