30 Aug 2023

Displaced Black Power family given home in Mongrel Mob territory post-cyclone

4:25 pm on 30 August 2023
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File image. Photo: Youtube

A Hawke's Bay woman whose family lost everything in the cyclone says they are one of the lucky ones, offered a new home by the government's temporary accommodation service.

But it came with a catch - her Black Power family was put right in the middle of Mongrel Mob territory.

Maia (not her real name) and her family of five lost their home when the Tūtaekurī River burst its banks during Cyclone Gabrielle.

They escaped with their two dogs and not much else.

The temporary accommodation service (TAS), run by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, was recommended to anyone struggling to find a place to stay, for a few days or a few months, because of the flooding.

But there is a shortage of places available, and larger families or those with higher needs are often compromised.

At the moment, there are 145 TAS homes - which could be whole houses, cabins or motel rooms - in Hawke's Bay, down from 163 in July. There are 48 families on the wait list, a slight decrease from 59 in July, and a predicted future need of 90.

Maia's family were placed separately - herself with the dogs and one of her children, and her partner with the other two kids.

"They put him and two of my kids right in the middle of Napier, in the middle of the Mongrel Mob."

They might have flown under the radar but anonymity went quickly out the window.

"Because we had lost all our vehicles, we had to borrow one of the Black Power members' trucks, and the only truck that was available to us was the president of the Black Powers'."

Not the kind of question you put on a form

TAS head Fadia Mudafar said gang connection was not the kind of question you put on a form.

"We can't ask that question, if they are gang affiliated or not, because that would be quite offensive for some people," she said.

Mudafar said if people offered up that information and made it clear where they did not want to be, TAS would "definitely try and avoid it, because we obviously want to make sure that people are safe".

Maia said the situation had caused some run-ins.

"It started with our kids. They were playing outside where the cars park, singing a Black Power song, next minute the kids in the next motel start calling them [racial slurs]."

It was a time of high tension between the gangs, with shootings increasing and tempers flaring in the streets.

"I kept taking them away during the day, so anytime they were awake I didn't want to keep them there because I knew, they will say something wrong and the opposite gang will take offence."

Out and about, she faced backlash herself.

"They'd try and stop us, block us with their cars, and I'd just drive around them, because I knew exactly what they were trying to do," Maia said.

"They were just trying to stop us, and see who was in the truck, throw things at us, and I'd just carry on. I just ignored it, I chose to turn the other cheek for the safety of myself and my children."

But eventually, she reached her limit.

"I didn't want my family to be targeted because we're from the other side, and we've just been lumped in the middle of them and have no say."

She called TAS and explained the situation and the family were moved to Taradale, out of Mongrel Mob territory.

But after a short time Maia said that house was pulled out from under them - she was not sure why - and they were offered a place back in Napier where dogs were not allowed.

TAS was not able to comment on this particular case for privacy reasons.

Now, Maia has opted out of the system - she did not want to live away from her family and did not want to give up the dogs, so she was living between her car and friends' couches.

"I stay with the dogs, and I come back to help him with getting the kids to school, and then when they get home, I help them [with] homework, right up until they go to bed."

It was now more than six months post-cyclone. Maia said the family was making it work, but the kids could not play outside, and the streets still felt unsafe.

She said her family was one of the lucky ones to be housed at all.

Some people might ask - why keep the dogs? Maia said it was a non-negotiable.

"We lost everything, there's nothing else. And to give [the dogs] away… we were like, bro, those are the only things that came out of the flood with us."

Their Waiohiki home had been deemed category 2C, meaning better flood protection was needed for the land to be safe to live on.

Maia said the children were still confused about why they could not go home.

"I've tried telling them - it's dirty, we can't go back. [They say] 'We've got a vacuum, we can clean it up'."

But the cleanup would take more than a vacuum - and at the moment, she said, they would just have to keep winging it.

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