27 Sep 2018

Tenants in Whanganui's Pink Flats say they're living in Third World conditions

7:44 am on 27 September 2018

A landlord under fire for the dilapidated condition of a Whanganui boarding house is now in the spotlight over the state of a group of rental properties in the city.

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Some tenants at the Pink Flats in Whanganui say they live in Third World conditions. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Some residents at the Pink Flats on Bedford Avenue said they were living in Third World conditions while the landlord, the Berekyah Trust, ignores basic maintenance.

The six three-bedroom flats in the suburb of Gonville were known as the Pink Flats, because of their distinctive colour scheme.

Signs of the flats' poor repair are obvious from the exterior.

Numerous exterior panels are broken - with insulation exposed to the elements - while several windows also need repair.

It did not get any better inside either.

A mother of two, who asked not to be named, described the scene in her bathroom.

"It's mouldy and broken Gib board, plaster everywhere. It's not safe for the kids. And the Seratone that's around the shower it's mainly mould, that black mould, and it's breaking off and landing in the bath."

Beneath the sink, the skirting board is rotten and falling away from the wall, revealing the pipework behind it.

The solo mother, who had lived in the Pink Flats for years, said she had asked for repairs to be done but nothing had happened, although new Seratone panels had recently been delivered to the property.

She said she paid $140 a week for her flat, but feared it was making her children ill. Her boy had recently been diagnosed with epilepsy and had glue ear.

"My son is still coughing and hacking at night and my baby girl is now coughing and hacking at night and in the morning. I think it is because of the dampness of this house and it's not ideal."

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Numerous exterior panels at the Pink Flats are broken. Photo: Robin Martin RNZ

A retired 66-year-old resident, who also asked not to be named, described similar scenes at his home.

"The skirting boards are all rotten and around the outside of the house, there are holes.

"And I've been asking Matt [Ngapeka] to rectify it.

"The bottom plate of the ranch slider is rotten, the piece of wood along the bottom. It's just a basic lack of maintenance."

Mr Ngapeka, of the Berekyah Trust, also manages Purnell House - a former school boarding hostel now used as lodge-style accommodation.

In May, Whanganui Salvation Army went public with its view that Purnell House was an unsanitary and unsafe environment for the vulnerable people who often ended up living there.

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A solo mother says her bathroom in the Pink Flats is mouldy. Photo: Robin Martin RNZ

A neighbour of the Pink Flats, Samantha Ryan, had taken some of the residents under her wing.

Ms Ryan said she thought the people living at the Pink Flats were also at risk.

"There are some really good people living across the road and I feel that it is wrong as a landlord that you can take money off people and not look after them and not address the maintenance issues that arise.

"It's a moral issue to me, regardless of any legislation.

"If you are taking money off people you should look after them."

Ms Ryan believed the residents were too scared to take Tenancy Tribunal action.

"Possibly it's because they are afraid that if they do that it could affect their housing and it is difficult when you are on a benefit or low income or you have health issues to advocate for yourself at times."

Purnell House manager Matt Ngapeka

Matt Ngapeka of the Berekyah Trust, which owns the Pink Flats. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Mr Ngapeka declined an interview but stood by the condition of the Pink Flats and said if the residents had any problems they could contact him personally.

Whanganui District Council said it had received several complaints about the flats at Bedford Avenue, but they had all been noise-related.

It had also left warnings on the windshields of unregistered cars parked on the berm outside the flats, as these were illegally parked.

The council's regulatory team said if tenants were unhappy with the property they were renting, they should speak to their landlord. If that was not successful, they should contact the Tenancy Tribunal.

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