Welcome to the latest in our series of Migrant Tales – hundreds of first hand accounts of real life in New Zealand.
This latest tale is mostly about crime, casual violence and the inability of the police to deal with it effectively. It would be fair to say that there is a laissez faire attitude towards crime and an over propensity to blame the victim.
The author lived mainly in Dunedin and Palmerston North but this post refers to time spent in Wellington. It offers good advice for anyone looking for rented accommodation.
I was on the internet one day when I heard a commotion outside. I looked out of the window to see my 70-year-old neighbour lying in the carpark face down. I was just about to call an ambulance when another neighbour appeared saying he was already on the phone. This neighbour had not fallen by natural circumstances but had been punched by a young troublemaker who lived in one of the apartments because they had a disagreement about noise. Police came and asked questions and took some forensic samples of blood on the ground. Later the main witnesses had to go to court where they explained what happened and the assault was also witnessed by a Reverend who had been visiting at the time. I only had to do a written statement because I didn’t see the assault just my neighbour lying on the ground. The accused said that he was not in town that day he was in another town so a date was arranged for another hearing. After a year everyone had to go to court again in Wellington and the outcome was that due to technicalities the guy got away with it. The blood samples had not been sent to the lab and evidence given by main witnesses and the victim himself were slightly different but the victim had brain damage and the punch to his head now gave him daily headaches. It was also a long time since the assault happened so it was hard for him to remember exactly what happened.
We had young troublemakers move into the apartment next door and from that day life became hell. Noisy parties day and night with drunk people wandering about urinating in the yard. When we couldn’t sleep we called noise control and as a result received personal abuse from the neighbour who was always drunk. Next thing their windows came smashing out and glass fell all over our stairs. We rang the property manager and she came to give them a warning. Noisy parties continued and then we heard a woman screaming so we called the police. She had been assaulted and an ambulance arrived to check her eye-socket. She decided to not press any charges against her partner saying it was all her own fault. Almost every night we couldn’t sleep and we would sometimes ring noise control and suffer the abuse the next day and threats to our safety. The property agents told us they couldn’t do anything it was a police matter and that if we wanted action it was our problem to make a history of calls to police and noise control and then furnish the agents with a report. The next incident was that our aggro neighbour got wasted and started shouting and swearing that all of us neighbours were going to get it for being “Narks”. He urinated on my partner’s car and said that if we came outside he was going to stab us. He then took our rubbish out of the bin and threw bags on the ground where they broke open. He was in the yard shouting “Come down here Bitch and clean up your effing rubbish or I will bash your effing head in” so we complained to the police and were made fools of because the young officers told us to just go outside and clean up the rubbish. They seemed to be laughing and joking with a house of full of troublemakers who were denying all the complaints. My impression is that faced with a situation of risk NZ police have to take the easiest path and placate the offenders because they may be violent. The victims get a telling off like naughty children. I don’t need to say that we quickly found ourselves another apartment.
On another occasion we had a house that was divided with a flimsy wall between. The garden was fenced to make two separate properties but the house was not insulated or sound-proof. The neighbour was a big aggressive man who banged on the wall every time we flushed our toilet.
One day the neighbour lost his temper and banged on the wall then came running around to our side of the house and threw bricks through the windows narrowly missing our 2-year old toddler who suffered cuts from the showering glass.
I also had bleeding cuts on my arms and legs from the showering glass as I rescued my son. The psycho neighbour then smashed beer bottles on our doorstep while we all just huddled in a room waiting for the violence to stop. When the police arrived they calmly asked us if we knew the neighbour and we said not really because we had not been there long. They gave us a lecture that we should try to get along with our neighbour and that they couldn’t do anything because it was considered a ‘Domestic Dispute’. They had a chat with our neighbour and said he was under stress because his wife had just had a baby. We handed in our notice to the agents and told them what happened and he told us that previous tenants had complained but that everyone was afraid and there was nothing anyone can do because they try to avoid upsetting the man.
All I can say to anyone settling here is that your choice of housing will influence everything in your life. The laws don’t protect people from bad neighbours or violence in general. I will do another post on the laws of ‘Threatening Behaviour’ or ‘To Behave Threateningly’ and how tight it is. My advice is get a place that is self-contained or with your own entrance ways. Avoid blocks of apartments or flats unless they are upmarket sort of places. The more private and self-contained you are the safer you will be and put security latches on your windows. If you see a Neighbourhood Watch signpost in your street then ask at your local police station who is the co-ordinator and try to join the group as they’re normally the good folk and it gives you a network of support if you suspect burglaries or if any trouble starts happening.
Also from the same author Migrants Tales – Crime in Palmerston North and Dunedin, Take Care