Maybe the neighbours from hell would find paradise in a colony on Disappointment Island

Disappointment Island...a prospect for development by Housing NZ.

Spare a thought for Housing NZ as it tries to deal with complaints about neighbours from hell.

It can respond to those complaints by shifting the hellish neighbours.

But that simply creates the hell of litigation. Housing NZ has been trying to evict tenants from a suburb of Lower Hutt, only to be thwarted time and again by time-consuming (and costly) appeals to the courts.

Another consideration, of course, is that in some cases the neighbours from hell are Maori and therefore are regarded as “special” under a United Nations deal which we have signed.

Housing NZ accordingly has cause to be chary as it deals with the complaints from the Bell Block neighbours of a woman convicted of harassing them.

According to the Taranaki News, Housing New Zealand has promised it will find a new home for the neighbour who has been giving them grief.

But the name of the woman at the centre of this fuss suggests she is one of our special citizens, which means the state agency should tread carefully.

Tania Mei Ratana, 45, was convicted this week of the fourth intimidation charge against her nearby neighbours, the Harrises, in four years.

In the latest case, she threatened a teenager she would stab her younger sister and admitted she let loose a stream of obscenities while hitting her fence with garden implements.

Ratana was remanded in custody for a month prior to the defended hearing in the New Plymouth District Court on Tuesday when Judge Allan Roberts called her “the neighbour from hell”.

Judge Tony Adeane took into account Ratana’s time in jail, convicted her and released her on a 12-month good behaviour bond.

Housing NZ regional manager, Peter McKenna, said yesterday the tenant could not remain in the Silvan Pl flat long-term.

“We are working with her to find alternative accommodation. We have been discussing this with her while she has been in jail. We will be making a decision on what, if any, tenancy action is required shortly.”

Housing NZ would not tolerate anti-social behaviour by tenants, Mr McKenna said.

But Keryn Harris, who seems a tad unhappy at having to live next to Tania Mei Ratana, says she no longer has faith in Housing NZ.

“I’ll believe it when it happens. They have known about our case for 4 1/2 years. Why is she still there?”

All their complaints to Housing NZ had fallen on deaf ears, she said. “They have never come to see us. No-one wants to know. It’s too much to bear.”

A Taranaki Daily News’ survey of residents in the neighbourhood apparently found widespread concerns among other nearby families.

Housing NZ tries to sort things out between neighbours. Ultimately it can terminate tenancies.

But experience suggests it would be much easier to terminate troublesome tenants than it is to termine their tenancies.

Take the marathon series of court cases being battled in Lower Hutt.

Three Lower Hutt women recently were given 24 hours to vacate their homes by Housing New Zealand.

Before time was up they had won a reprieve.

Robyn Winther, Huia Tamaka and Billy Taylor were first issued with 90-day eviction notices in March 2009.

Notices mistakenly attached to the orders described the women as partners of gang members who were facing charges of burglary or intimidation, which were later dropped.

The women claimed Housing New Zealand acted unlawfully by terminating the tenancies in the suburb of Pomare and in doing so breached the Bill of Rights.

The Tenancy Tribunal upheld the eviction notices. But the women appealed to the District Court, the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal dismissed their appeal in December last year.

And so bailiffs with a police escort turned up a week or so ago to serve the women with notices to leave within 24 hours or be forcibly evicted.

Then they sought and were granted an interim injunction, pending the full hearing of their case by the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

So let’s take a different tack.

Maybe Housing NZ should establish a new community for the neighbours that nobody else wants in their streets.

Disappointment Island, somewhere down among the Auckland Islands, looks like the ideal place to set it up.

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